Top Three Challenges Facing Large-Scale Campus Wi-Fi Deployment

Campus

Instant and reliable internet is no longer a luxury for universities and colleges, it’s a necessity. With each student averaging three connected devices, sub-par networks just can’t support all that traffic. Any network that hasn’t been updated in the past five, or so years can be considered outdated, especially if their not up to the IEEE 802.11ac standard. Expansions are in order but it’s not enough to just upgrade your current network; you need to take the time and plan out a future proof way to give students and faculty the Wi-Fi they expect. Here are some of the challenges you may currently be facing that you’ll need to avoid when upgrading your wireless infrastructure.

Coverage

Universities are large. Not only do they have lots of buildings spread out over land, they can be spread out over cities too. Students don’t just want access inside the buildings either, they’re also going to need coverage outdoors and ideally while traveling around campus. The problem here lies in how much area an actual access point can cover. A few hundred feet of covered area isn’t going to go very far in a big university. The access points alone can send you way over budget and not only that, they APs need to be connected to the backbone for full coverage which can be extremely hard to swing, especially in areas away from the main part of campus.

Density

Even if you manage to solve the coverage issue, the actual capacity of each AP poses another challenge. Even if the AP can cover the physical area, there may be too many people in the area for the AP to handle, like a lecture hall or auditorium.This becomes even more of a concern when we think about much modern education uses media. These requirements are much too demanding for the capabilities of legacy wireless networks and is most likely the cause of most student, faculty and visitor dissatisfaction.

Security

With the increased amount of reliability higher learning institutions are placing on their wireless networks, the more sensitive data is cultivated and spread over the network. It’s more important than ever that this information be protected but without an upgraded network, the door remains wide open for hackers to steal personal information, confidential documents and other personal information. Legacy networks just don’t have the capability to secure that data.

According to Aruba Networks:

“To scale Wi-Fi across the campus, many APs are required; both for coverage as well as capacity. With hundreds to thousands of APs required and cost points well above $500 per legacy AP (not to mention the massive number of man-hours required for proper installation), the cost to deploy ubiquitous wireless can be daunting. Operating and maintaining such an environment is not much better. With no central point of automated intelligence, operating and maintaining legacy APs requires much manual intervention and on-site support that can drive up staffing requirements significantly.”

So what do you do?

Unfortunately, there’s not getting around the cost but what you can do is build a future proof network that you can easily upgrade and scale as needed. Establish a centralized control system to prevent your signals from interfering with each other and causing outages. Consider other hardware in addition to APs like switches to regulate your signals and get the most of them. Simplify your deployment because getting overly complicated with it can cause interference and low performance.

For more ways to get the most out of your network and more information about wireless switches, see this whitepaper from Aruba networks.