November 14 , 2005
Emory residence halls get ‘unplugged’ for 2006
Stan Brooks is a radio-frequency engineer for Network
Donna Price is coordinator of communications and marketing services for the Office of the Vice President for Information
Technology and CIO.
Only a few years ago high-speed network connections were considered a luxury; today they are a necessity, particularly for colleges and universities. Now, wireless technology is undergoing a similar revolution, and Emory is dedicated to providing a unified, secure and easy-to-use wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) network for its students, faculty and staff.
With wireless access high on the list of students’ expectations when they come to Emory, a plan to fast-track the service is bringing Wi-Fi to residence halls and theme houses on the main campus, the undergraduate and graduate residential centers on the Clairmont Campus, Turner Village, and the fraternity houses. Sororities will be wireless in their new building by August 2006.
Devices such as laptops, desktop computers and PDAs connect to local networks wirelessly via radio signals when those devices are within the range of network access points (APs). To do so requires computers or other devices with built-in Wi-Fi technology or a Wi-Fi network card.
Building on a network of more than 280 access points in 40 buildings and outdoor sites, the new initiative of Network Communications (NetCom), Academic and Administrative Information Technology (AAIT, formerly ITD) and Housing, with executive sponsorship from Richard Mendola, vice president for information technology and CIO, will more than double the number of APs and cover more than 46 additional buildings and sites.
The project began in September, and installation now is in full swing. Multiple crews will work throughout the fall term and, to lessen the impact on students, work doesn’t begin each day until 9 a.m. and will be halted the weeks before and during finals. As installation in each building is completed, access will be enabled for that building.
The goal is to have wireless available at the above sites by the start of spring term. While a few may not be fully functional, all work is scheduled to be completed by the end of January 2006.
Even as the service is being installed, students are demonstrating their hunger for it.
“Three users were logged in and using the system less than 10 minutes after activating just some of the APs,” said Stan Brooks, an engineer for NetCom. “I checked the system [at the Dobbs residence hall] on Saturday evening and found 20 users authenticated and on the network at 10 p.m.—Halloween weekend! Students are finding and using the wireless network almost as soon as we get the APs active. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Wireless security is a major concern. Emory’s wireless implementation requires students to log on to the system and then encrypts all wireless traffic. The new and preferred method for secure access is WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), which allows users to set up their credentials once and then automatically connects them to the wireless network whenever they turn on their computers. Instructions for setting up WPA are posted at
The other option for secure wireless access is to use Emory’s Virtual Private Network (VPN). The VPN also provides a secure mode of wireless access but requires users to log on each time they access the wireless network, which is less convenient. Both functions help ensure that personal and proprietary data transmitted through Emory’s wireless network is kept secure and protected from unauthorized eavesdropping.
To accommodate wireless access for campus visitors, a limited guest-access function went live in mid-October. This method of access is not encrypted, is limited to Internet sites outside Emory’s firewalls, and has a limited amount of bandwidth.
“The residence hall implementation marks the beginning of a new chapter in wireless access at Emory.” Mendola said. “It’s one of a number of new initiatives that we’ll be focusing on this year. Working together with our partner organizations across the Emory community, we plan to deliver a number of new or enhanced services that will make the IT experience of our students, faculty and staff better than ever.
More information is available at www.emory.edu/netcom/OurServices/wirelessindex.htm.