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Network installed in Carrier Dome, improves WiFi speed

Carrier Dome visitors will now be able to send tweets and surf the Internet faster than ever.

A collaboration between Information Technology and Services and Syracuse University Athletics led to the installation of a new wireless network, OrangeHotspot, in the Dome. The network was designed specifically for the Dome to improve the fan experience, said Christopher Finkle, ITS communications manager.

On basketball game days, OrangeHotspot supports more than 3,000 people, Finkle said.

This makes it the most used network on campus whenever there’s a game, he said. Otherwise, E.S. Bird Library has the most used network with about 1,700 users.

The network, which functions only on game days and for special events, is currently 90 percent complete, Finkle said, with 136 of the 150 planned access points installed.

Planning for the network has been going on for more than a year, Finkle said. While the network is currently functional, construction continues on a rolling basis. Finkle did not have an end date for the project.

“I don’t know that we have a target date,” Finkle said. “A lot of it depends on when we’re successful at calibrating and configuring the networks for the various event types.”

Finkle said one of the challenges in installing the network is the nature of the space changes in terms of the number of people present and the configuration of the seating.

Each section of the Dome is currently supported by at least three wireless access points.
“Now the challenge is to get them to play nice with one another,” Finkle said.

External factors on game day also pose a challenge.

“The people who come into the stadium introduce new variables,” Finkle said. “It’s not uncommon for ESPN to have their own networking equipment that will interfere with the infrastructure in the Carrier Dome.”

Fans’ use of personal devices will cause additional interference, Finkle said.

ITS is currently working on fine-tuning the bleacher section for the basketball games, he said.

“(The bleachers) roll out to the side of the court and they are disconnected, so there’s a lot of things we have to connect,” Finkle said. “How do we do that in a way that provides coverage?”

There are special antennae where the walls meet the roof that help focus the wireless signal by section, said Lee Badman, SU network architect.

“You have to consider how many people are potentially sitting in (a section) and how the space is going to be used,” he said. “There’s an art to doing it.”

The Dome has separate football, basketball and day-to-day configurations that are set through a wireless network manager, Badman said.

Brent Tanaka, a junior information management and technology major, said he did not notice the changes in the wireless connection.

“I didn’t realize the wireless was different, but I am not really on my phone that much at work,” said Tanaka, who works in catering in the Dome.

If students are having issues with the wireless in the Dome, Badman said they should contact ITS.

“If someone’s having a problem, give us some details. Location and device time at the bare minimum,” Badman said. “Without the detail there’s no way to meaningfully react to the criticism.”

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