Technical problems, ‘rogue points’ foul up college wireless

by Cait Conner

Technical components cause Simpson College’s wireless internet to perform poorly in some locations on campus.“Unfortunately there are numerous components that make the issues more complex and hard to diagnose,” Paul Crittenden, Simpson’s computer system administrator, said.The equipment which controlled the campus’s wireless service had begun to reach its capacity and had some problems with connecting to newer models of phones and computers. These problems have arisen on other college campus’, which runs the same equipment as Simpson.“Meru, our wireless vendor, finally diagnosed the problem and recommended that we replace the equipment, which we did over holiday break,” Crittenden said.In addition to the equipment causing the wireless to act up, the wireless access points were experiencing interference from non Simpson owned wireless access points. “We call these rogue wireless access points because they are not part of the Simpson’s wireless system,” Crittenden said. These could be owned by individuals or groups, such as: Indianola Public schools, whose wireless has caused connection issues within Simpson and owned apartment buildings. In addition, residential home owners, that have wireless in their homes, can potentially cause problems.Many non college owned wireless devices have been detected in our student resident halls, as well. For example, students using his or her cell phone as an access point. Once we are notified, we can change the frequency Simpson’s system operates on to try to avoid interference, Crittenden says.“Sometimes it’s hard to track down mobile hot spots,” Crittenden said. Crittenden assures that in regards to the residence halls, they are working with Meru to determine if they have proper placement of the wireless access points within each building according to the current patterns of wireless consumption in the buildings.“We have sent floor plans and current wireless access point placement to our wireless vendor and files that show patterns of wireless use…Meru, our wireless vendor, is analyzing the information to determine if the access points are correctly placed, and if there is adequate wireless coverage in the building,” Crittenden said.Building materials are also taken into account when diagnosing the problem as the materials may affect the transmission of the wireless signal, Crittenden says.In 2009, Simpson set up wireless to support about 1,500 wireless devices. Now in 2013, Crittenden says they have detected about 3500 wireless devices connected to the network.“Part of the issue is the amazing growth of wireless mobile devices on campus,” Crittenden said.Students can help by reporting their wireless problems, so that the staff can identify the problem and fix issues more quickly. Students can report problems to the email: [email protected] , calling campus extension x1411 or by following “the report a technology issue link” within Stormfront, Crittenden says.