Small colleges can often be just an innovative and leading-edge in their technology roll-outs as large ones, or even more so, with the right approach and know-how. Davidson College, located 20 miles north of Charlotte, NC, is a highly selective liberal arts college that has graduated 23 Rhodes scholars and offers a student to faculty ratio of 10 to one. Average class size is just 15 students. Despite the small size of their college, Davidson students now have a high-performance broadband wireless network covering the entire 450-acre campus. The network, with just 27 nodes, uses a less conventional approach to WiFi than many institutions have chosen, one that has halved the number of wireless access points needed ensure good coverage.
For its 802.11b/g network, Davidson turned to a solution from BelAir Networks, replacing a previous wireless system. Wireless at Davidson before the upgrade, according to Jeff Bowman, Davidson's wireless LAN manager for IT services, was spotty and underpowered–more a convenience than a communication tool. It relied on a small number of stand-alone consumer-grade access points in limited areas across campus. When Bowman arrived, he began beefing up wireless coverage but still had just a handful of buildings covered and no outdoor coverage to speak of. In 2005, he began an initiative to put BelAir's wireless coverage in buildings throughout campus. Davidson is now using the same broadband wireless technology used in the Lincoln Center in New York and in citywide networks in large cities such as Minneapolis, London, and Toronto. Beyond the standard e-mail and Web access functions, Davidson students can also use the new network with devices such as the iPhone, anything that is WiFi certified, essentially, although all devices must be registered on the network first.