St Kent's takes wise option

St Kentigern College in Auckland went wireless in May 2001 with the installation of 31 Cisco Aironet access points.

St Kentigern College in Auckland went wireless in May 2001 with the installation of 31 Cisco Aironet access points.

More than 1000 students, many of whom own laptops, can now access the internet and the school’s intranet from any of the college’s 12 buildings, which include dormitories for boarding students. Access is also available outdoors.

Walter Chieng, IT director at St Kentigern’s, says wireless was the only real option.

“We’re a computer notebook school and we need multiple connections — wireless was the only way to maintain connectivity with our users.”

The college had previously been using a wired ethernet LAN, also with hardware from Cisco, but getting enough ports was becoming a problem, Chieng says.

St Kentigern’s internet access is provided by Walker Wireless, which also did the site survey and worked with Cisco on the installation, including setting the antennas that gave the college ubiquitous coverage.

While the original set-up came with 128-bit WEP (wired equivalent privacy) security, St Kentigern’s wants a stronger standard and was due to begin trialing a system from Bluesocket as this article went to press. Higher-end solutions such as Bluesocket include security options such as authentication, access control and encrypted sessions.

While St Kentigern doesn’t have top secret industrial material whizzing around its airways, any intrusion that could affect the LAN would have very adverse consequences, Chieng says. “Someone’s profile on the server is still intellectual property.”

Another future project will be extending connectivity to three new school buildings due to be opened next year. “There’s the new technology block, the girls’ block and a new music centre. They’ll all have connectivity and we may use different access point equipment to that of the original installations.”

With new, faster products being released and the development of the 802.11g standard, which offers a theoretical maximum speed of 54Mbit/s with backwards-compatibility to 802.11b gear, St Kentigern’s is keeping a close eye on developments, Chieng says.

Students also have the option of getting a base station installed at their home if they need access after hours.

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