WiMAX expands to Houghton

Drea Weiner

Northern Michigan University in cooperation with BBTelsys, a Grand Rapids based company, has introduced WiMAX to the Houghton community.

BBTelsys and NMU have a three-year contract to develop the Houghton WiMAX so NMU students with WiMAX capable laptops will be able to use it without a fee.

BBTelsys paid for the expansion. They hired NMU because NMU has the equipment to install WiMAX, said Dave Maki, chief technology officer.

“This is good for NMU because it generates outside revenue, which helps us pay for our WiMAX system,” Maki said.
WiMAX is currently available for those who wish to purchase the Internet service in the downtown Houghton region, Hancock and Michigan Technological University Campus.

“It isn’t that surprising for WiMAX to expand to Houghton because it’s such a powerful technology,” said Laura Judge, a senior environmental science and Spanish major. “Students need the Internet for course work.”

There is only one base station currently set up, and because of the geography of Houghton, WiMAX is not completely available throughout the city.

“It needs to be built up more,” Maki said.

It is just for the Houghton area, although it will probably expand as far as Baraga, but that is up to BBTelsys, Maki said.

“This was a great opportunity that came up for NMU,” said John Marra, director of technical services. “Initially (BBTelsys) had the spectrum and needed to use it or they would lose their license.”

WiMAX operates over a 2.5 GHz spectrum, which is monitored by the FCC. NMU is required to renew their license every year.

“Think of it as a TV station,” Marra said. “Before they are allowed to broadcast, they have to apply for the frequency and satisfy all the requirements before the government grants permission to use that frequency.

“It’s the same with WiMAX.”

For NMU students who are from Houghton and wish to take online courses or are doing student teaching, this means direct contact between NMU and the student, no third party, Maki said.

“It’s exciting whenever (WiMAX) can expand and serve more students,” Marra said.

The expansion gives NMU WiMAX another presence, Maki said.

“Wherever we have the core system we have the capacity to expand the system,” Maki said. “[We will] expand the system whenever it is cost effective and it gets more NMU students Internet service.”

Michigan Tech is currently not planning on buying into WiMAX and they do not own spectrum or the equipment, Marra said.

“[It’ll really] help students like me, who are visiting for Winter Carnival this weekend, to keep up with homework,” Judge said. “Though Tech has a different thing going on, I don’t see why they wouldn’t use WiMAX. It’s a good idea to provide students with a free Internet service.”

According to Michigan Tech’s website, Resnet and Rovernet are the two wireless systems used. Resnet is for the residence dorms and on campus apartments use. The university commons areas use Rovernet.

“(WiMAX) would be a greater convenience (for Tech students),” said Ryan Hiltunen, a sophomore general science and arts major at Michigan Tech. “I would use it.”