‘Campus Cloud’ offers Internet sans wires

Now that students are back in classes at the University of Miami, they don’t have to rush to seek out a spot at the busy library computer lab to do research.

The UM campus is wireless thanks to a wireless network from Avaya (NYSE:AV) that will allow anyone with a laptop and a special network card to surf the Web inside and outdoors, without plugging into a phone line.

Because network access won’t be tied to cables or workstations, this “wireless cloud” will give students increased access to learning tools and information.

The UM wireless network project includes placing more than100 antennas throughout the 240-acre University’s Coral Gables campus so those registered users armed with laptops and a special network card that costs about $160 can sit out on the campus green, under a tree, or by the UM pool and connect directly into the high-speed network, use the online resources and surf the Internet as they would through any regularly connected desktop PC.

“At UM, we’re looking to provide every possible opportunity to communicate,” said Stewart Seruya, the University’s chief network officer in UM’s department of Information Technology. “With the wireless cloud project, we are supplementing our already extensive network here at UM.”

The student apartments were the first to receive access to the Avaya Wireless (formerly called Orinoco) data network. The “cloud” now covers other areas, buildings and facilities on campus that had not previously been wired, including the food court and University Center, the Mark Light Baseball Stadium, the College of Engineering, and the Schools of International Studies, Architecture, and Business. And, in the works, as part of UM’s library expansion, students who don’t have laptops will be able to check them out with the wireless card already installed.

“With the wireless cloud, the opportunities are endless, including holding multimedia events outdoors. Now, you don’t have to run cable outdoors all over campus for these types of events,” Seruya said.

UM webcast its commencement exercises live on the Internet using wireless technology.

Seruya says UM’s wireless network will be one of the best among universities, pointing out that other schools are larger than UM, but have the same size network. And, he added, though many schools are also going wireless, UM’s wireless network can be accessed campus-wide, not just from select buildings.

UM was ranked among one of the top 50 “most wired” universities by Yahoo!.