First published Monday 22nd March 2010 12:02pm
Last updated Wednesday 31st March 2010 4:39pm

Over the last couple of weeks we've noticed that the wireless network at Orchard Park is not coping as well as we'd like it to with the number of users now using it, so we'd like to take this opportunity to let our Orchard Park users know why this is and what we're doing about it.

In the summer of 2007/2008, the University's Information Technology Services division (ITS) approached us to build a network in Orchard Park on their behalf. The flats did not have any wired connections between them and the up-front cost of digging trenches, cutting concrete and laying cables to each flat was outside of the scope of the project. ITS agreed to pay to get wired connections into flats 4, 17 and 26, which we were able to put outdoor wireless access points on in order to cover the Orchard Park area with wireless coverage.

In the first year of Lightwire service in Orchard Park the network performed fairly well. This was in part due to the relatively low use of the network as many flats still opted to get DSL from an external provider.

By 2009 it was becoming apparent that the network was failing to cope with the increased number of users and the increase in demand. We approached ITS with a number of proposals to improve the network and ensure that it would cope well into the future. Our ideal solution would have been to get wired ethernet and indoor wireless access points into every flat but this proposal exceeded the available University budgets for network infrastructure.

Instead we worked with ITS to get wired access into flats that didn't require cutting concrete and then added indoor access points to those flats to reduce the load on the outdoor APs. While this improved the situation for those lucky flats, it still left a significant number of users still relying on the outdoor access points as their only method of connection. In busy times, the wireless technology simply cannot keep up with the demand users are putting on the connections.

Unfortunately we aren't able to just go in and put in new access points. The network is owned by ITS so ultimately any decisions about the growth of the network - and any spending on it - goes through them. We are trying our hardest to improve the situation in Orchard Park by working with ITS to plan upgrades in a cost-effective manner, but any major upgrades will take some time.

In the mean time we have the following short-term plans. Over the next week or so we intend to provide a number of wired points for users to plug in to in the common area and computer room which you can use if the wireless coverage in your flat isn't satisfactory. This will at least allow everyone in Orchard Park to get on to Lightwire in some manner, even if it isn't the best solution. We are also going to install an indoor access point in the common room so that you can use wireless there.

We are currently working on coming up with a proposal to get improved connections into the remaining flats and will be keeping you posted on how this progresses. In the mean time, please know that we are aware of the scope of the problems and are working with ITS to resolve them as soon as we can. We hope that the temporary solutions we will be putting in place will help to ensure that you can continue to use Lightwire while we put better solutions in place.

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