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School launches herculean hot spot

The University of Twente in the Netherlands has launched a unique, campuswide wireless hot spot, claimed to be the biggest in Europe.

The University of Twente in the Netherlands has launched a unique, campuswide wireless hot spot, claimed to be the biggest in Europe.

Covering 346 acres with 650 Cisco Aironet 1200 series access points, it supports more than 6,000 students and a staff of 2,500. Built in conjunction with IBM and Cisco Systems, it uses 802.1x-based security.

Most of the network uses 802.11b, but parts run on the faster, newer 802.11a standard.

"The 54mbps system has been introduced as part of the industrial design course," university representative Wiebe van der Veen told ZDNet UK. "First-year students have a laptop with fast wireless connection and can run heavy CAD design software, send large images and so on."

He added that the other 54mbps standard, 802.11g, would be introduced later.

The program was started two years ago, as part of the university's Wireless Campus project, which has also used Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)--and in the future will use Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), a new standard that vastly increases the capacity of wireless networks.

The program has been mostly trouble-free, despite a major fire in November that wiped out the computer center and all network servers. Van der Veen said there had been no major problems encountered, except a few reports of interference with sensitive experiments.

"Students and staff are quick adopters of these nice facilities," van der Veen said. "The flexible way of teaching that this allows also helps with new students who have experienced new ways of (learning) at school. They're not used to classical ways of knowledge transfer anymore."

The University of Twente is one of the heaviest users of the Internet in the Netherlands and hosts a hacking-conference-cum-festival called Hackers at Large. The university is also the lead body in a European project called MobilHealth, which links mobile data communications to end-user health care. This project is designed to let patients lead a normal life while under continuous remote medical supervision.

ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins reported from London.