Southern Miss’ iTech began the process of upgrading the Wi-Fi with an estimated completion between the end of the spring semester or the fall semester.
Director of technology operations and infrastructure Keith Hill said the university saved up a total of $1 million for the project, which will include new routers in every building on the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses as well as the research centers the university operates.
“We are the first customers in the Southeast to get these radios,” Hill said.
Wi-Fi stands for wireless fidelity and is the standard for wireless networking standards. Wi-Fi uses radio signals to bounce signals between devices and the internet using routers.
Hill said students do not need to worry about internet access during the upgrades because they plan to set the new systems up while the other is still running and switch them over while the different buildings are closed for the night.
“The way we do the change out is we’ll stage the new radios next to the old ones, and it will literally be just moving the cables, and they’ll boot up,” Hill said. “The time it takes to boot up is only a minute or two.”
The Wi-Fi currently in use at Southern Miss is called 11ac, which was released in 2013. The newest generation, 11ax, now known as Wi-Fi 6, is what iTech is upgrading to. Once the upgrades are finished, Hill said the internet will be 40% more powerful and four times as efficient as the current Wi-Fi system.
“We are moving all to Wi-Fi 6,” Hill said. “We are resurveying every building on campus to put in a new capacity model with the latest standard, so that we shouldn’t have areas where people have poor wireless performance.”
Hill said iTech is in the process of surveying each building to find out the thickness of walls in every room along with other factors, such as the material used in construction He said the surveys should be done by December or January.
Network administrator for iTech Bryan Wiseman has been on the team doing the surveys since it started in October.
Wiseman said the process of surveying a building takes between 30 minutes to a couple of hours depending on the size of the building, how many rooms they have to go through and the accessibility of those rooms. He said every detail is important for the survey from what the room is being used for to the height of the wall.
“We’ve been trying to do [surveys] every day since,” Wiseman said. “It’s tedious, and the reason being is that we are having to work around classrooms. And we have to do the dorms we can’t get into.”
Senior English major Jaq Jefcoat said an upgrade was long overdue.
“It’s definitely overdue for an upgrade and making sure that the signal is strong and accessible throughout buildings,” Jefcoat said. “For students who use the Wi-Fi for streaming online classes, it sucks when it cuts out.
Jefcoat said he has had problems with the Wi-Fi in the school since the semester started.
“There are quite a few areas in buildings I frequently visit where it’s difficult to get good Wi-Fi,” Jefcoat said. “I don’t use it on my phone, but it’s crucial for me to use it for my laptop in class and doing assignments.”
Hill said iTech was aware of the problem, specifically with eduroam, the university’s Wi-Fi system, and they worked on and fixed the issue. He said one of the devices needed for eduroam to work properly had to be decommissioned, and it was the source of the issues.
“The eduroam thing was resolved earlier this week,” Hill said. “We had to take a unit out of service that wasn’t talking the way it was supposed to.”
Hill said the best advice he can give students having issues with the internet is to use eduroam whenever possible. The public Wi-Fi, according to Hill, has a rate limit, but eduroam does not. He also said he wanted to remind students how to log in to eduroam.
“A lot of folks have struggled with the username with eduroam, but it is your firstname.lastname@example.org,” Hill said. “People just want to use just the wempl like they log into SOAR, but that won’t work.”