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UniWireless going for sweet connection

Tuesday, 29 April, 2014

A detailed university plan is now attempting to address both UniWireless’s technological failings and how it is used.

The university IT department has said it has already made progress in its efforts to improve the quality of UniWireless.

“Coverage has improved, connectivity has improved—dropouts have dropped,” said Barry Kuch, UniWireless Program Manager.

The university said it has overhauled the entire UniWireless technological backend. It will roll out sets of new wireless transmitters. The IT department is aiming to have one transmitter for every 25 students in key areas such as lecture theatres, shared study spaces, libraries and classrooms.

The university is aiming to cover 85 per cent of buildings in targeted spaces with UniWireless.  They see this as crucial for interactive learning experiences.

“The general strategy is to improve coverage,” Kuch said.

The university wants to make UniWireless signals powerful enough that students could interact live with lecturers using their laptops. This could also fix issues of packed lecture theatres.

Subjects such as Constructing Environments now successfully use interactive in-lecture quizzes.

However, similar attempts to do that for subjects such as Australian Politics had failed before the program advanced last year.

Kuch said the university has put millions of dollars into the project. He says the project is currently under budget, and that last year’s scope was within budget. However, there are some challenges that continue to need attention that cannot be addressed by funding. Everything from heritage-designed buildings to hazardous substances has the potential to affect UniWireless.

A successful UniWireless improvement could end long-running staff and student grievances. In the past, UniWireless has suffered from widespread congestion, deadspots, dropouts and compatibility issues.

Melbourne University Debating Society IT Officer Jeremy Pattison has been dissatisfied with UniWireless because of its deadspots, speed problems and dropouts. “I think it’s subpar and could easily be fixed,” he said.

Arts student Jade Peace felt UniWireless has improved over her time at the university, but the continuity of connection was still unsatisfactory. “I find it often disconnects after sometime then I have to connect again,” she said.

The IT department said the future realities for UniWireless are clear—claiming that it could one day replace large amounts of the wired network.

Kuch said that a good wireless network would be crucial for the future of the university. He hopes the new infrastructure will make a significant improvement to UniWireless. “The generations that are coming through now expect it to be there.”