Netherlands university rolls out enormous hot spot

The University of Twente claims that having 8,500 Dutch users won't clog up the airwaves of its ground-breaking wireless access project

The University of Twente in the Netherlands has rolled out a unique campus-wide wireless hot spot, claimed to be the biggest in Europe.

Covering 140 hectares (346 acres) with 650 Cisco Aironet 1200 series access points, it supports more than 6,000 students and a staff of 2,500. Built in conjunction with IBM and Cisco, it uses 802.1x-based security.

Most of the network uses 802.11b, but parts run on the faster, newer 802.11a standard. "The 54Mbps system has been introduced as part of the Industrial Design course," spokesperson Wiebe van der Veen told ZDNet UK. "First-year students have a laptop with fast wireless connection, and can run heavy CAD design software, send large images and so on."

He added that the other 54 Mbps standard, 802.11g, would be introduced later.

The project was started two years ago, as part of the university's Wireless Campus project, which has also used WAP and GPRS and in the future will use UMTS, also known as 3G. It has been mostly trouble-free, despite a major fire last November that wiped out the computer centre and all network servers. Van der Veen said that there had been no major problems encountered, except a few reports of interference with sensitive experiments.

"Students and staff are quick adopters of these nice facilities," van der Veen said. "The flexible way of teaching that this allows also helps with new students, who have experienced new ways of teaching at school. They're not used to classical ways of knowledge transfer any more."

The University of Twente is one of the biggest users of the Internet in the Netherlands, and hosts a four-yearly hacking conference-cum-festival -- in 2001, called Hackers at Large. The university is also the lead body in a European project called mobilHealth, to link mobile data communications to end-user healthcare. This project is designed to let patients lead a normal life while under continuous remote medical supervision.


Discover the latest developments in Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS and other cutting-edge wireless technologies at ZDNet UK's Wireless News Section.

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