University of Michigan becomes first university in country to debut new Wi-Fi technology

U-M launches Wi-Fi 6E on Ann Arbor, Dearborn campuses

The burnt red and orange of fall leaves frame the Cube in University of Michigan's Regents Square. (Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan has completed Wi-Fi upgrades on its campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn, becoming the first university in the country to offer Wi-Fi 6E to its school community, according to a release.

The Information and Technology Services project team collaborated with the heads of IT from each school down to the unit level and coordinated with facilities managers to minimize the impact to each building, academics and business while completing the updates.

“Network connectivity is critical for our community to learn, teach, work and perform research on our campuses,” vice president for information technology and chief information officer, Ravi Pendse, said in a release.

“The upgrade was necessary to meet the growing demand for using technology-based teaching and learning tools in the classroom, conducting innovative data-intensive research, and engaging in hybrid, in-person and virtual collaboration.”

Under the new Wi-Fi 6E network, students, faculty, staff and campus visitors can utilize download speeds of 500-600 megabits per second -- up to five times faster than the school’s previous network.

According to the school, download speeds are maintained even in high-density areas like lecture halls.

More than 225 indoor and outdoor locations had wireless network upgrades over the past eight months. From residence halls to auditoriums, the Diag to Michigan Stadium, the project saw the replacement of more than 16,000 wireless access points.

The teams strategically placed the equipment to maximize coverage across campus, including over Olympic-sized swimming pools, behind walls and inside attics in historic buildings and secured to 35-foot tiered ceilings in some classrooms.

“With about 60,000 devices concurrently connecting wirelessly, the demand for the network to deliver high bandwidth connections has only increased with the heightened need for hybrid in-person and remote interactions,” executive director for ITS Infrastructure Andy Palms said in a statement. “Upgrading to the highest performing wireless technology is critical to meeting Wi-Fi demand.”

By using new channels approved by the Federal Communications Commission, U-M officials hope the new wireless technology will reduce Wi-Fi congestion on its campuses.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.