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Cheap Wi-Fi networks down under

commentary If you listened to all the spin over the past year you could have been forgiven for predicting the eventual death of the humble Wi-Fi hotspot. Pre-WiMax and third-generation (3G) mobile broadband networks have dominated your writer's conversations with both carriers and vendors.
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Written by Renai LeMay on
commentary If you listened to all the spin over the past year you could have been forgiven for predicting the eventual death of the humble Wi-Fi hotspot.
Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
Pre-WiMax and third-generation (3G) mobile broadband networks have dominated your writer's conversations with both carriers and vendors.

However, some time spent out in the field reveals a veritable rash of Wi-Fi network building going on around Australia and New Zealand.

IT managers at large corporates are generally pretty cagey when it comes to revealing the inner details of their networks, but their counterparts at educational institutions have been anything but in the last couple of weeks.

IT managers from Perth's Edith Cowan and Sydney's Macquarie Universities, as well as Dunedin's Otago Polytechnic college and the Victorian Department of Education and Training have all spoken publicly about their large Wi-Fi implementations.

One of the common threads running through these networks is a focus on low implementation costs -- perhaps to be expected from the education sector, which historically hasn't had many spare dollars to splash around.

For example, Sydney's Macquarie University spent only AU$50,000 on its network, which covers some 15 percent of its main campus.

Speaking about the implementation to a Sydney conference, Macquarie's director of IT services joked she had initially asked for AU$500,000.

However, the other common thread is the simple fact of success.

Despite the funding limits, the discount approach worked for Macquarie, with the new network being used at some time by some 18 percent of all the students who visited the campus during last semester.

In real terms that's around 4,000 people.

These implementations demonstrate the ability of IT managers with a bit of ingenuity to think outside the box and do a lot with a small amount of resources.

Not every organisation is going to be able to be able to afford a batch of hot new top-range Wi-Fi access points, but there are still options available.

They also demonstrate the increased ability of Wi-Fi access scenarios to meet the needs of an increasingly laptop-equipped student and workforce.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, such rollouts show that Wi-Fi is not dead and is not an airport lounge novelty. The technology works and it deserves mindshare.

What do you think about large Wi-Fi networks? Are they still too expensive or are you considering one for your own organisation? Send your thoughts to renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au.

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