Thursday 20, 2009
               Northern Michigan University deployed one of the largest active WiMAX networks in the country on the 10th anniversary of its campus-wide notebook computer program.

WiMAX is a fourth-generation protocol (4G) that offers broadband wireless Internet access. Compared with the more common WiFi, WiMAX is capable of transmitting data over broad areas with less interference and more efficient bandwidth use.

NMU is one of the first universities in the nation with a WiMAX network. The 3,000 Lenovo ThinkPad computers being issued to students this fall have built-in WiMAX/WiFi Intel cards. In addition to Intel and Lenovo, Motorola also participated in the WiMAX network deployment.

“Over the past few years, with WiFi hot spots, NMU covered about 10 percent of the City of Marquette. WiMAX allows us to cover nearly 100 percent” said Gavin Leach, NMU vice president for finance and administration. “This makes us one of the first universities in the United States to be able to provide wireless access to nearly our entire student population. This would not have been possible without the efforts of our technology industry partners; they helped to make this fourth-generation technology a reality in our community.”

“It was with great pride that Intel engineers assisted with the rollout of the WiMAX network,” said Eileen Lento, government and education strategist, Intel Americas. “The city-wide connectivity unleashed will help drive educational advancement and technological innovation.”

The NMU notebook computer initiative was implemented a decade ago to bridge the “digital divide” by facilitating equal access to the latest technology.

“As a leading ThinkPad University, Northern Michigan University and Lenovo have partnered for 10 years to equip students with the latest high performance ThinkPad laptops to help them excel in the classroom and prepare for life beyond school,” said Tom Looney, vice president and general manager, Lenovo North America. “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 computing experience.”

 NMU President Les Wong added, “It is highly appropriate that we’re marking the program’s 10th anniversary by unveiling another major technology initiative that addresses the same goal of equal access. Not only will WiMAX help off-campus students have wireless access comparable to their on-campus peers, but the WiMAX network also extends Internet access to educational resources for students and faculty doing research and learning outside of the classroom.”

            At Thursday’s public demonstration of the WiMAX network, Wong also thanked the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for granting NMU the EBS license needed to create a WiMAX system, which it received in October 2008.

Students still using last year’s ThinkPad model will receive a WiMAX-equipped computer next fall as part of the university’s routine two-year rotation cycle. Meanwhile, USB WiMAX cards are available in Olson Library for temporary use or for purchase at the NMU Bookstore.

NMU’s license is restricted to education or government use. The university is already in discussions with some area K-12 schools about assisting in enhancing their wireless capabilities.

“With this WiMAX network, NMU and Motorola are pushing technology forward to bring the many benefits of WiMAX broadband access to students and faculty, as well as to foster economic growth in the region,” said Dave Wangrow, senior director, WiMAX product management, Motorola Home & Networks Mobility.

Kristi Evans
News Director