After six years of hard work, CIT is taking the next step in
providing complete Wi-Fi coverage at UB.
Network and Classroom Services (NCS) will wrap up phase one of
the two-phase Wi-Fi Buildout plan this December, a project that
initially began in 2007 and has focused on providing Wi-Fi coverage
across UB’s three campuses.
During that time, nearly 3,000 wireless access points, devices
that allow Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network using Wi-Fi,
covering 10 million square feet have been installed. UB has seen
recent spikes of over 18,000 simultaneous Wi-Fi sessions.
Throughout the course of the project, the team has consisted of
two full-time staff members and—at the peak—six
full-time electricians pulling wires for the system and working
through both public academic buildings and private residence
“We’re happy with the progress so far,” said
Jerry Bucklaew, Network Architect with NCS. “But now that
we’ve gotten to the end of the project, we need to go back
through and do replacements and adjustments for the change in
technology and massive explosion of Wi-Fi users.”
At the beginning of UB’s Wi-Fi buildout plan six years
back, it was decided to install for Wi-Fi coverage only and not
performance. This is due to the fact that it would have taken twice
as long to complete if each building was designed for high density.
Now that there is basic coverage almost everywhere at UB, phase two
of the Wi-Fi Buildout Plan will focus on improving the coverage for
high density and for performance.
Phase two will give people on campus better signal strength,
better throughput (the rate of successful message delivery), better
bandwidth and a more reliable connection. It will also replace
about 500 access points that had been installed in previous years
and update them with the latest standard of 802.11n. The order in
which buildings will be updated is weighted by factors such as
building size, amount of people in the building and if the building
is student-serving, such as libraries and residence halls.
Phase two is expected to start in January 2014. In the
meanwhile, UB and CIT are stressing the importance of Wi-Fi and
Bluetooth conservation– not just to meet the
university’s environmental stewardship goals, but also to
improve Wi-Fi coverage on campus.
Because Wi-Fi is a limited commodity, it’s advised to take
better alternatives if they are available. Students living on
campus in residence hall rooms and apartments have free access to
ResNet, UB’s wired Ethernet connection with the help of a
personal Ethernet cable. Not only is ResNet 1,000 times faster than
using a Wi-Fi connection, it also conserves Wi-Fi for those who
need it (those using devices such as iPads, or laptops in academic
buildings). Another step to be taken is to shut off Wi-Fi and
Bluetooth on devices that don’t need it. For example, most
modern printers and routers have Wi-Fi enabled by default, but if
they're connected to a wired port, these devices don't need Wi-Fi
access and should have it turned off.
Additionally, one of the biggest difficulties the
university’s network faces is interference from unmanaged
access points, or access points that people—especially
students—bring from home and install in order to connect
devices to UB’s secure Wi-Fi network. These unmanaged access
points share the spectrum with UB’s Wi-Fi system, meaning
UB’s network has less bandwidth and poorer performance than
it should be able to provide. Since they aren't able to avoid
spectra conflicts, these access points can interfer with each
The access points installed by CIT communicate with each other
through a central server, so they actively avoid interfering with
one another, which could other cause chaos with 2,500 access points
across campus. When other access points transmit at the same time,
it disrupts the ability of the CIT access points to coordinate with
each other and degrades network performance for everyone using
Wi-Fi in the area.