NMU Shifts to LTE, Higher-End Laptops
Northern will convert to a new LTE network for wireless broadband, effective in early August. WiMAX will continue to operate for another two years until the final model of laptops equipped with its built-in adapters cycle out of use according to the university’s replacement schedule. NMU also will begin distributing a higher-end laptop with integrated LTE technology: the fourth generation Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (pictured).
Dave Maki (IT and Technical Services) said there are a few key reasons for the conversion. LTE has emerged as the mobile broadband standard in the United States and is used worldwide via cell phones, tablets and computers. WiMAX can no longer be built into laptops. Its user equipment is more difficult to find and has a shorter lifespan of 10 years (NMU’s network was installed in 2008).
“Another big benefit of LTE is the speed,” Maki said. “With WiMAX, we have 1 megabit per second (mbps) of upload and 5-6 mbps of download. LTE is noticeably faster and we’re going to deploy it two ways: at the 1 upload/5 download level as a direct replacement for WiMAX; and at the higher broadband speed of 5 mbps upload/25 mbps download. Students will automatically get the faster option for free. For everyone else, there will be a yearly one-time fee (TBD) for the LTE broadband speed; WiMAX equivalent speed will continue to have no yearly charge. Most, but not everyone, will have access to the full broadband speeds. Like WiMAX, it depends on where you live. We’ll have a choice of indoor tabletop adapters, MyFi Spots or units that can be installed outside your house. Olson Library will have test equipment that can be checked out to test for connection and speed."
The new Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon will have a built-in LTE adapter. Maki describes the model as thinner and lighter, with a better processor and more memory.
“These machines are more durable, too, so we’re going to a four-year replacement cycle,” Maki said. “I have a Carbon that’s going on its fourth year and it’s fine. In fact, it’s the longest I’ve ever had a machine. The Carbon will physically hold up for four years. People may have occasional issues, but that’s where technical support comes in. We want it to work for students, so we can help with issues like battery life or software issues that occur over time and use.”
LTE is now available in Negaunee and Marquette. Between September and spring 2016, it will be brought on line at the NMU Golf Course, in Harvey via the tower at Cherry Creek Elementary, Sawyer International Airport, Gwinn and the Dead River. NMU is installing LTE on top of the existing WiMAX network. Equipment to access the LTE network is on order and should be available for purchase from Micro Repair at the start of the fall semester.
Maki said installation and operating costs are comparable between the two, but maintenance on the LTE core will be slightly higher.