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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

March 22, 2004

Wireless network makes
outdoor surfing possible

Photo of student accessing wireless network Surfin' Safari- With a laptop or PDA and a SacLink ccount, the world is available via the Internet from Riverfront Center, the Library Quad, the Outdoor Theatre, the Library, Tahoe Hall, and other indoor and outdoor locations on campus over the University's expanded wireless network.

CSUS students and faculty will likely be engaging in a new rite of spring this year as they find that they can enjoy the sunshine and stay connected to the Internet in ever-increasing outside areas around campus.

Members of the campus community, equipped with a laptop or a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a wireless network card, can now connect to the campus network while enjoying a mocha outside of the Riverfront Center, having lunch around the fountain in the Library Quad, stretching out in the shade of the redwoods near the Outpost and Outdoor Theatre, or lying on the lawn between the University Library and Tahoe Hall.

“We’re curious to see how much outside use there’ll be as students become aware of the access,” says David Hill, director of University computing and communications. The University has been growing its wireless network incrementally over the last few years. Currently 22 campus buildings have wireless connectivity in at least part of the building and the invisible web of connectivity is covering larger areas outdoors. Users can be assured the data they transmit is secured if they use Virtual Personal Network, or VPN, software that encrypts their data before being sent into the air.

“You could probably pick up a connection outside Brighton Hall and stay connected all the way to Tahoe Hall,” Hill says. But he also emphasizes the “probably” because wireless connectivity offers its own challenges.

“Our wireless network operates just like your cordless phone,” he says. Its range and the quality of the signal can be affected by physical obstructions, like walls or floors, or interference from other electronic devices, like microwave ovens or 2.4 GHz cordless phones.

“Sometimes it works really well and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says. “A lot of it depends on the construction of the building.” Generally, the more steel used in a building, the more limited the range of the wireless connections.

Outside connectivity has its challenges, too, he says.

“Atmospheric conditions can affect the range and so can the leaves on the trees,” he says. As a result, a place that might have wireless access in the fall or winter could be a dead zone in the spring or summer.

A possible solution, he says, may be “3G”–for “third-generation” wireless, an emerging area in wireless technology that could allow the University to provide wireless connectivity to faculty and staff anywhere within three to five miles of the campus–at their homes, their favorite coffeehouses or in their backyards.

“That would serve a significant part of our campus population,” Hill says. It is an option the University is still exploring and issues such as whether the signal would be able to penetrate some campus and off-campus buildings well enough to provide a solid signal will need to be addressed.

For a complete and updated list of wireless sites around campus and information on how to get connected, visit


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •