Better Wi-Fi is coming

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The initiative to upgrade the wireless internet signal is part of the $450 million bond package approved in May.

By Sergio Medina

This college will be undergoing expansion and upgrading of access points March 26-April 9 to improve the wireless internet signal.

The upgrade is expected to provide larger areas of wireless signal coverage and better Wi-Fi speed.

In an interview March 1, Manuel Rosado, coordinator of college technologies, said the upgrade includes installing additional access points at this college.

An email was sent Feb. 22 from the office of technology services to inform faculty about the changes, Usha Venkat, director of information technology, said in an interview March 1.

This college has 290 access points, 257 of them inside buildings and 33 outside, she wrote in the email. 

All 33 external access points will be upgraded. Additionally, seven more external points will be installed.

An additional 40 internal units will be added to the 257 internal access points.

Rosado said the replacement of external units is because of wear and tear from the weather.

“We also identify locations externally where we’d be able to provide better coverage,” he said.

Rosado said that by identifying external locations on campus where “students and faculty complain that there’s no coverage,” the OTS takes note so that access points may be installed there.

Notes taken from this analysis were sent to the Alamo Colleges headquarters to evaluate where additional access points could be installed, Venkat said.

Venkat said one of such areas is the courtyard west of Moody Learning Center, commonly referred to as this college’s mall.

“A lot of outdoor events take place,” Venkat said. “That’s one area where students congregate.”

Rosado said the project will not be exclusive to this college as the rest of the district’s colleges will be undergoing the same operation.

In an email March 18, Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor for planning, performance and information systems, wrote that this project was supported by the $450 million capital improvements bond passed by voters May 6.

A total of $2 million was allocated for the wireless upgrade and expansion initiative, Cleary wrote.

Venkat said students being more digitally inclined is another reason this upgrade and expansion is happening.

“We try to make our decisions based on the needs,” Venkat said.

“We want to make this process as transparent as possible,” she said. “We want everyone to know the benefits of expanding the wireless access points, which is definitely to provide more coverage as students and employees both use more and more wireless-supported devices today.”

On a typical school day, 20,000 users throughout the district, primarily students, use the wireless network, Cleary wrote.

The new internal access points are Alcatel 325 models, whereas the external ones will be Alcatel 365 models.

He wrote that the new models, in addition to providing better Wi-Fi coverage and speed, will provide “automatic traffic shaping,” which means that students can remain connected even as they are on the move.   

Rosado said that the OTS will coordinate with the contractors, Dice Communications, to minimize disruptions during busy hours at this college.

During the dates the changes take place, Rosado said there will be no internal Wi-Fi disruptions for faculty and students.

“For the internal ones (access points), we’re just going to be adding new additional ones,” he said.

However, external access point signals will go down for the duration it takes for each to be replaced.

Rosado said they estimate replacement of each unit to take no more than an hour.

Additionally, he said that external units will not be replaced at the same time, meaning that while one unit may be down, the rest will be operational.

Rosado said that the only type of physical disruption that could be seen inside buildings is workers running data line cabling for the new additional internal access points.

“We’re looking into scheduling it in a way they don’t interrupt classes,” Rosado said.

Furthermore, he said that hardwired internet signals will not be interrupted either. Any device that uses an ethernet cable to connect to the internet will not be affected.

Cleary wrote that this Wi-Fi initiative is Phase 1 of a six-year plan to enhance Wi-fi capabilities.

For Venkat, this initiative is exciting.

“We just want to let you know that we are excited about this because the wireless needs are growing on the campus and, therefore, it’s very important to keep up with the pace,” she said.


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