A ‘world class’ and ‘super fast’ WiFi network that aims to reach all areas of the University of Birmingham’s campus is due to be finished in 2019, despite delays
The project, which saw 75% of learning spaces upgraded over the summer break, is estimated to be costing the university £2.8m.
This upgrade comes after WiFi complaints through the National Student Survey were gradually increasing regarding the older hardware that had been in place for the past 10 years. With 50,000 users of the Eduroam WiFi network across an average week, and that number set to increase, IT Services opted to upgrade the 2,100 WiFi access points across an 18 month project as part of UoB’s digital strategy.
Speaking to Redbrick, IT Services’ Mat Butcher explained that the upgrades will mean that the WiFi signal outside will be as strong as it is within buildings, stating how it ‘will be extended to provide outdoor wireless connectivity across the Green Heart’.
He also told us that the programme should be future-proofed ‘for at least five or six years’, and that the performance of the network will be under regular review.
IT Services had hoped for 85% of student learning spaces to be upgraded before the start of semester, but the ageing infrastructure in some of UoB’s older buildings has slowed contractors down. As a result, work will continue out of hours during first semester.
Following the completion of the programme, the WiFi upgrade will also be rolled out across the university’s satellite sites – such as the Orchard Learning Resource Centre in Selly Oak – although this will not include student accommodation WiFi, as this is provided by an external company.
Using technology developed by the world’s leading WiFi supplier, Aruba, the university tested the upgrade last year in the Main Library, Collaborative Teaching Laboratory, Murray Learning Centre and Computer Sciences. With a 90% student satisfaction rating and a ‘significant drop’ in calls to the IT Service Desk from those buildings, UoB decided to replicate the upgrade across campus. Student satisfaction will be measured again after the programme has finished with a series of surveys.
Students will only be able to connect to the high speed WiFi if they use the Eduroam network on their devices, as opposed to the older UoBWiFi system.