Sidebar: Dartmouth Looks to Expand WLAN, Beef Up Bandwidth

Dartmouth College over the next 18 months plans to expand its campuswide wireless LAN to serve as the primary backbone for providing students, faculty members and administrative workers with data, telephony and video services.

That will require the school's IT staff to triple the number of wireless access points installed on the Hanover, N.H., campus to about 1,500 devices, said Brad Noblet, director of technical services at Dartmouth. The most affordable way to do so, he added, is by using inexpensive access points that are managed by a central switch.

Noblet said he expects to save up to $400,000 by purchasing 1,000 of Aruba Wireless Networks Inc.'s access points. The so-called dumb devices sell for about $200 each, compared with a selling price of about $600 for Cisco Systems Inc.'s intelligent ones.

However, part of the savings will be offset by the cost of buying Aruba's WLAN switches. An Aruba spokesman said Dartmouth likely will need to install seven of the San Jose-based company's Model 5000 switches, which have a list price of $12,000 each.

The Aruba WLAN will also boost Dartmouth's bandwidth, Noblet added. That's because the planned network is a tri-mode installation that supports each of the 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi standards. The addition of 802.11a and 802.11g will increase peak raw data rates on the college's WLAN to 54Mbit/sec., compared with 11Mbit/sec. on 802.11b.

The added bandwidth will be used to provide data as well as voice access to Dartmouth's 4,000 students, 96% of whom have computers, Noblet said. IP telephony capabilities will be offered primarily through PC-based softphone clients, he added. Currently, about 1,000 students use Cisco's IP Softphone technology.

Noblet said Dartmouth also has a contract with TeleSym Inc. in Bellevue, Wash., for 600 of its SymPhone clients. Other voice-over-IP devices now used on Dartmouth's WLAN include about 80 of Cisco's 7920 wireless VoIP phones and about 100 hands-free voice communicators from Vocera Communications Inc. in Cupertino, Calif.

The Cisco phones and Vocera communicators are typically used by faculty and staff members, according to Noblet. But about 20 of Vocera's devices are used by student teams for instant voice collaboration on projects, he added.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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