Michigan Students Get Wireless Broadband

According to Proxim Corporation , students at Central Michigan University will be the first users of a city-wide Wi-Fi network in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Some 4,500 students living in eight off-campus apartments have begun using the network operated by Last Mile Technologies based in Mount Pleasant. Along with student housing, the network covers a four to six mile radius providing broadband Internet access to this college town.

“Pretty much anything that is in line of sight of our tower is covered, including the downtown campus and surrounding areas,” says Nelson Franke, Director of Sales and Marketing and Last Mile Technologies.

Using a combination of gear from Proxim, the one-year-old Internet service provider is beaming a 512Kbps signal to apartments, downtown businesses and other spots.

“Our major hot spot is downtown and some other small areas near complexes that have coverage,” says Franke.

For $24.95 per month, students receive unlimited wireless Internet access of speeds between 256Kbps to more than 512Kbps in four off-campus housing complexes, dorms and the college campus, says Franke.

Franke says network access requires only a computer, an 802.11b card and a password.

“Students can work wirelessly within their buildings, facilitating collaboration with classmates and allowing roommates to share an Internet connection.”

The company expects to add 5,000 more students in August when the network expands coverage to more apartment complexes in the city.

There is “demand for a high-speed solution that could be included in the cost of renting an apartment,” said Franke.

Around 60 percent of housing in the college town of 60,000 is rental.

Along with the student population, Last Mile Technologies is seeking to attract city businesses. The company beams a broadband Internet connection and provides access points for shop owners. The business-class service starts at $49.95 per month, but connection rates range from 256Kbps to a 1.5Mbps T-1.

Franke says about 20 businesses have signed up so far. Manufacturers, architects, gas stations and offices are some examples of the shops coming on-board.

Franke says the network over the next two months will include the general population. Additional coverage of students and businesses will occur in late 2003, said a statement.

After being founded by two Mount Pleasant businessmen in the spring of 2002, Last Mile Technologies began offering CMU students the ability to upload and download files at broadband speeds, freeing up the university computers.

“Students had previously only been able to access the university network via modem, which did not provide the speed and bandwidth necessary for many applications,” says Franke.

The new network will allow student in the rental housing complexes “to access the Internet, e-mail and interactive learning sites at much higher speeds.”

The Michigan network uses Proxim’s Tsunami Point-to-Point and Point-to-Multipoint system to connect the apartment complexes and businesses. Proxim’s ORiNOCO 802.11a and 802.11b WLAN gear is used for indoor hotspots.

Hotels and apartment complexes in other area cities are also using the company’s fiber Internet backbone, says Frank.

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