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Reliable WiFi access vital to universities

Public and private universities face mounting pressure to reduce costs while promoting a supportive and secure environment for the exchange of ideas. Increasingly, these institutions compete for students, and campus experience plays a large part in the decision-making process for prospective undergraduates and grad students.

Furthermore, universities have a tremendous responsibility to deliver the services and tools students need for success, while simultaneously benefiting their faculty, staff, administrators, and partners. In our increasingly mobile and connected world, that means quick, easy, and secure access to the university’s WiFi network is imperative.

Meeting today’s university WiFi challenge

For university CIOs and their IT staff, the design and upkeep of campus WiFi networks was once a moderately straightforward undertaking. Today, however, campuses are among the most challenging of all wireless network environments to manage. The expectation of higher education network users is always on, on any device, anywhere on campus, with unparalleled speed and security.

Students demand high-quality, reliable WiFi experiences not only in the classroom but during free time when they’re streaming Spotify, Netflix, or YouTube. More and more, potential and current students – and even business partners – judge the quality of a university by its wireless network, and an underperforming WiFi network can impact the institution’s bottom line.

Designing campus wireless networks for scalability

So, if you’re an IT professional responsible for the performance of your university’s WiFi network, how can you ensure you’re keeping up with or surpassing the competition? Many universities are facing significant investments to upgrade their wireless networks and enhance performance and address security concerns as their networks take on more devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearables, and the growth in mobile applications and online assets built to enhance the student learning experience.

These challenges require a holistic design approach, building on current networking assets but allowing for scalability campus-wide, covering classrooms, residence halls, outdoor commons and recreational areas, and administrative offices.

CBTS supports strategic vision for better user experience

Often, universities will bring in an outside partner like CBTS to lead a comprehensive review of the current networking environment. We help them develop a long-term strategy that supports the institution’s strategic vision while addressing issues like device and app overload and security concerns. By creating a wireless technology roadmap, CBTS helps universities focus on providing better student services, from upgrading WiFi in classrooms or residence halls to supporting the demands of power users at the administration and faculty levels, and understanding the concerns of business partners and non-profits contributing to the overall health of the institution.

Our goal is to provide a better user experience continuously across a university’s WiFi network, based on segmentation, optimized for performance and security, managed centrally, and scaling easily as demands on the network increase.

Learn how CBTS partnered with a private university to create a comprehensive plan for upgrading wireless and wired network access in residence halls, setting the stage for campus-wide WiFi connectivity. The WiFi network is designed for growth, while simplifying student log-ins, bringing tighter security that flags unauthorized users, granting temporary access to guests, and reducing overall hardware costs. Lear how CBTS can help support your organization’s networking goals.


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Four steps to providing Wi-Fi connectivity

Wi-Fi is an important part of customer service.

Travelers want to respond to work emails while waiting for their flight to board. Sports fans crave the ability to live-stream the Hail Mary pass from the big game at a packed stadium. Diners enjoy reviewing restaurants on Yelp while they’re waiting for the check. Tourists can’t resist posting Instagram pictures from city landmarks.

Fortunately, advances in Wi-Fi technology allow companies, municipalities, and other entities to deliver immersive, unforgettable experiences to people’s mobile devices.

It’s crucial to remember that commercial-grade Wi-Fi networking equipment is mandatory for connecting large groups of people. Residential-quality gear doesn’t have the security, configuration options, and management controls for access points and switches built for business use.

Moreover, you need an experienced technical partner that understands the complexities of broadcasting the Internet over a wide area to masses of people. At CBTS, we’ve implemented advanced Wi-Fi solutions in places like college dormitories, airport terminals, hospitals, and public shopping districts.

These are four fundamental steps we’ve discovered while helping our clients implement high-quality Wi-Fi networks:

1. Prioritize the quantity, quality, and configuration of access points

Wi-Fi access points (APs) use radio waves to broadcast the Internet over a defined area. They must have the capacity to deliver a fast connection to large volumes of users, all of whom might be streaming videos or downloading large files.

When you’re designing a Wi-Fi network, you need to ensure that APs are placed in strategic locations that beam the Internet into areas including rooms, hallways, and stairwells. You need to scout out dead spots and tweak your configuration to shrink or eliminate them.

Interference from other APs is a constant concern. Indeed, if you install too many APs, you can actually degrade people’s download speeds. You can also pick up interference from nearby businesses.

All these challenges underscore the need to partner with trained and certified Wi-Fi experts who know how to set up and manage the most advanced wireless networks.

2. Account for high-capacity users

High-end Wi-Fi equipment can deliver gigabit-level speeds over wireless networks. These technologies allow you to accommodate high-bandwidth users. If visitors to your business give video presentations in a meeting room or project multimedia presentations in an auditorium, they might not need a wired ethernet connection.

Today’s commercial-grade 802.11ac Wi-Fi gear has plenty of bandwidth to accommodate demanding Wi-Fi use cases. Access points can come with ethernet ports allowing you to plug in Internet of Things sensors to glean insights from network traffic and a vast array of data points.

Management software can help you tune your network to exacting specifications. Access points broadcast on 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz frequency bands. 5Ghz bands have higher speed and shorter range, while 2.4Ghz bands have slower speed and higher range. Strategic placement of APs and careful configuration of your Wi-Fi network can make the most of the options from these bands.

3. Make security a priority

Wi-Fi broadcasts have no inherent security. They’re just like using walkie-talkies: Anybody within range of an AP can listen in. These are key ways to enhance Wi-Fi network security:

  • Password-protect your network and encrypt broadcasts.
  • Segregate and isolate users so they have no way to access other areas of your network.
  • Create multiple authorization levels to tightly control who goes where on your Wi-Fi network.
  • Create login screens and unique identifiers that ensure only authorized users access your Wi-Fi.
  • Educate your users about protecting their data while using Wi-Fi.

Wireless technology providers are getting more serious about security all the time. They’re creating more options to thwart hackers without ruining the user experience of everyday online travelers.

4. Partner with an experienced enterprise Wi-Fi developer  

Whether your Wi-Fi-connected customers number in the dozens or the thousands, you need an experienced partner to pair you with the technologies that match your precise needs.

CBTS has deep wireless experience across a breadth of industries and technologies. Joining forces with Aruba Networks, the HPE enterprise wireless experts, we’ve helped a host of clients turbocharge their Wi-Fi offerings. Recent projects:

  • Providing free Wi-Fi in multiple shopping areas throughout Greater Cincinnati.
  • Upgrading APs and improving bandwidth in college dormitories.
  • Giving a local hospital the capacity to connect up to 30 wireless devices in patient rooms.
  • Delivering world-class Wi-Fi access to a hub airport.

For an in-depth account, check out how we gave a Midwest hub airport the capacity to provide Wi-Fi to everybody in the terminals on the busiest travel days. Download the free case study here.


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