NMU WiMAX extends to Sawyer and Gwinn

Audrey Menninga

Recently, the WiMAX program, created a little over a year ago, has been extended into the Sawyer and Gwinn areas.

At a Board of Trustees meeting this summer, President Les Wong announced that with the signature of agreements from Sawyer and Gwinn, Northern’s WiMAX would now cover Marquette, Marquette Township, Negaunee, Ishpeming, Big Bay, Sawyer and Gwinn. With the addition to towers in Chocolay, Northern’s WiMAX now covers a large portion of Marquette County.

“We felt that being connected to NMU wherever you lived, worked, studied would benefit NMU,” said Wong.

News of Marquette’s WiMAX capabilities has brought several important people to campus. According to Cindy Paavola, the director of communications and marketing at NMU, the presidents, vice-presidents and regional directors of Intel, Lenovo and some of the other technology partners were on campus Wednesday through Friday to see the computer distribution.

With the new installation of three towers, the WiMAX will extend another 30 to 40 miles in the Gwinn and Sawyer areas.

“Getting between 30-40 square miles on three towers, which is what we have now, is amazing,” said Paavola.

David Maki, the chief of technology officer at NMU, explained that when Northern decides to expand WiMAX, they have to find a tower or high point that is going to provide the best coverage.

“We go to whoever owns the facility. We call them up, sit down and explain what we want to do and why we want to do it. Then we basically enter into these long-term agreements,” said Maki.

In exchange for allowing NMU to use the town’s towers, Sawyer and Gwinn emergency vehicles, including police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, have full access to the internet. This assists them while they carry out their duties on a daily basis.

There are still plans to continue expanding. According to Maki, the next idea is to extend out into the direction of Big Bay, though the Huron Mountains may prove to be a problem. They also plan  to expand WiMAX in the Chocolay and Harvey area.

Maki warns that students and faculty on campus should not always choose WiMAX over WiFi. In general, the WiFi will run faster than WiMAX.

“The general rule should be if you want the maximum performance, you should always plug into a wire. And then second, use the wireless, and then if there’s no WiFi, use WiMAX,” Maki said.

There is equipment available for purchase in the Micro Repair of the LRC that can be hooked up to a house that will spread the WiMAX network throughout the house. These devices are called Motorola CPE i150 indoor and CPEo 450 outdoor.

However, the WiMAX is not without its faults. Allie Ramirez, a junior nursing student, has some difficulties with the WiMAX network in Marquette.

“If it disconnects, the WiMAX signal will sometimes disappear for a couple minutes. Other times it just refuses to connect for some reason, but it always connects the second time,” said Ramirez.

For all of its problems, Ramirez still stresses that it is much better than having no internet.

According to Wong, this kind of technology has not been seen extensively in the U.S.

“I have been able to show PowerPoint presentations and use the internet in a number of public presentations away from campus,” said Wong. “This was unheard of just two years ago.”