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REF NO.: 311

SUBJECT: Memorial University’s wireless network moves into the fast lane
DATE: Aug. 24, 2004

Memorial University's wireless network has moved into the fast lane, with new speed and security standards. On Aug. 23, Memorial’s Department of Computing and Communications converted the university's wireless network to 802.11g and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) wireless standards. In layman's terms, this means the highest level of security and a connection up to about five times as fast as the old standard.

The downside is that laptops operating on the older standard will not have wireless access until they are upgraded with a new card.

Cathy McFadyen, a network administrator with Computing and Communications, said the move was necessary because of the growing number of wireless network users on campus and the strain they were putting on the old connection.

There are about 600 wireless users on the St. John's campus and “it wouldn't surprise us to have another 700 users by next year,” said Ms. McFadyen. Computing and Communications currently supports both the old and new standards, but if just one machine using the old standard connects to the network, it slows down all users – including users with the new card installed.

“That is, one 802.11b user can dictate the speed of all other clients and, therefore, the investment of those who use 802.11g for high speeds will be wasted.”

Ms. McFadyen added that the security feature was important for users, to protect their data.

Users of PDAs (personal digital assistants) such as PalmPilots will be out of luck in the short term, however. There are no wireless network cards for PDAs that support the 802.11g standard, explained Ms. McFadyen, although several manufacturers are planning to release 802.11g devices later this year.

Memorial is well ahead of most universities in its wireless capabilities, she said. Thirty-five per cent of academic areas, including 100 per cent of the library, business building and residence buildings, are in the wireless zone.

Details about the switch and information about wireless access in general, are available at www.mun.ca/cc/wireless_changes.

Ms. McFadyen said there will be some inconvenience for a while, but thinks it will be a big benefit in the long term. “We're going to try and make it as easy as possible for people.”

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