Penn State to spend $8.5 million to improve wireless network

mdawson@centredaily.comMay 3, 2013 

— The ubiquity of iPads, iPods, tablet and laptop computers is bogging down Penn State’s wireless Internet system.

So, the university is planning an $8.5 million overhaul of its Wi-Fi coverage, officials said at the board of trustees committee meeting for finance, business and long-range planning Thursday morning.

The plan is to “improve the patchwork of hodgepodge coverage” over a two-year period, said Ford Stryker, the associate vice president for the Office of Physical Plant. That will extend wireless service to the campus’s residence halls and fill in areas where coverage is spotty, he said.

David Gray, the university’s senior vice president for finance and business, said the number of devices accessing the Penn State Wi-Fi has doubled in the past 15 months. The numbers were not immediately available.

“This proliferation of wireless devices is saturating the capacity,” he said.

Stryker said most of the design and installation for the upgrade will be done by university employees.

Penn State offers the wireless service to employees and students who have a university access account. People who don’t have an account can pay for the service through AT&T.

The plan will be presented to the full board Friday.

The committee also heard reports about the following matters:

•  A renovation of the Hetzel Union Building that will add student-centered space. In addition, the construction will force the on-campus bookstore inside the HUB to relocate temporarily to modular units. The renovation will also add a store selling merchandise for Thon, the university’s annual dance marathon fundraiser.

•  The university will look to spend between $98 million and $105 million to build two new data centers, with one at the University Park campus and the other at the Hershey Medical Center. The university would consolidate its existing data centers, which are spread throughout campus. The one at the University Park campus will be in the area of University Support Buildings I and II, Stryker said.

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