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Feature Article
October 2004


The Business Case For Campus WiMAX

Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) has taken the industry by storm, promising low costs for mobile or fixed connectivity, without the need for direct line of sight. WiMAX delivers network solutions to end-users such as Internet access superior to DSL, cable, and T1 solutions with the added benefit of increased speed, while eliminating the cost of wiring infrastructure.

Additionally, WiMAX simplifies installation by greatly reducing set-up time and costs, while enabling connectivity of disparate locations where wired or satellite-based solutions are unavailable, cost prohibitive, or lack the robustness required to support network applications such as IP telephony. According to Research and Markets, a market research firm, not only will WiMAX equipment sales reach $2.2 billion by 2009, but wireless solutions for broadband will also outpace the growth of wired solutions in the same timeframe, priming this technology for explosion.

Providing up to 30 miles of linear service area range, WiMAX allows users to obtain broadband connectivity wirelessly. Within a typical cell radius deployment of three to five miles, users do not require line of sight, and systems can be expected to deliver shared throughput of up to 70 Mbps, which is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and hundreds of residences with DSL-type connectivity.

Perhaps the greatest attribute of WiMAX is that it can be integrated with an existing WLAN infrastructure to enable coverage for an entire campus and metropolitan area, enabling a WiFi “hot zone” servicing the entire community of users and supporting a mobile lifestyle.

Who Will Benefit From WiMAX?
WiMAX delivers a cost-effective alternative to broadband access. Since many businesses and college communities are not zoned for cable, the local telecom company provides the only option for broadband service. The ease of deployment for WiMAX systems can benefit customers by bringing new competition into the marketplace and lowering prices, or by enabling enterprises and higher-educational institutions to set up their own private networks. The added benefit that remote WiMAX users need less or no on-site installation significantly reduces the cost and set-up time of delivering the service, allowing it to favorably compete with existing cable or other wired solutions.

NEC Unified Solutions, Inc., (www.necunifiedsolutions.com) currently has several WiMAX pilot programs underway with large universities. The benefits realized by deploying WiMAX in an educational environment range from providing high-performance network connectivity at a low per student and faculty user cost, to providing Internet access and network services to locations that previously have been underserved or not served at all.

Miami University, one of the eight original “Public Ivy League” schools, located in Oxford, Ohio, began piloting NEC’s WiMAX solution in March 2004.

Over the years, the university has paid for its network infrastructure through student technology fees for pre-paid calling cards, telephone, cable and Internet access. As with many higher-educational institutions, it became increasingly difficult for Miami to deliver those services, as the cost of leased lines and cable, modems rose, coupled with reduction in cell phone costs. Miami was forced to subsidize most of the increased cost of those services, resulting in a significant loss of money for the college. Paired with the fact that close to half of the university’s 16,000-undergraduate population was moving farther off-campus, the college felt the need to start looking for an alternative broadband solution.

Based on their long-standing communications partnership, Miami University turned to NEC Unified Solutions to help them seek out a new leading-edge technology that would meet their requirements to provide high-speed Internet access to students without having them pay exorbitant fees. The university was looking for a wireless solution that would cover the extended three to five mile, off-campus radius, could penetrate residential structures, require zero-line of sight, and minimum to no installation time and was a secure and licensed technology.

After completing an engineering study that included evaluating the university’s network, performing wireless site surveys, and testing several technologies, NEC presented WiMAX as a way to offset the University’s increasing land line charges and economically extend wireless broadband access to students living off-campus.
“The solution NEC presented us with seemed like a win-win situation,” said Nate Johnson, senior director for Computing and Communications Services at Miami University. “This arrangement allows us to maximize our service offerings to students and faculty while minimizing the cost to the institution.”

After testing WiMAX with a number of students during the spring 2004 semester, Miami plans to install two WiMAX antennas and offer the pilot service to approximately 500 students living off-campus in a three to five mile radius, beginning in November.

“A key benefit of this WiMAX solution is that it eliminates our infrastructure costs. The network will be wholly-owned and operated by the university, allowing us to stabilize the pricing and expand our services to off-campus students, while offering them lower access fees,” said Tom Walsh, telecommunications manager at Miami University. “Through this WiMAX offering, we are projecting almost a 50 percent savings on the service charge for students and additional revenues generated for the university by this technology, which will then be used to provision other services for our students.”

“The opportunity to generate revenue and the potential ROI on this technology is so compelling that higher-educational institutions are seriously investigating WiMAX as a replacement to their hardwired broadband networks,” said John Borusheski, vice president, Emerging Technologies at NEC Unified Solutions. “These solutions will enable faculty and students to be more productive while allowing the university to leverage new technology.”

Miami University is currently evaluating the proliferation of WiMAX into two additional regional campus locations, following the successful pilot release at the Oxford campus this fall. During the next phase of implementation, the university will evaluate adding a voice gateway to the offering in spring 2005 to increase and expand the campus experience reach for off-campus students and faculty.

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