Former student returns and he’s giving it some stick!

Ap device on pole/Ethan Poole/hand-held computer

Former student returns and he’s giving it some stick!

Engineering Mathematics graduate Ethan Poole is back on campus. He’s helping design our new Wi-Fi network.

Back to the future

Not long ago, Radio Engineer Ethan Poole was an Engineering Mathematics MEng student at Bristol. After graduating in 2019, he secured a place on Telent’s Graduate Engineering Scheme.

When he joined Telent, a leading technology company, specialising in radio technology and critical communications, Ethan had no idea that he’d be sent to the very buildings he’d lived and studied in. “It’s a pure coincidence that this is the project we’ve ended up on… I was putting my hand up saying ‘yes, I’m keen to go down to Bristol.’”

He’s part of a team of radio engineers who are busy remapping the entire wireless network layout at the University of Bristol to supply greater coverage and capability. They’re surveying every building across campus and then checking to see if their designs for improved wi-fi will work in practice. That’s where the big stick comes in.

Telent engineers with pole-mounted wi-fi access point
Telent engineers with pole-mounted wi-fi access point

A Wi-Fi Access Point (or AP) is mounted on top, and the stick gets a grand tour of offices, bedrooms, libraries, labs, and other university spaces. There are already hundreds, if not thousands of these little white AP boxes on campus that connect our devices to the network. “If you see one of those near you, your Wi-Fi should be quite good,” says Ethan, pointing to one of the pieces of unnoticeable wall art.

Ethan wasn’t put off by an hour and a half commute from his home in Warwick, partly because of his fond memories of his time in Bristol. “I really enjoy being back – I hadn’t been back for a good three years. Coming back has reminded me how much I loved it here.”

“I really enjoy being back … Coming back has reminded me how much I loved it here.”

Upgrading the entire University with Wi-Fi 6E

Ethan Poole using hand-held computer
Ethan Poole analysing AP designs

Ethan and his fellow engineers are working at the University of Bristol to deliver a completely new wireless network. “Currently, you’ve got your 2.4GHz and your 5GHz, which you’re probably used to from your home Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 6E introduces more channels, which allows more people to get onboard… it also allows more traffic to pass through,” explains Telent Radio Engineer Keith Fleming.

In short, Wi-Fi 6E is quicker, more accessible, more reliable, and will provide better coverage across our world-class campuses.

So far, Ethan and the team have surveyed more than half of the 250-plus University buildings, but there’s still a great deal more to do. In 2024, a phased roll-out will switch the network over building-by-building. One of the first spaces to benefit from the new wi-fi network will be the Faculty of Engineering’s Queen’s Building where Ethan spent much of his time as a student.

Theory into practice

Real-world problem solving is a big part of Engineering Mathematics and one of Ethan’s passions. Returning to Bristol, he’s been able to apply the skills and knowledge inside the buildings where he studied them. “[it’s about] those different competencies – projects, team working and time management – it all ties in and helps me be a better engineer.”

“Projects, team working and time management – it all ties in and helps me be a better engineer”

During his student days, he was mainly based in the Engineering and Maths buildings. “Now, I get to go down to all the lab areas and see some of the interesting stuff going on. I’m excited to explore a bit. I see a lot more now than I did as a student.”

Better connected

The Modern Network Programme is part of the
University of Bristol’s upgrade to IT infrastructure
across all university premises to support
cutting-edge education and research.

There are labyrinths of laboratories and study spaces. Some equipment is hidden behind metre-thick walls and up in ceilings or below floorboards, so Ethan, Keith and others have already diagnosed Wi-Fi issues in certain areas. During their visits, staff and students alike have been very understanding. “Everyone’s been very welcoming… only positive reactions so far. They’re all very intrigued when we come in with this pole and equipment. I don’t think I’ve had any resistance,” says Ethan, who’s looking forward to dropping in on his old tutor.