American University


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American University

  1. 1. Cover Story Wires American University (AU), nestled in a wooded neighborhood in the northwest corner of our nation’s capital, was the first university in the country Vanish as to integrate its telephone and IT infrastructure to provide wireless voice, data and messaging capabilities anywhere, anytime on campus. AU Students partnered with KPMG Consulting (now BearingPoint), CISCO Systems, IBM, Compaq Computer, Foxcom Wireless and Cingular Wireless to Reappear explore cutting-edge applications of wireless technology on campus, while providing these suppliers with access to new and lucrative student on AU markets. The school has deployed a distributed antenna Campus system in every building that not only provides omnipresent wireless broadband service but also provides a truly ubiquitous cellular service throughout the campus. As a result of its efforts, AU was in the top 10 of Intel's quot;Most Unwired College Campusesquot; survey, which ranks the top 100 schools PHOTO OF CAMPUS COURTESY OF AMERICAN UNIVERSITY BY JEFF WATTS. for wireless computing access. The survey reveals a growing number of schools across the country PHOTOS OF CARL WHITMAN COURTESY OF AMERICAN UNIVERSITY BY BILL PETROS. EWM 8 ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005
  2. 2. AU Vital Statistics Location: Washington, D.C. Operating Budget - (Fiscal Year 2005): $329 million where students have the freedom to wirelessly access the Internet on laptop PCs — without a traditional wired Campus Size: 85 acres, plus additional buildings connection — and stay connected and informed off campus whether they're in the dorm room, library or outdoors at Total Student Population: 11,101 the campus quad. Faculty/Staff: 7,137 “When we studied WLANs on campus last year we Internal Schools and Colleges: found only five schools with full wireless coverage. This College of Arts and Sciences; Kogod School of year nearly 50 have ubiquitous coverage. Additionally, Business; School of Communication; School of hot spots in the cities nationwide grew from 3,000 two International Service; School of Public Affairs; years ago to 10,000 last year to 20,000-plus this year,” Washington College of Law says Bert Sperling, president, Sperling’s Best Places, a System: research firm that partnered Intel on the unwired • 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi/cellular capable campuses the study. “It is a big trend on college • 700 coaxial cable-driven antennas campuses. They are usually on the leading edge in terms • Coverage area: 2 million square feet, including of cultural phenomena.” 45 separate buildings American University officials believe that staying on the cutting edge of wireless technology is one of the keys to continuing success in today’s competitive college climate. Carl Whitman, AU’s Executive Director, Information Technology, took time out to explain the impact of EWM: wireless on the business of running a university. Why did you make a commitment to wireless? Whitman: American University began an extensive deployment of advanced wireless technology on its campus in 2001 because we wanted it to be a real point of distinction for this institution. We believe advanced technology can be a point of reference that will help the university attract and retain students and provide our faculty with new tools to enhance the classroom teaching and learning experience. EWM: What made you think wireless technology would distinguish American University? Whitman: The growth of interest in wireless technology, and wireless computing in particular, has justified this initiative. Each year, our in coming freshmen classes have become more technology savvy. It is important that an institution stay one step ahead of its customers in providing the product they desire. In our case, the students are our customers and the product is their educational experience. EWM 9 ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005
  3. 3. EWM: Describe the process of installing the antennas. Whitman: It was difficult to retrofit the buildings with the coax, but we eventually learned the new skill sets needed to do the job. The material is quite heavy and does not bend easily - plus you run into hazards like asbestos, or discover the need for wiring closets in locations where there aren't any. It took a total of 14 months to complete the job. EWM: How does the hybrid fiber/coax system carry the cellular signal? EWM: Has it been successful? Whitman: When the signal comes over the cellular system or over Whitman: the Internet to the campus, it is converted to light using Although we have not studied the effect of wireless MobileAccess DAS equipment. It is multiplexed to technology on our ability to attract students, overall our combine signals bound for multiple locations to fewer numbers are up and quality is up. We believe it has had fibers. It is transmitted through the campus on fiber to a positive impact on enrollment. Our ranking in the top individual buildings, and then it is demultiplexed for final 10 schools nationwide by Intel lends to our credibility transmission via fiber to individual floor wiring closets. with students who have technology as one of their The signal is converted back to radio energy and radiated criteria in choosing a school. For a long time our out through the coaxial cable (200 feet maximum) to the admissions staff has recognized that students ask about antenna. technology as one of their deciding factors when choosing a university. EWM: Why is the provision of cellular service a priority to a EWM: university? What was your approach from a technology angle? Whitman: Whitman: We believe that cellular phones are going to be used We were looking for an all-inclusive wireless solution. We more and more for data applications in the classroom made the campus wireless in the way that you would and the residence halls, so our system accommodates anticipate, installing an 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi capable system the two technologies. throughout the campus. You can access the Web from a wireless-enabled computer inside all of the buildings as Our strategy involved using the cellular capability as a well as outside. What distinguishes our approach is that way to encourage students to use cell phones rather we deployed this system using an in-building distributed than to rely on the university providing the phone service antenna system, which is unique among higher in the residence halls. The traditional model had us education facilities. It is a hybrid fiber/coaxial system with providing phone service through the campus PBX with 700 coaxial cable-driven antennas, providing coverage students getting long distance service through a for over two million square feet in 45 separate buildings. university-sponsored resale program. Monies made from As a consequence, it is also capable of providing long distance were used to subsidize the campus phone ubiquitous coverage for cellular telephone users, system. The revenue generation from long-distance simultaneously. That is our particular edge. resale, however, has dried up, along with the revenue we received from pay phones. EWM 10 ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005
  4. 4. EWM: much marketing as we anticipated. Today’s typical college So, where does the popularity of cell phones leave you in freshman already has a wireless laptop and a cell phone terms of maintaining landline/long distance service? by the time they get to us. We don’t have to convince them of the premise. They presume it and are expecting Whitman: to discover it when they get here. We are well positioned A lot of the landline business was consumed by cellular to fulfill those expectations. phones as they became more popular and calling patterns Nonetheless, we have taken a gradual approach to the changed. So, we have gotten out of providing the transition, spending the last two years preparing students landline/long distance phone service for students. As of for the cutover from landline phone service to cellular this fall, phones in rooms can only make calls on campus. phone communications in the residence halls. We have We have engaged in partnerships with Cingular Wireless been promoting the change and trying to prepare the and T-Mobile USA to do joint marketing to the students to community for this eventuality. promote cellular use on campus. Both carriers have placed a base station on campus that feeds the distributed EWM: antenna system for in-building communications. The What new services does the wireless system enable you to partnership includes a modest revenue sharing agreement. provide? EWM: Whitman: T-Mobile also provides public Wi-Fi hot spot service. Have Faculty use the wireless environment to get their course- you tapped into that service? work to the students online, creating a virtual environment that students can interact with, whether they are in the Whitman: classroom, in the residence hall or studying elsewhere. The relationship with T-Mobile is an interesting one. While It is becoming integrated into all facets of university life. we already have our own hot spot service, it speaks to For example, our Kogod School of Business is our need to accommodate guests’ Wi-Fi communication experimenting with RSS streaming as a way of staying in needs while on campus. We have now added T-Mobile touch with students and enhancing their classroom hot spot service to 10 of our most public areas as an experience. overlay on our network. In turn, T-Mobile advertises AU as a hot spot on its web site, which provides us with marketing visibility. Even though our students have no need for T-Mobile hot spot service on campus, they might well be candidates for using it when they leave the campus. Our curriculum emphasizes being engaged in the life of Washington, D.C., taking advantage of the many opportunities for learning with the many entities –– government and private –– inside the Beltway. Students will want to stay connected as they travel off campus for internships on Capitol Hill and in other areas of the city. To that end, T- Mobile provides special discount offerings to our students as an incentive if they want to become customers. EWM: How have the students reacted? Whitman: We set off on this path fully expecting that we would need to make an effort to convince students to use cell phones and wireless-equipped laptops. But time and reality has caught up with us; we didn’t have to do as EWM 11 ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005
  5. 5. savings. An important additional consideration is the On a lighter note, this fall students will be greeted by a enhanced capabilities offered by an IP system for business brand new service call e-Suds, developed by USA continuity support. Technologies, which puts their laundry service on the Internet. A student can access a web page to find out if It is a natural evolution of the old system. And, it is the washers and dryers on their residence hall floor are inevitable over time since new telephone systems being available. If they are busy, the student can request a text developed by the major manufacturers are based on IP message be sent to a cell phone or an e-mail to a laptop, technology. so they can know –– wherever they are –– when a EWM: machine becomes available, and then they can receive With the arrival of the 2005 class, American University another message when it is finished. Programs that work Washington College of Law (WCL) is taking advantage of on this embedded infrastructure will mushroom, making the latest technology by launching a “Podcasting” service, students more productive as well as simply making their which is a Web site audiocast to which students, faculty, lives easier. staff and basically anyone, can subscribe to and download to an audio MP3 player. What spurred this innovation? Will EWM: all classes be podcasted some day? DAS is an expensive infrastructure. What is the ROI of this deployment? Whitman: WCL’s 2005 student orientation revealed that about 70 Whitman: percent of students own an MP3 player. The school’s goal There are two ways of looking at that. With the is to deliver information to students and faculty in distributed antenna system as a choice for implementing multiple formats. Podcasts will be made from special the Wi-Fi system, we are not concerned with an ROI type lectures of high profile figures for those who were not of calculation, although we do believe the DAS will result able to attend event. Also, classes will be podcast for in lower maintenance costs. We just opened a $45 million students who are unable to attend due to illness, family art center here. We have to outfit that building with an emergency or other excusable absence. Ethernet system, wireless connectivity, a phone system and other systems. No one is going to ask me to produce an ROI for services that are considered to be a business necessity. We would not be in business without those types of services in that building. As we approached the wireless enhancements to our system, we believed this was money we needed to spend to stay in business. In the case of using the DAS for the cellular deployment, the logic is avoidance of future capital investment that we would have otherwise made in deploying the next generation wired VoIP telephone system to our residence halls. It is the combination of cellular and Wi-Fi that really makes it work financially. In the next 12 months, we will begin the process of replacing our aging PBX with a VoIP telephone system, but it will only be for our faculty and staff, roughly cutting that investment in half. EWM: Why are you moving to a VoIP telephone system for the faculty and staff? Whitman: We are interested in the benefits of a converged network, and more flexible contact center applications. We also look forward to taking advantage of the cost and space EWM 12 ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005
  6. 6. On podcasting, although the setting. Like all technologies, it will premise of your question is find its place, but always subject to Enterprise appealing, I doubt that all classes the reality of human needs and will take advantage of it. It will preferences. Wireless take some time before all of our instructors are comfortable with Technology is a powerful, indeed MAGAZINE the technology, and of course indispensable, enabler of what we do PUBLICATION STAFF it is difficult to replace the in higher education, but it is no atmosphere created by personal substitute for one-on-one Mark E. Crosby, Publisher contact and individual face-to-face personalized teaching and J. Sharpe Smith, Editor Elizabeth R. Sachs, Esq., Regulatory Editor participation in the classroom experiential education. Karen Portik, Production Director ENTERPRISE WIRELESS MAGAZINE is published 4 times each year. The publication is free to EWA members and is included in the annual membership dues. ADVERTISING/CLASSIFIEDS For advertising rates and media information, contact J. Sharpe Smith Phone: (515) 279-2282 e-mail: Enterprise Wireless 2005 Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Conference Center Nashville, Tennessee October 18-21, 2005 Elaine Baugh Walsh, Conference Director 520.620.0063 ENTERPRISE WIRELESS MAGAZINE ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005 ©2005 Enterprise Wireless Alliance, Inc. (EWA) All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is strictly prohibited. Third class postage paid at Alexandria, Virginia. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to EWA, 8484 Westpark Dr., Suite 630, McLean, VA 22102. About the Enterprise Wireless Alliance, Inc. EWA is devoted to assisting enterprise business users, dealers, service providers and technology manufacturers in the deployment of wireless communication solutions that promote corporate productivity and business results in the enterprise wireless space. Its offices are located at 8484 Westpark Drive, Suite 630, McLean, VA 22102. For more information about Enterprise Wireless Alliance membership and programs, contact Karin Norton at 703.528.5115 or On the web at EWM 13 ISSUE 3, VOL. 1, 2005