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Northern Michigan University expands wireless reach with WiMax

Northern Michigan University (NMU) is receiving nationwide attention for its recent launch of mobile WiMAX on its Marquette, Michigan campus and throughout the city and township. This is not the first time that NMU has received nationwide attention for its campus-wide technology program. NMU received much earned attention in 2000-01 for the launch of its laptop program, in which the university provided laptop computers for all full-time enrolled students.
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Northern Michigan University was one of the first campuses to offer campus-wide WiFi to its students, and now it has established the first campus-wide WiMAX network in the United States that is also designed to cover the surrounding cities and townships’. The university said it needed a wireless broadband network that offered greater range than WiFi given the fact that the school is in a rural area and commuter students and staff may live several miles away from campus. The network is mobile and encrypted for use by university students and employees as well as some governmental entities. Northern Michigan University will continue to use its WiFi network for students living and working on campus, but the addition of the WiMAX network allows them to provide wireless service to students and staff who live off campus. According to Dave Maki, chief technology officer “the goal is to have the fastest and most reliable wireless networks available.”

The Technology

WiMAX is the next generation (4G) of wireless technology designed to enable pervasive, high-speed mobile Internet access to the widest array of devices including notebook PCs, handsets, smartphones, and consumer electronics such as gaming devices, cameras, camcorders, music players, and more. As the fourth generation (4G) of wireless technology, WiMAX delivers low cost, open networks and is the first all IP mobile Internet solution enabling efficient and scaleable networks for data, video and voice. As a major driver in the support and development of WiMAX, Intel has designed embedded WiMAX solutions for a variety of mobile devices supporting the future of high-speed broadband on-the-go. Dave Maki stated “we selected Motorola for this project because of its leadership position in deploying WiMAX networks worldwide.”

NMU’s WiMAX network is linked to Merit Network’s fiber-optic backbone network by two 1 gigabit-per-second (1 Gbps) connections. Northern Michigan University has been a Governing Member of Merit Network since January 1994 and hosts Merits’ Marquette fiber-optic backbone node.

Effect to Students and the Community

The WiMAX network, provided by Motorola, will enable nearly 3,000 of the schools more the 9,000 students to experience WiMAX on the go including the use of video chat sessions using their new WiMAX enabled Lenovo ThinkPad computers, laptops provided by the university. In addition, laptop and desktop WiMAX adapters will be made available for students who have computers that are not WiMAX-enabled. The new WiMAX network will allow students to connect wirelessly on campus and off using their ThinkPad laptops, which are optimized for an excellent wireless computer experience.

The network covers a 30-mile radius and includes some off-campus sites. “Through our Educational Broadband Service license we’ll also provide high-speed wireless broadband access to local school and municipal offices — extending the benefits of WiMAX broadband to our entire community,” Maki said.

More on NMU

Northern Michigan University, located in Michigan’s unique Upper Peninsula, is a dynamic four-year, public, coeducational university that offers 180 degree programs to nearly 9,400 undergraduate and graduate students. NMU is one of the largest notebook computer campuses in the United States with all full-time students receiving either a ThinkPad or iBook as part of tuition. The university has national and international awards for its innovative work in the area of technology in higher education. Northern Michigan University has been a Merit Network Governing Member since January 1994.