Staff testing wireless signal in dorm rooms


University plans to extend cord-free service throughout college houses by fall semester




Penn is moving closer to cutting the wires on its existing Internet service.

Testing for wireless Internet access -- which officials say will be installed throughout each of Penn's College Houses by Aug. 1-- began this month. The venture will cost the University approximately $700,000.

According to Michael Palandino, Penn's associate vice president for networking and telecommunications, 10 to 12 of his staff members and a collection of student Information Technology Advisers will be putting up hardware test points in the coming weeks.

These test points -- which are currently set up in five college houses -- will send wireless signals out to students' rooms and dorm common areas. For the next three weeks, workers will be testing the signal strength by connecting to the Internet with personal computers via these wireless access points.

In March and April, workers will install wires and access points that will power the wireless system, Palandino said.

He likened the next few weeks of testing to a Verizon Wireless commercial in which a cell phone customer searches for reception.

"You temporarily put signals down, and you literally have someone walk around like the Verizon guy saying, 'Can you hear me now?'" Palandino said.

Senior Director for Information Systems and Computing Deke Kassabian said the testing involves moving both access points and wireless signal detectors to create "coverage maps."

Palandino added that setting up test points can be complicated by differences in the 11 college houses' building structures.

"It's a trial-and-error process. There is no fixed way to do it because each building [has] concrete, steel and elevators that can prevent the signal from moving clearly," Palandino said.

The system would not only allow students to connect to the Internet away from their desks; it would also reduce the number of physical wires required in all college houses from 9,000 to 500, Palandino said.

A virus scanner would be included.

In an e-mail residents received last week, Housing and Conference Services warned that in the coming weeks administrators would be testing wireless Internet in all three high rises, Kings Court/English College House and DuBois College House.

The e-mail said that testing and room entry would take place "intermittently."

Engineering junior Vishaal Persaud, who lives in Harrison College House, said that the room entry is nothing new to campus residents, noting that over winter break the University checks students' rooms.

He thinks that this is a small price to pay to overhaul the system for Internet access.

"I think it's a great idea because I know a lot of people go to the [high rises'] rooftop lounge just to get wireless access," Persaud said.

Palandino echoed this sentiment.

"We are really excited" about the system, he said. "It's going to seriously enhance your mobility."

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