Out with the Old

Lessons learned from Stony Brook University’s recent deployment of 802.11ac.

GUEST COLUMN | by Nick Batson

CREDIT Stony Brook University - JavitsIn 2009, when Stony Brook University first installed Wi-Fi in buildings on campus, it purchased the most up-to-date hardware that provided the best connection speeds for the environment of the University.

Five years later, that once state-of-the-art hardware is obsolete. With more and more students needing access to video streaming, which requires more bandwidth, a hardware upgrade was necessary to accommodate these rapidly changing needs.

Recently, the Division of Information Technology installed 44 new Aruba Networks access points in Javits Lecture Center that provide 802.11ac wireless Internet.

Mike Ospitale, Stony Brook’s Campus Network Manager, said that the new 802.11ac essentially doubled the throughput on campus. “Previously, 802.11n was theoretically capable of speeds up to 650 Mbps,” said Ospitale. “In its first revision, 802.11ac handles 1.3 Gbps, so it’s two times as fast as 802.11n in its first revision.”

According to Ospitale, Javits Lecture Center was chosen as the location to deploy because of device density. “Javits is the largest lecture center on campus with 17,000 students coming through for classes on a weekly basis,” he said. Previously only the main lecture hall had wireless access points, which was a problem as campus surveys conducted by the Division of Information Technology showed strong interest in wireless connectivity.

For the most part, the rollout went smoothly, except for one minor issue involving the iPad 2 losing connectivity, which was resolved quickly. “Since Aruba worked so closely with us, they were on site day one from design through testing, and it was during the testing phase the behavior was observed and the root cause was identified rapidly,” said Ospitale. “The key to the success of the project was the partnership between Aruba and Stony Brook.”

Currently there are only a few devices on the market that are capable of taking advantage of 802.11ac network speeds. Some of these include the Samsung Galaxy S4, 2013 Macbook Air, and the iPad Air. The new access points installed are also compatible with older devices that use 802.11n technology and users have noticed increased network speeds and performance.

The next building on campus to receive 802.11ac technology will be the new Stony Brook University Arena, which is expected to be completed by Fall 2014.

In the industry, arenas and sporting venues struggle with wireless Internet, mainly due to the sheer volume of users attempting to take advantage of wireless connectivity. Ospitale said this was one of the reasons the new arena was chosen for 802.11ac technology. “The reason why we picked the new arena as the second deployment of 802.11ac is once again density,” said Ospitale. “It made sense to us because we are going to have a dense population in a small footprint, so let’s do it with the best access points we have and let’s future-proof it.”

According to Ospitale, Stony Brook wanted the most up-to-date technology in the new building since installing new infrastructure in the future can be costly and damaging to buildings. “There’s infrastructure issues with cabling and wiring and placing access points in the arena,” he said. “In the arena, the access points are 40 feet above the floor. In order to replace those, you have to roll a lift out onto the hardwood floor. It’s a place where you don’t want to replace infrastructure in two or three years.”

“I think this was a very worthwhile project. A lot was riding on its success” said Ospitale. “More and more professors who teach in the Javits Lecture Center are utilizing wireless. If you provide the infrastructure, people are going to use it.”

Nick Batson ’13, is a Senior Journalism Student at Stony Brook University.

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