The Office of Information Technology (OIT) is standardizing on a single wireless platform in order to offer seamless wireless service across the Twin Cities and Rochester campuses, as well as Extension Services and Research Outreach Center sites across the state. The 802.11 protocol is unlicensed and must work with interfering broadcasts (such as Bluetooth devices and microwave ovens).
Increased Data Rate
OIT is currently using next-generation 802.11N APs, which are designed to increase wireless network speeds. Initial data rates could be in the 70-100 Mbps range, with data rates climbing over time to the 150-300 Mbps range. These numbers are peak speed rates. An end user’s experience varies in more populated areas because wireless is a shared medium.
Legacy Client Support
New system APs provide backward compatibility and support for legacy 802.11 a/b/g clients.
The wireless network supports devices such as laptops, PDAs, cellular phones, and other specialized wireless devices. Some cases may require higher density AP deployment in order to work properly. An example of this is wireless voice over IP (VOIP).
OIT uses system-wide SSIDs across campus. The SSID of "UofM," provides authenticated but unencrypted access. A second SSID called "UofM Secure" offers WPA2 encryption. The third, called "UofM Guest," which provides unencrypted access, is available to guests of the University but with limited access. The fourth SSID called "UofM Simple" is an unadvertised service which offers MAC address authentication for devices which are unable to authenticate to the wireless network. A new SSID called "Eduroam" has been added which allows guests from other participating Universities to get access using their own credentials. We have reciprocating access using our own internet id at their Universities.
Special or Non-Broadcast SSIDs
The wireless system enables OIT to define localized or non-broadcast SSIDs in order to support site-specific or single-purpose wireless applications that require segmentation from the general-purpose end-user SSIDs. In extremely rare cases, OIT grants requests to deploy new SSIDs. There must be a business case and complete review by OIT for any special SSIDs due to their limited number. OIT does not consider requests which would replicate an existing service.
Authentication and Security
Full access to the wireless network for students and staff requires central authentication based on Internet ID (X500). In addition, encrypted access to the wireless network using 802.1X technology is available for added security. The system also supports VPN pass through.
Guest and Visitor Services
Authorized network administrators are able to define guest user accounts for wireless network access in Service Gateway. Visitors to campus may also use the "UofM Guest" SSID.
The wireless network is capable of supporting limited voice. Wide-ranging support for voice applications such as VoIP or Softphone clients requires high-density AP deployment. Please see our Voice Network Services
Service Support and Repair
The wireless network is designed to run 24/7, but not all elements of the system trigger immediate support if there is an overnight or weekend hardware or system failure. High impact failures at the core node level require and receive immediate attention. However, the failure of a single AP outside of normal business hours does not necessarily require immediate service. If an AP fails during the evening or weekend and it is not accessible or does not impact service for a large number of people, it is not repaired until normal business hours resume.
There is limited outdoor coverage. Outside locations are added as needed on a case-by-case basis.
Caveats & Limitations
The nature of the 802.11 standard and basic laws of physics place limits on wireless networks. Physical impediments such as thick walls, metal structures, and trees all interfere with radio wave propagation and thus cut down the range of system APs. There are some areas where coverage is spotty or difficult. OIT makes every reasonable effort to augment and tune wireless coverage as needed. However, in some cases it may be more feasible to use wired etherjack service instead of wireless.