LAWN Spreads Roots

Local Area Wireless and Walkup Network (LAWN) Grows in Popularity

The number of users of the Georgia Tech Local Area Wireless and Walkup Network (LAWN) has consistently doubled every year - illustrating the growing popularity of wireless devices on campus as well as growing satisfaction with LAWN's performance.

In August the number of unique users who have logged onto LAWN since its inception in 1999 surpassed the 10,000 mark. In the 2003-2004 academic year, over 6,000 unique users logged into LAWN, with daily peaks of 400 users simultaneously using the LAWN. This fall semester, usage has increased to over 600 simultaneous users. Users of LAWN are quite diverse, ranging from freshmen with the newest laptops and PDA's to graduate students on a budget with homemade laptops from cannibalized parts.

"The data that OIT has gathered indicates that students are the primary users of the LAWN. We also have researchers in such areas as robotics and wearable computing using LAWN in some of their projects," says Matt Sanders, research scientist in Academic and Research Technologies in the Office of Information Technology (OIT), who oversees LAWN's operation.

Despite the growth of wireless Sanders says hard-wired ports are here to stay at Georgia Tech.

"LAWN is designed to support mobile computing, not to replace the wired network. Wireless technologies will lag behind the physical networks in terms of performance, and the students, faculty and researchers at Georgia Tech will continue to require these networks for their research," says Sanders.

LAWN now has nearly 700 access points in 83 campus buildings. Over the last six months, LAWN was installed in all of the learning centers in student residence halls, the student center commons, and numerous academic buildings. Also, outdoor wireless coverage continues to grow to cover major pedestrian corridors and green spaces including the Tech Trolley route, Technology Square Research Building courtyard, corridors between the Library and the Student Center, Yellow Jacket Park, Cherry Street, and from the Manufacturing Research Center to Student Services. In addition, users may access LAWN using plug-in ports at the Library West Commons, on classroom podiums in Technology Square, the College of Computing Commons, and in conference rooms in the College of Management.

The LAWN team now deploys a faster wireless standard - 802.11g, which is backwards compatible with 802.11b and allows 802.11g users to communicate at faster speeds. All of Tech Square, and numerous other locations on campus have been upgraded to 802.11g. Priorities for the coming year include expanding wireless coverage to more classrooms, conference rooms, and common areas in and around residence halls. Coverage in Junior's will be completed soon.

Also, Sanders says OIT would like to expand the availability and usage of FastPass, the commercial WiFi service that gives campus visitors access to the Internet. OIT hopes to eventually expand this service so that Tech users have access to FastPass wherever it becomes available throughout the city of Atlanta, including Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Recently, the LAWN team at OIT improved and updated the login pages to be simpler to use and less prone to web browser errors. They also introduced a web site dedicated to the LAWN, which contains help for first time users of LAWN and experienced LAWN users alike. The site's content is continually growing, and includes a current map of wireless coverage and configuration instructions for many platforms. To learn more about tapping into the LAWN, visit http://www.lawn.gatech.edu/.