MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University is 19th among the top 50 “Most Unwired” campuses for 2005, according to the second-annual survey of wireless Internet accessibility conducted by Intel Corp.

            Survey findings are based on the percentage of each campus that is covered by wireless technology, the number of undergraduate students, and the computer-to-student ratio for each school.

            The study examined schools with more than 1,000 students. Data was gathered from university interviews, public documents and additional industry sources; the “America’s Most Connected Campuses” ranking conducted by Princeton Review and published in Forbes magazine; and an online survey that schools completed between May 1 and Sept. 1 of this year, which was executed by the Center for Digital Education and Intel Corp.

            On a related note, Northern recently replaced a wireless local-area network (WLAN) system in Jamrich Hall, the Learning Resources Center and the McClintock building. This system uses “air traffic control” technology developed by Meru Networks, giving students and faculty improved access to e-learning applications.

            A Meru news release calls it the "world's highest density wireless network." It simultaneously supports more than 800 students in Jamrich Hall alone, and has reduced interference issues that once resulted in connectivity and performance problems.

“The new system supports several times as many users in any given area,” said Don Salo of Northern’s administrative information technology department. “It supports this greater density of users without the degradation in quality experienced with the previous approach. It’s sort of like filtering out the background noise in a crowded room when you’re trying to talk with someone. Meru’s WLAN system brings order to the data transmission. Without air traffic control technology, wireless traffic is chaotic and uncoordinated, especially with high densities of users.” 

            Salo said the new system is working well. Professors are using WebCT testing in lecture halls with more than 140 students simultaneously, saving time and giving students fast results.

            “Meru had never seen so many users in that size of building," he added. "We surprised them with how many people are using the system. Meru’s chief technology officer flew here to see it in person.”

            NMU has the company’s WLAN system deployed in a number of classrooms and lecture halls. Salo said the university will expand to other locations with future installations in Art and Design, Thomas Fine Arts, West Science, New Science and other campus buildings.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director