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Alma Mater Takes 802.11n Plunge

Meru (David) beats Cisco (Goliath) in a head to head competition? That was an even more interesting reason to dig into this story a little further.

My first thought was that Barnard must be planning to offer a voice over wireless solution for its students in addition to a straight wireless data offer. Why? Because Meru has made its name with proprietary voice over wireless LAN technology that typically receives the high MOS (Mean Opinion Score, a measure of voice quality) when compared to competitors.

Thom Sobczak, Barnard's director of management information and network services, says that voice was not even part of the test. While Barnard and Meru have discussed the possibilities of adding voice at some point in the future, the implementation planned for this summer is data only.

This is not the first wireless deployment on campus - WLAN has been available in public spaces but not in the dorms. With Barnard's urban setting (I'm being kind here - 116th Street and Broadway in Manhattan would be more aptly described as über urban), some of the dorms are converted pre-war apartment buildings, a challenge for any wireless solution. With the alternative being re-wiring to meet NYC building codes, a wireless solution that could deliver primary broadband service was the right choice.

Thom is unconcerned with the pre-ratification status of the Meru 802.11n solution. Barnard has been assured by Meru that any upgrade that may be required will be at no cost to the college. He feels the "n" decision is actually a leading, not bleeding, edge choice. Installing anything else would be putting in a system destined to be outdated in months. With new students showing up on campus with n-equipped laptops, the Meru a/b/g/n-compatible gear made perfect sense.

Trivia: Noteworthy/notorious Barnard grads include Martha Stewart, Joan Rivers, and Gilmore Girl's Lauren Graham.