Three Dorms to Undergo Network Improvements; Analog Phones Removed

Three dormitories — Burton-Conner, MacGregor House, and Green Hall — are undergoing construction to modernize the buildings’ network services.

The process, a joint effort by Housing and Information Services and Technology with help from Facilities, will remove the analog phone lines that currently run to each dorm room and will provide the dorms with the latest network infrastructure that IS&T offers.

The new network setup in each building will be the same as the one being deployed in new graduate dormitory NW35, or Ashdown House, this fall.

The three dorms have some of the oldest wiring on campus and are definitely in need of the upgrade, Director of Housing Dennis J. Collins said. Along with Ashdown House, the buildings will be the first dorms on campus to receive infrastructure upgrades.

The buildings are currently being rewired, with two or three new telephone closets installed in each one. Collins said he expects the system to be up and running by early September for Green Hall, with Burton-Conner and MacGregor finished by early October.

In the meantime, residents may experience network service outages from time to time as old wiring is pulled out of each building and new equipment installed.

No more analog phones in rooms

The rooms in each of the three dorms will no longer have analog phone lines once renovations are complete.

Instead, analog phones will be installed in common areas such as suite lounges and hallways, and all residents of the affected buildings will be issued personal SIP accounts. These accounts give students a phone number that can receive voice mail or be forwarded to another phone.

While all members of the MIT community can apply for SIP accounts on IS&T’s Web site, Housing decided to automatically issue accounts to all residents of the affected dorms.

MIT directory entries will reflect the SIP numbers, and audio from voice mail will be sent by default to MIT e-mail accounts.

Collins said that most of the students he has talked to do not use the analog phones in their rooms. Theresa M. Regan, director of IS&T Operations and Infrastructure Services, estimated that around 8 percent of students still use that system.

Under the new SIP system, students’ MIT directory numbers will not be linked to a physical location, Collins said, providing mobility and allowing students to keep their numbers if they change rooms.

A few MacGregor and Burton-Conner students pointed out that the analog phone lines were useful for phone interviews if there was spotty cell phone reception; however, they also said they did not use their analog phones very often.

In a notice sent to residents, Housing suggested that students who still want a room line could pay for their own voice over IP (VoIP) service and acquire a VoIP phone. Without paying for a VoIP phone and the service, students will only be able to receive voice mail or forward calls from their SIP account.

As analog phone service is slowly dying away, the campus has seen a general increase in VoIP phones. IS&T has been experimenting with VoIP systems in the last two years, Regan said. Around 15–20 percent of traditional MIT business phones have transitioned to MIT VoIP since January 2008.

Upgrades provide faster Internet

The renovations will provide Burton-Conner, MacGregor, and Green Hall with the best Internet on campus in terms of reliability and speed, according to Regan.

Each dorm’s existing 10-megabit shared network will be replaced by a switched gigabit network, increasing the bandwidth available to each user. Also, the new wireless routers in each building will support the new 802.11n protocol with speeds of up to 300 Mbps.

According to Kyle Medbery, a project coordinator at IS&T, the new infrastructure will also support Power over Ethernet, a technology that allows certain devices such as IP phones to both draw power and receive data from Ethernet cables, making some power transformers unnecessary.

New coaxial cables for television sets will also be installed in the buildings.

The renovations were partially motivated by Housing’s desire to provide quality Internet access for students wherever they are, according to Collins. He said that students use excellent network services in the main campus buildings but then go back to the dorms to inferior services.

Last fall, Burton-Conner experienced a network outage for about a day when a drain leak damaged equipment in a telephone closet. Collins said that the placement of the new closets was a consideration in the renovations in the hopes of preventing such situations. Regan added that she anticipates the new system will prevent the service outages that some of the dorms have experienced in recent years.

Even if problems do occur, Regan said, “contemporary rooms and contemporary equipment will make any repairs much quicker.”

IS&T will begin to upgrade other dorms and high-traffic areas on campus soon, Regan said.