Students might notice an improved Wi-Fi signal in residential areas.
Gerry Hunt, Campus Technology Services chief information officer, said it’s tricky to provide thorough wireless capabilities to dorms for various reasons, such as the construction of the buildings, interference from things like microwaves or personal routers or a high concentration of people connected to Wi-Fi at the same time in the same area.
“We’re constantly investing in and researching how we can improve wireless on campus,” he said. “It’s an ongoing effort.”
The Walker Hall dormitory renovations have been done since last summer. Before, there were at most three wireless antennas per floor across the seven stories. There are now nine antennas per floor. The project was part of the renovations housing officials made to Walker.
“We not only added more antennas, we added new antennas,” Hunt said. “These are stronger. They can handle more capacity. It was not just adding more, it was adding better, so that building is basically glowing with wireless coverage right now.”
Troy Freeman, music theater freshman, lives in Walker. He said in January the main issue is consistency.
“Most of the time it doesn’t work at all, and, on several occasions, I’ve been forced to put off homework till the next morning in hopes that the routers would be active,” Freeman said. “The system regularly boots students off when multiple of their systems are connected. The system is broken and makes studying difficult.”
Doing it right
In Banning Hall dormitory, improvements to the wireless signal came only after a network cable was accidentally severed during construction.
“That wasn’t the worst thing in the world because it really kind of allowed us to stop, say ‘okay let’s go back in there and do it right,’” Hunt said. “While Banning Hall doesn’t have nearly as many students, the students in there have been very positive in their feedback to us regarding the improved wireless in that dorm.”
To improve the signal, campus tech employees ran new network lines that can handle higher speeds than before and doubled the number of antennas from five to 10.
The toughest dorm to make wireless improvements to was Methodist Hall Dormitory, Hunt said.
“It’s a massive complex, there’s lots of rooms tucked away in corners and, the way the building is designed, it’s not one that is easy to go into the rooms themselves and drop in antennas,” Hunt said. “The hallways are really the only areas we can put antennas where we want to put them because there’s dropped ceilings up there.”
A dropped ceiling refers to a ceiling hung below the actual structural ceiling, meaning there is room between the two for mechanical, electrical or plumbing infrastructure. Methodist rooms have hard ceilings.
Each floor in Methodist Hall had about 10 antennas before. Now they each have about 20. Even with all the work, Hunt said there could be pockets where the Wi-Fi still isn’t great.
Onnika Hanson, acting junior, lives in Methodist and said Sunday that the Wi-Fi hardly worked for her last semester.
“When you’re able to actually get it on your device, then it’s slow,” Hanson said. “But, most of the time, according to my computer, it doesn’t even exist. I don’t have unlimited data, so I’m constantly having to pay an overcharge, which is incredibly frustrating.”
Cokesbury residents won’t see improvement to the Wi-Fi. Since the university doesn’t own the apartments, the responsibility to improve the signal falls on the third party that manages it, Hunt said.
“The wireless that is out there is there kind of by our own good graces and just to provide something at all,” Hunt said. “We have taken our old wireless equipment and put it in some of the rooms to provide more coverage than they do have.”
Hunt said campus tech officials have made recommendations to the owners of Cokesbury about ways they could improve the Wi-Fi. Students who live in Cokesbury should still report issues to campus tech.
Making an investment
Hunt said there were two costs for each project: a cabling contract and buying new antennas.
“The wireless antennas are around $600 per antenna. The cabling that we had done is about $7,000 or so,” he said. “It definitely was probably pushing $100,000, but that’s spread out across the fiscal year.
“It’s an ongoing investment of time and money, but it’s something we understand is important.”
To report an issue with Wi-Fi, submit a work order on myschoolbuilding.com or call campus tech at 405-208-5555.
“Let us know when there’s an area that maybe is lacking in coverage,” Hunt said. “Even in Cokesbury, where maybe there is nothing we can do about it, at least if we know where the problems are we can pass that information along to the Cokesbury management group.”
Reports should be as detailed as possible, including location, type of device and specifics about the connection issue.
“We can do all the testing we can to see what the coverage looks like, but sometimes we can’t get to every last inch of this campus. We need the feedback of the students and people that are using wireless on this campus,” Hunt said.