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Microwave link between UT Pan American, Tamaulipas university unites two university systems for first time
By C.M. Powell
381-3639
Posted: 02/06/1998
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A microwave radio link between The University of Texas-Pan American and Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas (UAT) in Reynosa — and by extension between the entire University of Texas and UAT systems — was inaugurated Feb. 2 with a videoconference between high-ranking officials at a number of sites in Texas and Mexico.

UT Pan American officials characterized the link as the first of its kind — the first permanent connection between university systems in the United States and Mexico for data transmission and distance learning.

"We are very proud of our relationship with your system, and we are very proud of our relationship with Mexico," Dr. William H. Cunningham, chancellor of the UT System, said to his counterpart in Mexico, Ing. Humberto Filizola Haces, rector of the UAT system.

"The future health and success and economic vitality of Texas is very much a function of the success that you have...in Mexico," Cunningham said. "Your system has much to contribute to our students, and we would like to think that we could contribute to your institutions as well. We are thinking not only of the great academic environment and relationships that we've established between our two institutions, but also the cultural relationships and research relationships."

The link is already being used for an English as a Second Language course being taught Tuesday evenings by UT Pan American to UAT's campuses in Ciudad Victoria, Tampico, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Reynosa and Ciudad Mante. Twenty students are enrolled in the class at UT Pan American, and another 15 to 20 are taking the class at the Mexican sites.

During the inauguration of the new link Feb. 2, participants from UT System in Austin, UT Pan American in Edinburg, and six UAT campuses, including Ciudad Victoria and Tampico, interacted.

The link operates via a microwave tower UT Pan American has placed in the City of Hidalgo. The signal travels over a fiber optic line extending from UT Pan American to the tower, then is transmitted across the international border to a microwave tower at UAT's Reynosa campus. From there, the signal is sent by a high-capacity phone connection to the main campus of UAT in Ciudad Victoria, and from there to universities throughout the UAT system.

At UT Pan American, a similar connection to the UT System gives any component of the UT System access to any campus in the UAT system and vice versa.

The two university systems had been working to complete the link for a little more than two years. The task included reconciling the differences in telephone wiring systems in the two countries and in securing licenses from both the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the equivalent agency in Mexico for the microwave portion of the link.

In addition to international cooperative educational programs like the ESL class, the connection provides opportunities for faculty and staff development through interactive video and for research partnerships using the video and Internet capabilities.

UT Pan American President Miguel A. Nevarez noted that the link gives UAT a permanent 24-hour-a-day high-speed connection to the Internet, considerably increasing the speed of their access. It also provides UAT with access to all UT System and UT component institution on-line resources as they are approved by the UT System chancellor and component presidents, access to the UT System interactive video network for conferencing and instruction, and access to any dial-up site in the United States (sites that allow interactive video or data transfer through telephone connections) through UT Pan American's Network Operations Center dial-up facilities.