University of Oregon

The WiFi Stability Project

Audience
Faculty/Staff
Researcher
Student
GTF

From Information Services:

Information Services is aware of the capacity, stability, and coverage problems with the university's WiFi network. There are two key factors that contribute to these WiFi issues: the amazing growth in WiFi devices on campus has led to capacity issues, and the age of the WiFi gear has caused stability problems.

The University of Oregon saw a 112 percent increase in the number of WiFi devices on campus between 2010 and 2012, while the number of students increased five percent during that same period. Not only are there more WiFi devices on campus, they are used to download more content than five years ago. UO also sees high densities of devices in some classrooms and meeting spaces. High density WiFi is both an engineering and funding challenge, as demonstrated by the often unstable WiFi seen at conferences and large sports venues.

The stability issue is caused by aging WiFi equipment. One third of the WiFi equipment on campus is at least seven years old. Because old gear cannot run current software, they are not as easily managed, which creates a challenge in making adjustments to the WiFi network during times of high usage. Older software can also cause compatibility problems with customer devices and contribute to capacity challenges.

Solving the university's WiFi issues will require substantial funding and significant staff time. We have heard from many of you that WiFi is a critical component for teaching, learning, and conducting business at the University. With that in mind, Information Services is in the middle of the WiFi Stability Project to replace the oldest set of WiFi equipment on campus using funds borrowed from reserves earmarked for other areas in our unit. This will allow us to address the stability issue; new gear means better manageability and, in turn, improved stability. We continue to look at ways to address capacity and coverage issues.

Key tasks of the WiFi Stability Project include:

  • replace the oldest one third of the WiFi equipment
  • replace network switches as needed
  • upgrade the software that manages the WiFi network
  • increase back end network capacity for WiFi
  • improve the WiFi network's ability to recover more effectively if a key WiFi component fails

This project is planned to be completed by December 31, 2013. (NOTE: This timeline has been adjusted to avoid making widespread network changes during the busiest weeks of the year.) For project updates, see http://is.uoregon.edu/projects (or visit the IS websites and click "Projects").

The other WiFi issues—capacity and coverage—remain to be addressed. Some UO schools and colleges encounter capacity and coverage problems more often than others, and we are exploring options with them.

More information

We are all in the same boat
These issues are not unique to the University of Oregon. Inside Higher Ed highlights the topic in article, "Device Explosion" (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/05/wireless-devices-weigh-dow...). In the EDUCAUSE annual Top-Ten IT Issues for 2013, the number one item on the list was, "Leveraging the wireless and device explosion on campus." (http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/top-ten-it-issues-2013-welcome-conne...). Ohio University, Virginia Tech, and Indiana University also face similar issues of bandwidth, capacity, stability, and support, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/article/Digital-Devices-Invade-Campus/137217/).

Things everyone can do to help UO WiFi

  • Use the UO Secure network in place of uowireless
  • Use wired Ethernet instead of WiFi when possible—it provides a more stable and faster connection
  • Retire devices that don't support the 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.11ac WiFi standards