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Release: Immediate

Editors note: The University of Iowa College of Business Administration will host a demonstration for the media of its new wireless computer communications system at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 21 in Room W401 of the Pappajohn Business Administration Building.

Release: Immediate

UI business students go wireless: New computer system provides high-speed, mobile access

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Business students at the University of Iowa are no longer tied down by their computers when they want to use the Internet or check their email, thanks to a new wireless communications system in the Pappajohn Business Administration Building.

Students can now use a wireless system that works with laptop computers, allowing students to connect with the Internet through a card that they insert in their computers. The system is based on radio-frequency transmissions rather than the traditional method of dial-in modems or data communications systems based on wiring between computers and networks.

Warren Boe, professor of management sciences and director of the computer services department of the College of Business Administration, says the wireless system will give students more flexibility when it comes to using the computer system.

"Students can get on the Internet or check email -- do all the things they can do on a networked computer -- without being fettered by all the wires," Boe says.

The new system, which was put in place this month, is the first example of the kinds of upgrades to the computing facilities that will be possible through a new technology fee to be paid by students. Beginning this summer, all registered business students must pay a new $370 technology fee as part of their tuition and fees.

Only registered business students can use the wireless system.

Located in the Pomerantz Business Library in the Pappajohn Business Administration, the wireless system is based on three six-inch-by-six-inch transmitters, and allows users to access the network from a limited range within the building. If the trial goes well, plans are to expand the number of "access points" to allow users access throughout the building.

Students who want to use the system must attend an orientation session where they learn about the system and have the software to operate it installed on their computers. To use the system, students check out -- much as they do when they check out books -- a thin, credit-card-sized card that they insert into an expansion slot of their computers.

Scott Fuller, systems administrator for the College of Business Administration, says several campus programs are exploring the use of wireless computer systems, but the business school is the first to provide the system to students.

Fuller says a wireless system provides faster connections to the Internet than the average laptop computer modem. The system connects at about 1 million bits per second, compared to the average top-line modem's connection speed of 56,000 bits per second.

"A wireless system gives students the potential to have access to the computer network from just about anywhere," Fuller says. "Plus the connection speed is faster than plugging in a modem and dialing into the computer system."

The system also includes security features to prevent transmissions from being intercepted and includes a mechanism to render the cards useless if they are taken out of the building.