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Wireless Technology at Utep

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Essay title: Wireless Technology at Utep

Wireless network technologies have become very popular in recent years, offering a mix of very appealing features, such as high speed, roaming, quick deployment, and applicability in areas that are impractical for wiring. The standardization of wireless LANs (IEEE 802.11 and supplements 802.11a and 802.11b) has brought interoperability between vendors and driven the prices down. At the same time, new proprietary solutions for point to point connectivity offering increased performance were appearing on the market.

UTEP recognized the potentials of these exciting new technologies, and early experiments were soon followed by permanent solutions that provide or complement campus network infrastructure. Several key buildings on the campus and their surrounding areas are covered with wireless LAN signal, allowing roaming with wireless enabled laptop computers. A newly added off campus building is connected to the main campus with a stationary wireless link, eliminating expensive leased line charges, and several more buildings will be connected soon. Most notably, a wireless connection is established with UACJ (Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez) that is located across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. This link provides UACJ with connectivity to Internet 2, a large consortium of universities and research institutions throughout the United States, and with CUDI (Corporaciуn Universitaria para el Desarrollo de Internet), its counterpart in Mexico.

Experimenting with new technologies can sometimes prove difficult for public universities like UTEP due to various budgetary constraints. The solution was found in forming partnerships with equipment manufactures and system integrators who offered their expertise and either donated equipment or provided significant discounts. Once pilot projects show success, it becomes easier to secure funding for later stages of deployment. It is in the initial phases of these projects where such partnerships created most impact.

Enterasys Networks is UTEP’s long term supplier of network infrastructure equipment. Western Multiplex is a new partner of UTEP. It specializes in high speed wireless point to point connections. Integrated Systems Group is a system integration company from El Paso with references across the United States and Mexico.

Wireless LANs

The involvement with wireless networking technologies at UTEP began when the University Bookstore was looking for ways to enable network connectivity for outdoor book fair events in popular and frequented places such as in front of major campus buildings. The temporary nature of these events and the outdoor ambient made wiring very impractical. Wireless LAN seemed to be the perfect solution.

To evaluate this technology, UTEP launched a pilot program with the help of Enterasys Networks, who donated a RoamAbout 802.11b wireless LAN access point, 16 laptop computers, and a larger number of wireless PC cards. The access point was placed in the Student Union, a popular building that houses the University Bookstore, along with several eateries, lounging areas, and other facilities. The computers and the wireless PC cards were used in a checkout program in which students could borrow the equipment and use it to access network

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