Overloaded Wi-Fi network causes connection difficulty

Some students at the University of Manitoba have had problems when it comes to using and connecting to the U of M wireless network, a problem that could be caused by an overloaded network, reports the U of M office of information services and technology (IST).

Jordan Cayer, a first-year U1 student said, “It depends on where I am on campus. Sometimes when I am in University Centre I have difficulty getting onto the secure network [ . . . ], but say for example when I am in Engineering or Wallace it works a lot better.”

Jordan Hanaway, a first-year Engineering student said the secure network is hard to access while using Windows 7.

Marvin Kocay, the director of Information Services and Technology (IST) as well as the director for network services around the University of Manitoba Campus explained that the unsecured or non-encrypted network is only capable of handling 1,000 IP addresses, or 1,000 users at a time, whereas the secure or encrypted network is capable of handling 2,000 users simultaneously.

“The university in general is struggling with IP addresses. We’ve used so many [and now] they are all used up. So what we are trying to do is capture more IP address[es] by rearranging the order and how blocks have been assigned. We are also trying to capture IP address[es] from the Bannatyne campus because they have extra.”

Kocay added that one of the issues they are facing is with smart phones or Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as iPhones and iPod Touches.

“What they’ll do, because they are Wi-Fi-enabled, is they come and grab an IP address, without even wanting to.”

When the Wi-Fi is left running on one of these devices it will still connect to the network and monopolize an IP address preventing another computer from potentially connecting. This happens even if the owner of the device is not specifically using it to go online.

Kocay also explained that IST has a campus upgrade fund that has been going on for a number of years.

Slowly the University of Manitoba has been running cabling throughout all of the buildings, and once that is done they will add the Wi-Fi support. Krocay says there are about eight buildings on the Fort Garry Campus that still need to be done.

“When installing access points, we meet with the units in the faculties and we talk about traffic patterns, and we do our best to determine where the heavy usage will be and where we need more access points to have better coverage. We do the best we can in anticipating where the wireless access is going to be.”

Currently IST is implementing Wi-Fi services in Architecture two, Buhler, Education and Tier.
Kocay was asked specifically about connecting to the secure network with a Windows 7 operating system. He explained that it is possible. At the moment, Windows 7 is not listed in online support guides to assist students with connecting to the networks, but it is possible to do so.

Kocay encourages students to use the encrypted network.

“We do encourage people to use the encrypted network and we do know it’s a bit complicated to get set up. But, we do encourage it because [otherwise] what they are sending is not encrypted and can be snooped.”

Kocay also added that they are working on putting in a new communications protocol to “greatly ease” connecting to the secure connection. He admits that it is “a little on the complicated side.” They are hoping to complete the upgrade over the summer.

Kocay wanted to let students know that they are aware that there are access points that do become overloaded, but IST is looking for options to add more access points and resources to make the networks run more efficiently. He recommends that if you are transferring large data files that you plug in, because you will get more consistent network speeds.