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University's New WLAN Cuts Out Uninvited APs

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The medical center's WLAN woes were symptomatic of 802.11 WLAN technology's inherent flaws--mainly that it breeds co-channel interference in heavy traffic and that its shared-hub architecture doesn't scale with the volume of users in a large enterprise or university WLAN like Miami's. The strain on the medical school's growing WLAN was becoming nerve-wracking, especially as new wireless clinical applications were added. For example, the medical center added mobile clinical information carts that let nurses and medical staff access patient registration and lab results from the patient's bedside. Ultimately, medical staff will be able to monitor vital signs from these carts. Although the application didn't suffer any major mishaps with the WLAN glitches, Bogue says he became worried that the network couldn't continue to reliably run it.

Meanwhile, Bogue and his team had to physically track down the rogue APs, then disconnect and replace them with university-sanctioned Cisco Systems and Avaya APs. To complicate matters, the university had several renovation and construction projects under way, so when walls were removed, wireless signals shifted to previously uncovered areas. The whole project was becoming too labor-intensive for the six-person WLAN team: "We had to reposition and sometimes reconfigure APs every couple of weeks or so," Bogue recalls. "The WLAN became difficult to manage."

Changing Channels

After wrestling with all of these issues, Bogue and his team reached the inevitable conclusion that the Miller School of Medicine had outgrown its WLAN. So the university changed its wireless game plan (see The Hard Sell).

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