What's Up With the Wifi?

wifi symbol

Many students have been raising concerns regarding issues with the wifi here on campus. Behind the Bricks reached out to ITS to discuss what is going on and how RIT is currently handling it. What many students don’t know is that the problems were primarily due to the fact that RIT has been installing a new and improved network, and from here on out it should be some high-speed smooth sailing.

The Root of the Problem

As many of you know, there have been some recent issues with the wifi on campus. Although not all issues are within RIT’s control, ITS is working hard with our vendors to address each issue as they occur. The recent problems are actually due to major changes RIT is making to the network to reach peak performances. However, because the network is undergoing a major upgrade, there are more incidents. So why do we have issues with the wifi sometimes? Greg Gardner, Senior Network Manager at ITS, broke it down for us to understand. “You can think of wifi as essentially a conversation between your device and the wireless access points in the area. Just as both sides of a conversation need to collaborate to make a good discussion, both sides of the wifi conversation need to operate well in order to have a good wifi experience. Also just as a loud airplane passing by can disrupt a verbal conversation, there are outside influences that can occasionally disrupt wifi. No matter the cause of a problem, ITS is dedicated to diagnosing and resolving every wifi issue that folks in the community run into. However, our folks can't resolve problems if people in the community assume there’s some back-end problem and don’t report them. Long story short, our goal is to give you the best wifi experience possible, but in order to do that we need you to let us know a problem happens, what the problem is, what device you’re using, and when/where the problem occurred.” Because RIT is a rapidly growing university, there have been record high traffic volumes that have hit the network. The growing number of devices called for a change: installing new network from top to bottom to develop a system that will work better for everyone.

The Response to the Growing Bandwidth Demand

One of the network upgrades that RIT has just finished installing is new wireless technology on campus. It is called 802.11ac wave2 wireless technology. If you’re anything like me, you have no clue what this means. In basic terms, ITS specifically designed this network to enhance and improve the user experience by providing ‘industry-leading network speeds and performance’. Although ITS believes this network is the best option for on-campus wifi, it unfortunately isn’t always going to be perfect. Wifi can only perform it’s best when your mobile device is close to an Access Point. As you travel further from an Access Point the performance quality decreases. Additionally, because the system RIT is employing is the latest technology, they have had to fix issues as they’ve come to them. However, RIT will be one of the few large networks to use a system like this - and it will be better than ever. The good news is that RIT has significantly increased the number of access points on campus from 4,000 to 7,000. Adding more has allowed them to turn the power down on each access point, so they don’t interfere with neighboring ones. About a year and a half ago, download speeds were approximately 50Mb. The new improvements will increase the overall performance on the network. The new wireless technology allows users to download at a 500Mb speed with a good client device.

Moving Forward

If you experience a problem with the wifi, contact the RIT Service Center, help.rit.edu or 585-475-5000. Doing so will not only alert them of issues that students are facing, but the RSC has amassed a fairly large knowledge base of possible wireless device and network interaction issues and solutions. They may be able to help you very quickly. If they cannot, there are processes in place to escalate issues within ITS to assist each user with problem resolution. ITS takes the time to look at every problem to find a solution. If the problem is ongoing, it is taken very seriously. As an example, one student reported a ticket for poor wireless connection, and in response, ITS added access points to that location to improve the wireless connection and resolve the issue. Don’t think that reporting problems, big or small, will go unnoticed; they sincerely won’t. Last year, there were 500 situations in which an employee of ITS worked extra hours to implement the new network. The employees truly care about your wireless experience. It can be difficult to track all 44,000 devices spread around various locations on campus.  ITS is constantly anticipating current and future community needs. With the new network, ITS is monitoring the system to ensure peak performance and they are constantly working hard to find the source of each and every problem. Here’s to smooth internet surfing from here on out Tigers!