New high-density wireless network will make BYU more mobile-friendly

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Many students have grown unwillingly accustomed to BYU’s strained Internet connection speeds during the peak of school activity.

Slow connection speeds have made the new mobile Internet services, such as myBYU mobile and the BYU app, less than practical to use, students said.

Michael Brown, director of communications for the Office of Information Technology, said his office has been working with the vice presidents of BYU to provide future online services with a “mobile first” mentality. The project will include creating more online services for mobile Internet users, as well as creating a network capable of sustaining increased mobile access.

“We are in the process of revamping buildings across campus,” Brown said.

BYU's new HD Wireless Network will be able to support up to 3 mobile devices per person. Photo Courtesy BYU Office of Information and Techonology
BYU’s new high density wireless network will be able to support up to three mobile devices per person. (Courtesy BYU Office of Information Technology)

In designated buildings, OIT will install a new high-density wireless network. The new network is designed to provide mobile-optimized network connections to classrooms, student work areas and faculty offices.

“The mobile devices are consuming a lot more of the activity in terms of access to (our) services — especially tablets and smartphones,” Brown said. “If you have an iPad, whether you are using it or not, it’s talking to the network; your phone is doing the same thing. And so we are building the network to be able to allow that kind of saturation.”

Kevin Allen, a freshman from Bountiful, said because of the current network conditions, he doesn’t use BYU’s mobile app as much, but an improvement in the network capabilities would change his behavior.

“If the network speeds up, I’ll probably use it more because right now it’s a little slow,” Allen said.

Those leading the HD wireless project at OIT have high expectations for the capabilities of the network. The vision is that every student will be able to connect to the network with three different devices.

The minimum speed for these devices is expected to improve to two megabytes per second for each person — enough speed for every student to stream Hulu and Netflix videos, or to download a song in fewer than 3 seconds.

A premium gigabit service will be available via direct wire connections for those willing to pay a small fee.

In a YouTube video published by OIT, the results of a load test were recorded. The test was conducted in the Tanner Building in late July. Over 120 people attended the event, bringing with them a total of 426 devices to connect to the network during the test. The results of the test confirmed the proficiency of the HD wireless network with an average connection speed of 2.1 megabits per second, per person, with an average of 3.5 devices each.

HD wireless has been installed and is in operation in the Tanner Building and the Jesse Knight Building.

According to Brown, the Joseph Smith, Joseph F. Smith and Clyde Engineering buildings are next in line to receive the same upgrade by the end of the current fall semester, with the Benson Building and the Spencer W. Kimball Tower to follow in early 2014. Plans to expand the network to include the Wilkinson Student Center are still unconfirmed.

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