Faced with widespread unhappiness over campus WiFi performance, UNC at Charlotte is upgrading to new 802.11ac Wave 2 access points.
Hell hath no fury like a student with no WiFi connection. It’s a reality recognized by more and more colleges as they compete for the affections of today’s screen-addled youth. Indeed, WiFi represents an entirely new front in the amenities arms race, with schools battling to keep up with student expectations in the face of an unprecedented surge in the number of devices on campus.
“We are seeing somewhere between three and five devices per student,” said Jesse Beauman, assistant vice chancellor for enterprise infrastructure at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which is embarking on a major WiFi overhaul that is expected to last two years. “In the past three years, the use of wireless has exploded and, like most campuses, we are playing catch-up while also trying to plan for the future.”
The need to catch up is evidenced by growing unhappiness at UNCC with the performance of the current WiFi setup, which utilizes a combination of primarily 802.11n and some 802.11ac Wave 1 access points (APs). “Our biggest problem is that we have more clients than our infrastructure can handle,” said Beauman. “As students bring more and more laptops, smartphones, tablets, and wearable tech, we’re exceeding our capacity, so there have been a lot of complaints of slowness or an inability to associate with an access point.”
To resolve the problem and lay the groundwork for future service demands, the university decided to switch vendors and replace all 1,600 existing APs with 802.11ac Wave 2 APs. In October, the school took delivery of 1,200 Aruba 320 Series APs, with the goal of having them all in place by March. Ultimately, IT plans to install about 2,500 of the new APs.
(Next page: Targeting high traffic areas)