Baruch College Makes Big Wi-Fi Move Showcasing How Better Wireless Can Advance the State of Higher Education

Senior CUNY School Overcomes High Density Challenges and Interference Issues in RF "Noisy" Midtown Manhattan Campus with Smart Wi-Fi from Ruckus Wireless

May 23, 2011, 08:00 ET from Ruckus Wireless

SUNNYVALE, Calif., May 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Ruckus Wireless™ today announced that Baruch College, a senior college in The City University of New York (CUNY) system and home to the Zicklin School of Business, one of the largest business schools in the U.S., has standardized on Ruckus products and technology to support a strategic campus-wide initiative to deliver reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi access to some 17,000 students, faculty members, and staff.

Baruch College operates in a very dense campus environment spanning more than 1,000,000 square feet in just two buildings that comprise its north campus - where the initial rollout of the Ruckus products will happen. One city block south, the College occupies three more buildings that will be part of the next phase. To deliver ubiquitous, reliable Wi-Fi coverage, Baruch College is deploying 350 Ruckus ZoneFlex dual-band 802.11n access points and ZoneDirector 3000 series controllers.  

Serving as the hub of the college, the Newman Vertical Campus illustrates the sheer challenge of delivering reliable Wi-Fi at Baruch. A 17-story, 800,000 square foot award-winning building that fills nearly an entire city block, from Lexington to Third Avenue, the Newman Vertical Campus holds academic departments, 180 smart classrooms, student facilities, a gymnasium, auditoriums, theaters and a full conference center.

"A primary concern for colleges is student retention and graduation rates," said Arthur Downing, CIO at Baruch College. "The more engagement students have with their school and the activities on their campus, the more likely they are to succeed academically and stay within the institution. We've come to find out that exceptional wireless is key to fostering this student interaction, especially for a commuter campus in Manhattan."

According to Baruch, the new wireless network provides an essential foundation for the college to: better support the needs of the curriculum, increase the efficiency of campus operations, enhance the effectiveness of its educational programs and offer innovative online multimedia services that give students a more flexible and content-rich learning experience.

"Good Wi-Fi in New York in any context just isn't easy," said Downing.  "Add thousands of simultaneous users, lots of nooks and crannies and an insatiable demand for bandwidth to run streaming multimedia applications and you face serious challenges."

Today's students live in a highly mobile, electronic and online world and no longer consider wireless access an option. "It's mandatory," said Downing. "When it comes to wireless, students have become super savvy and demanding.  So when we decided to overhaul our Wi-Fi infrastructure, we included them in the evaluation and decision-making process."

Students Help Make the Wireless Choice at Baruch

Baruch assembled a selection committee that included students to hear vendor pitches and to assist in the selection of the new system among 10 leading vendors.  According to Baruch, the Ruckus ZoneFlex system was selected due to a variety of factors such as exceptional coverage, price/performance, a rich feature set and ease of use.  

"The students were instrumental in the final decision and asked lots of very pointed technical questions because they are the primary users and had felt that pain of our legacy system first hand," said Downing. "They went as far as to have vendors detail their authentication approaches because students didn't want to have to repeatedly re-enter their credentials to the network as they initiated new sessions throughout the day."  

Additionally each WLAN supplier was brought in a week at a time to demonstrate their system's performance and capabilities in a live field test.  The Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi test was used to support the annual WordCamp NYC event for WordPress users, which took place for the second year in a row at Baruch College. Roughly 200 power Wi-Fi users attended the event, giving Baruch positive reviews for its wireless connectivity.

High User Density, Noisy RF Conditions and Flood of New Devices Drive Decision

For Baruch, a flood of Wi-Fi-enabled devices and applications have been driving the need for more robust Wi-Fi that could cope with a high density of concurrent users, a noisy RF environment and challenging coverage areas. "Our previous Wi-Fi network did not meet our needs, so students and faculty started bringing in their own access points or poaching off any local Wi-Fi network they could find," said Downing.

Like many colleges, Baruch is embracing multimedia applications like video streaming, videoconferencing and video chat to foster deeper engagement with students and encourage their academic success. Baruch's goal is to leverage the wireless network so students and student groups can more easily create and distribute multimedia content. Baruch also hosts numerous lectures and events throughout the year, each of which is streamed and archived online for anyone who was unable to attend in person.

Unlike conventional Wi-Fi technology, Ruckus antenna array technology gives Baruch the ability to uniquely solve connectivity problems associated with new smart handheld devices.  Suboptimal Wi-Fi implementations within these devices and their constantly changing orientation make it difficult for traditional Wi-Fi technology to deliver a strong and stable signal. Unlike laptops that effectively remain stationary, when mobile devices move, wireless performance fluctuates wildly.

"Ruckus was one of the only suppliers we found that could automatically change how they delivered a wireless signal to devices that were moving around a lot," said Downing. "As these devices rotate or move, the access points can alter the polarity and signal path to ensure a higher performing connection. While other suppliers showed us strong management capabilities after users were connected, we were really focused on getting users connected reliably by delivering strong signal coverage to a wide range of clients everywhere on campus."

Each ZoneFlex AP integrates a smart antenna array that extends signal range and automatically adapts to environmental changes that degrade performance by focusing and directing Wi-Fi signals over the best signal path while automatically mitigating interference.  This ensures consistent performance and high data rates at longer ranges and in complex environments.

To authenticate users, Baruch is using Ruckus' patented Dynamic PSK (pre-shared key) technology. Dynamic PSK automatically generates a unique encryption key once each user has successfully authenticated.  This key is bound to the user and automatically configured on the client devices thereby removing the requirement to install unique certificates or a single, shared encryption key on every client device that could be easily compromised.

Multimedia Applications Demand Better Wireless

According to Downing, the Ruckus-powered Smart Wi-Fi network will play a critical role in their students' success, as it will be used to support the school's various multimedia-driven activities as well as foster more creative endeavors by students. Students are encouraged to use technologies like videochat, Ustream and podcasting to create a more enriching educational experience.

About Ruckus Wireless, Inc.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Ruckus Wireless is supplier of advanced wireless systems for the mobile Internetworking market. The company markets and manufactures a wide range of indoor and outdoor "Smart Wi-Fi" products for mobile operators, broadband service providers and corporate enterprises around the world. Ranked as the top telecom company in the 2009 Inc. Magazine 500 list and named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, Ruckus Wireless has realized dramatic growth. Since 2006, revenue and shipments have grown by over 1000 percent. Ruckus invented, and has patented, innovative state-of-the-art wireless technology that steers signals around obstacles and interference. This unique capability extends signal range and ensures consistent reliable distribution of delay-sensitive multimedia content and services over standard 802.11 Wi-Fi. The company has shipped over 2 million Smart Wi-Fi systems around the world and has raised $51 million in funding from premier investors such as Sequoia Capital, Focus Ventures, Sutter Hill, Motorola, T-Ventures, Telus Ventures and Firelake Capital. The company is led by Ms. Selina Lo, president and chief executive officer. For more information, visit Ruckus Wireless at

About Baruch College:

Baruch College is a senior college in the City University of New York (CUNY) with a total enrollment of more than 17,000 students, who represent 160 countries and speak more than 100 languages. Ranked among the top 15% of U.S. colleges, Baruch College is regularly recognized as among the most ethnically diverse colleges in the country. Through its three schools - the School of Public Affairs; the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences; and the Zicklin School of Business, the largest AACSB-accredited business school in the nation - Baruch College offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees that reflect the college's foundation in the liberal arts and its strong focus on management and public affairs. Baruch College dates back more than 160 years to the founding in 1847 of the Free Academy, the first free public college in the nation. As a public institution with a tradition of academic excellence, Baruch College offers accessibility and opportunity for students from every corner of New York City and from around the world.

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SOURCE Ruckus Wireless