What is the WiFi Upgrade Project?

The University of Michigan Provost approved a WiFi Network upgrade project to establish pervasive connectivity in academic, administrative, and residence hall buildings on the Ann Arbor campus. This effort is designed to bring the network to a consistent standard of coverage, capacity and capability that permits our students, faculty, and staff to teach, learn, and work anytime and anywhere in these facilities. It also delivers a consistently positive WiFi experience for our prospective students, parents, alumni, and guests.

Why are we undertaking this project?

Students, faculty, staff, and administrators agree that the current WiFi networks are inconsistent and insufficient to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile and collaborative learning environment. Historically, it has been the responsibility of units to design and fund WiFi networks. This led to inconsistent investment and coverage, especially in buildings with multiple units sharing space. This project provides one-time funding to create consistent and predictable WiFi network coverage in buildings critical to our student services and academic missions.

Who is leading this effort and when will it be delivered?

Information and Technology Services (ITS) has been charged with coordinating this upgrade. In partnership with Procurement Services, Facilities and Operations, Unit IT (including LSA IT) and facilities leadership they are designing, building, and delivering expanded WiFi to 275 buildings across the Ann Arbor Campus. For a complete list of buildings affected by this project, its.umich.edu/wifiupgrade.

What is involved in upgrading a building?

Project efforts require a site survey to determine where to place WiFi access points (APs); conduit and network design; conduit, wiring, switch, and access point installation; network equipment activation and configuration; and post installation testing. In some cases, additional construction activities may be required to address emergent facilities issues such as asbestos abatement. Schedules will be coordinated with building and unit leadership to minimize disruption and respect academic and business cycles. Project communicators will use a variety of electronic and hard-copy communications, and posted materials to keep building occupants, users and visitors informed during planning, construction, and deployment efforts.

What benefits will this project deliver?

Between 2013–14 the number of WiFi connections across the university campus have more than doubled, and nationally IT leaders have identified WiFi expansion as the number one IT issue facing college campuses. This project strives to deliver networks that meet the varied expectations of our campus populations.

This WiFi project should fulfill many of the expectations of groups listed below.

Our students expect:

  • Pervasive WiFi coverage where they study, live, meet, and gather, that meets their ever-increasing demand for data, streaming video, and other online tools.
  • A robust WiFi network that can accommodate the increasing number of wireless devices they bring to campus.
  • Seamless WiFi access in all campus buildings.

Faculty and Researchers expect:

  • Consistent WiFi in all academic buildings and classrooms.
  • Predictable WiFi coverage, including spaces where it is not available today.
  • Increased network capacity capable of handling big data, research, and other research activities.

Staff expect:

  • Pervasive WiFi coverage that permits employees to work anywhere on campus.
  • Increased WiFi access allowing larger groups to collaborate with computers for meetings and events.
  • Reduced scheduling challenges for spaces with little or limited coverage today.

Unit IT, Financial, and Administrative Leaders expect:

  • Improved and university-wide pricing for networking equipment, reducing overall hardware costs.
  • Consistent networking specifications that take into account regulatory and compliance standards and begin to treat wired and wireless network infrastructure similar to other utilities.
  • Fair network planning and upgrade models that permit units to plan for network expenses in a predictable manner.

How does this assist the university in advancing its mission?

The Campuswide WiFi Upgrade project aligns to the University’s strategic IT plan to deliver next generation technology in an increasing mobile and collaborative manner. It works to resolve troublesome IT challenges identified by our students, faculty, staff, and administrators; provides a competitive advantage as we work to recruit the best and brightest students in the future; and creates a welcoming environment for parents, the community, and our guests.