Enterprise Investing in Wireless Technology: The Villanova University Case

Enterprise Investing in Wireless Technology: The Villanova University Case

Stephen J. Andriole
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-018-9.ch011
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This is an example of enterprise investing in a specific technology—wireless communications technology—in an effort to provide access to network and core applications to Villanova University administrators, faculty, and students. Like many universities, Villanova is investing in wireless technology to provide mobility to its community of technology users.
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To test the viability of a wireless network, the university decided to pilot a program late in 2002, using technology from Cisco Systems.® Several Cisco Aironet® 1200 Series wireless access points were installed in the College of Commerce and Finance. One was installed in the College of Law, two in the student union, and several others in computer services offices.

The 802.11a standard, with a data rate of up to 54 Mbps, offers greatly enhanced performance and eight distinct channels for enhanced scalability. Although this standard is not compatible with 802.11b devices, it is immune to interference from devices that operate in the 2.4-GHz band, such as cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, and hand-held barcode scanners. The IEEE 802.11g standard provides backward compatibility with IEEE 802.11b equipment, preserving users’ investment in their existing WLAN infrastructure. However, because 802.11g is limited to the same three channels as 802.11b, scalability may become a factor as wireless LAN (WLAN) user density increases.

The Cisco Aironet 1200 Series Access Point supports the IEEE 802.11b standard, has an 11-Mbps data rate, and provides a migration path to the new IEEE 802.11a and IEEE 802.11g standards—a feature that adds scalability and investment protection.

In addition, the Aironet 1200 Series can be upgraded in the field; customers can order it with the 802.11b radio, for instance, and then add or swap out radios to the new standards as their application and bandwidth requirements evolve.

One of the most interesting applications of Villanova’s pilot wireless program involved the Business School’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program. The program lasts 24 months, and sessions are held in the Villanova Conference Center, located in a large hotel and conference center about a mile and a half from the main campus. Four Cisco Aironet 1200 Series access points were installed in the center, which is connected to the campus through the Internet.

The pilot program was not Villanova’s first experience with wireless networking. A Cisco competitor had previously donated ten wireless access points to the business school, which the university’s Network Services group set up as a WLAN for business students. Some of the other colleges had set up their own independent networks as well.

“Not only were there several unconnected WLANs on campus when I arrived (in 2002), but several different network vendors were involved. We wanted to trim this down,” Fugale says.

That meant unifying the wireless environment and establishing some preferred strategic partnerships that would help us manage the total cost of ownership, centralize lines of support, and above all, ensure we received top-of-the-line equipment in terms of quality, serviceability and expandability. (Fugale, personal communication)

The decision to standardize on Cisco Aironet wireless technology was based on three key precepts, Fugale (personal communication) adds:

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