As Northern’s technology initiative, where every student receives a computer, reaches its 10 year, the university introduces another technological step forward.
On Thursday, Aug. 20, President Les Wong unveiled a new WiMAX system that will allow the Northern network to be accessible across Marquette.
“I am very proud to be the president of NMU,” Wong said. “It’s a good day to be a Wildcat.”
Students and staff who received new ThinkPad computers this fall have installed WiMAX cards in them which allow them access to this network. The network covers 90 percent of Marquette, an enormous increase in coverage from the previous 10 percent of the WiFi network. This is the largest working WiMAX network in the country.
The unveiling of the network was held in the Superior Dome where computers were being distributed to new and third-year students. Representatives from major communication and technology companies that Northern has been working with like Intel, Motorola and Lenovo, were in attendance and spoke about their work with Northern. Representative Bart Stupak also recorded a brief message to be played that described his pride in Northern’s new opportunity to “provide quality education.”
The unveiling began with four Northern students who took the new computers to different places across town, including the Starbucks on US 41 and driving around town with a webcam using the WiMAX network. Wong spoke to these students about how they felt this change would benefit them and their studies.
Matt Knox, a junior computer science major, was one of the students who participated. He sat in a Northern van in the mall parking
lot on US 41 and spoke to Wong using the WiMAX network.
“The new WiMAX network means a lot to NMU as a university. NMU is the first university to have a campus wide WiMax network, showing our technological
leadership,” Knox said in a later interview.
All of the students agreed that the network will create an efficient use of their time and save gas money as they will not have to drive to an NMU WiFi hotspot.
“This level of access will propel NMU students to the head of the class so that they can compete in the work force,” Wong said.
According to Wong, with the WiFi network, antennas had to be put all over campus, wherever the university could put one. With the WiMAX network, three communication towers were already in place which were simply revamped in order to provide the WiMAX network.
“The reach is measured in miles as opposed to feet,” Wong said.
A representative from Lenovo, Kara Whitfield, spoke favorably about Northern’s work to make the WiMAX network possible for its students and staff. She also mentioned that Northern received the “Think Tank Campus Innovation Award” from Lenovo in June as a result of what has been 10 years of work with Northern. According to Whitfield, Lenovo did a lot of work to ensure that the WiMAX network would be successful in Marquette which has such diverse geographic features. Representatives from Lenovo worked to find the strengths and limits of the network by taking snow mobiles into the woods during the winter and going out 8 miles on Lake Superior with the coast guard, where WiMAX was still successful.
“Only Northern Michigan University can claim this,” she said, speaking of Northern’s success with the WiMAX network.
Students who received new Mac computers are not able to access the new WiMAX network at this time. These cards will be made available to them in four to eight weeks and students will be notified by e-mail when that is available.
Students who did not receive a computer this fall can pre-order a WiMAX card from the bookstore for $125. Or they can be checked out from the library for a period of time.
According to Gavin Leach, vice president of administration and finance, on campus students should use the WiFi network which is ultimately a faster network. The network experts are working to make it possible for the computer to switch to the appropriate
network depending on the person’s location.
Leach said that after 10 years of providing laptops, he is proud that Northern is able to offer internet to students on or off campus.
“The goal that we had with the laptops was to provide equal access to equal technology, (and as) President Wong says, ‘Bridge the technological divide,'” Leach said.
Editors Note – Assistant News Editor Cameron Witbeck contributed to the reporting of this article.