16 Oct Ruckus Wireless & FOSS Deliver Smart WiFi for American University of Sharjah (AUS)
Sharjah has become one of the most important learning centers in the Middle East thanks to the foresight of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah and President of American University of Sharjah.
Located in a beautiful 127-hectare campus in University City, American University of Sharjah (AUS) was founded in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi. AUS is an independent, not-for-profit, coeducational institution of higher education formed on the American model.
Considered a leading university in the Middle East, AUS has a truly multicultural campus with a student body of over 5,750 students comprising more than 90 nationalities. It offers 26 majors and 52 minors at the undergraduate level and 14 master’s degrees through its four academic divisions, namely the College of Architecture, Art and Design; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Engineering; and the School of Business Administration.
IT Service Desk network trouble tickets have dropped by 46% in the past year with the switch from wired to wireless access.
Prior to the initiation of their Next Generation Wi-Fi Project, American University of Sharjah had only deployed Wi-Fi into selected administrative buildings in an ad hoc manner. By early 2012 with the dramatic increase in the number of Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices, including a student community (each with an average of three Wi-Fi devices), the deployment of ubiquitous Wi-Fi across the campus became a necessity.
The university had some previous exposure to Wi-Fi networks and had already experienced the limitations of their first generation Wi-Fi deployment, consequently it knew that it must evaluate and select a technology that would provide carrier grade reliability under all conditions, including high density environments both in the Lecture Theatres, Student Accommodation, Sports Complex and Student Activity Centre.
To that end the IT Department at AUS initiated their procurement process that involved an 18 month proof of concept trial to evaluate all the leading Wi-Fi technology vendors, including some cloud based solutions. Ultimately, seven technology vendors were invited to temporarily install their proposed solution at the university and these were each evaluated for 3 to 4 weeks in a ‘real life’ environment.
After this evaluation Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi was selected as best meeting the university’s requirements for high user densities and robust wireless coverage. It was the university’s intention to utilise the new wireless solution in all the lecture theatres and even conduct examinations over the wireless LAN.
Pilot Programme (Phase 1)
The roll out of the new wireless LAN was implemented in phases. The initial installation commenced in June 2012 and involved three administrative buildings. Two ZoneDirector™ 3000 Controllers and 152 ZoneFlex 7363 Access Points were installed to provide coverage internally. This phase was considered to be the pilot that allowed the IT team to fully evaluate the Ruckus technology for 6 months before successfully confirming FOSS and Ruckus as the right choice for AUS.
Student Accommodation (Phase 2)
With the pilot phase completed, the biggest challenge involved installing the new wireless LAN into 2,200 student accommodation rooms. FOSS was given critical deadlines for each accommodation block so that the students occupying the dormitories were not adversely affected.
The Wi-Fi roll out involved installing new Cat6 UTP cabling to each of the ceiling mounted Access Points and FOSS had to ensure that the aesthetic appearance of the buildings was not impacted.
American University of Sharjah has succeeded in building a multicultural education environment that brings together people from diverse multinational backgrounds. Prior to the deployment of the Ruckus Wi-Fi in the Student Dormitories, network connectivity was provided over the campus via structured cabling network. Even with this facility, the demand for Wi-Fi from the students resulted in unauthorised use of wireless routers and rogue access points. In addition, the IT Support Desk was regularly called out to address faults in the cabling as a result of student misuse. The I.T. Department recognised that blanket coverage of the academic areas of the campus with a very robust Wi-Fi solution was essential to supporting the academic and administrative needs of the university.
High Density Applications (Phase 3)
The majority of internal Access Points deployed on campus to date have been the ZoneFlex 7363 and even in high density user areas such as the Student Refectory the Ruckus Wi-Fi solution has performed way beyond the university’s expectations. However, in discussion with FOSS personnel the university IT team decided that they needed even higher performance out of their Wi-Fi LAN and subsequently the university has started to deploy ZoneFlex 7982 Access Points in selected areas where very high user densities are expected.
By August 2014 FOSS has installed over 1,400 Access points both internally and externally. The university aims to cover all campus areas with Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi by the end of 2015. This will include the balance of the external academic areas of the 200 acre campus.
“Implementing foundational technologies like ubiquitous wireless networks supports American University of Sharjah’s higher education teaching, learning, researching and service mandate. A reliable, available and secure wireless network enables new ways to support our community by delivering access to University IT services indoors and outdoors. IT Service Desk network trouble tickets have dropped by 46% in the past year with the switch from wired to wireless access. Faculty members now conduct online examinations that depend on the wireless network for groups of 30 students at a time throughout the academic year. By the end of summer 2014, AUS will complete the full coverage of the academic, administrative and student dormitory areas of the campus with Ruckus Networks. This strategic investment will position AUS to meet the demands of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for our students, faculty and staff.” Leo de Sousa, Director of Information Technology at American University of Sharjah Chairman of the UAE Higher Education CIO Council.