Staff Wireless to be BBC-wide from January
If Santa brings you a shiny new smart phone, tablet or laptop this Christmas, the New Year could bring with it the opportunity to use your present at work.
Staff Wireless - which enables staff to use wifi on their own electronic devices within BBC buildings - should be available throughout all of the Corporation's main bases by the end of January.
It was introduced initially in New Broadcasting House to serve News and Future Media staff. The network was then extended to the W12 campus, where wireless has also been enabled in surrounding outdoor areas, and Salford.
The network currently has a capacity of 3000 devices, but the infrastructure will soon be in place to support 24,000 of them.Staff expect it
It's all part of the move towards more flexible working. 'We've always had a vision to enable people to have frictionless technology, to work flexibly and to choose their devices,' explains Adrian Poole, director IT and Technology Delivery. 'Wireless is one of those enablers.'
Poole points to an 'absolute desire' for staff to wirelessly connect their own iPads or Android phones to the internet while on BBC premises, with around 2500 of them taking up the opportunity at present. 'It's one of those capabilities that people expect to be there,' he says. 'The BBC is more advanced in its thinking on this than many other organisations in terms of effort and scale.'
But such widespread coverage presents certain challenges. Firstly, Poole and team have to contend with a number of 'rogue' wireless hotspots that BBC people have installed around the place. 'They're not really rogue,' he concedes, 'since they attempt to serve a business need. But there is only so much RF spectrum [wireless works via radio waves] and these hotspots start to interfere with the corporate-wide system.'
There will be an amnesty of department-owned access points in January. 'We know where they are,' says Poole.Not all devices are equal
He is also aware of complaints from some people who enjoy smooth wireless access at home, but can't connect at work. 'Not every phone or tablet performs the same,' explains Poole. 'And they don't all work as you'd expect them to do as you roam across buildings. We'll see what tweaks we can make, and are working closely on this with the manufacturers of the devices.'
So is the BBC pushing for people to use their own computers at work?
'No, we are providing an option,' counters Poole. 'You can have a BBC laptop or bring your own.'
Those using BBC laptops - managed by Atos - can connect to the Corporate Wireless that is available throughout the BBC, allowing them to work in meeting rooms and soft seating areas.
Guest Wireless, meanwhile, allows visitors to the BBC to access a wireless network.
For those who prefer their own devices, Poole and BBC People are exploring the possibility of a shared ownership scheme where both the employer and employee contribute towards the cost of the laptop or tablet.
He is also working on ways to safeguard any BBC data stored on people's own devices, and he anticipates a new approach to technical support.
'We will always offer a robust, managed support service for BBC laptops and PCs. What we'd like to see is more self-help communities. Support models need to shift as we move towards more choice.'