/stories/2019/08/outdoor-wireless-connectivity-gets-a-boost

Outdoor wireless connectivity gets a boost

Over the summer, the UMIT team worked to cover more than 900,000 square feet of real estate with wireless internet access. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

By Ashley A. Williams

Over the summer, the UMIT team worked to cover more than 900,000 square feet of real estate with wireless internet access. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Outdoor wireless connectivity gets a boost

By Ashley A. Williams
University of Miami Information Technology, working with Facilities Operations and Planning, spent the summer improving outdoor wireless coverage and reliability across the Coral Gables campus.

This summer, the University of Miami’s Information Technology department worked with Facilities Operations and Planning to improve outdoor wireless coverage on the Coral Gables campus.

“After joining the University last fall, I met with Student Government leaders to ask, ‘What can we do to improve the student experience,’” said Ernie Fernandez, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “One of their requests was to expand WiFi access in outdoor spaces, and the UMIT and Facilities teams really stepped up and answered the call.”

Before the project launched, wireless was limited to indoor facilities including remote clinics and offices, and a few outdoor spaces.

"When UMIT asked Facilities to assist with the oversight of the conduit installation, we were excited to participate in such a collaborative initiative that results in a positive impact to the student experience," said Jessica Brumley, vice president of Facilities Operations and Planning.

Over the summer, the UMIT team worked to cover more than 900,000 square feet of real estate with wireless internet access.

“I hope students realize wireless is a work in progress,” said UMIT network architect Lisa Firestone. “We strive to continue to strengthen the coverage throughout campus so anyone visiting, working, and living can enjoy our beautiful outdoor weather and lush landscape while still being productive.”

Firestone is responsible for designing, managing, and maintaining the wireless infrastructure at the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science campuses. This includes performing upgrades to existing buildings and planning wireless deployment for new construction—including the Lakeside Village student housing complex. She and the four other technicians in her department have been working on University’s wireless infrastructure since their student days.

“All my staff on the tech side were all students at one point,” said Stewart Seruya, assistant vice president of information technology. “They all majored in engineering here at UM. I was in the business school and back then the department didn’t exist, we created it ourselves.”

The wireless upgrade has also allowed for the partnership between the UM Police Department and UMIT to flourish. During the excavation and underground boring for fiber optic cable, UMPD installed cameras that use the same infrastructure. 

“The infrastructure necessary for wireless is very similar to what UM Police uses to increase their outdoor closed-circuit TV presence on campus,” said Firestone. “This offers a safer environment for everyone.” 

Wireless internet access on campus first launched in February 2001. Then, 150 antennas were placed throughout the 240-acre Gables campus, and students needed to purchase a $160 access card that came with an antenna built into it for their devices.

The University of Miami network now has over 400 miles of fiber optic cable, over 10,000 wireless antennas/access points, and supports more than 58,000 wireless devices, 56,000 wired computers, and over 28,000 phones.