Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Get the Most Out of Wireless in On-Campus Housing

Information Technology Services (ITS) provides broad wireless access to the data network on central campus, including public green spaces, most campus buildings, and both the common areas and resident rooms in the residence halls and Frederiksen Court apartments. Providing reliable access to such a vast wireless network requires constant diligence by both ITS and those connecting to the network.

Following is some information about how ITS is working to improve the campus and on-campus housing wireless networks, and what you can do to create the best wireless networking experience for both yourself, and those around you.

As part of its ongoing Campus-Wide Wireless Upgrades project to improve wireless access on campus and in on-campus housing, ITS is:

Wireless
  • Surveying wireless radio frequency (RF) strengths in all campus buildings and residence halls to determine the location of new wireless access points.
  • Adding new wireless access points, 1,000 new access points in the residence halls alone. Wiring of Ethernet jacks for the new access points begins April 2014.
  • Upgrading the wireless network to handle the newest 802.11ac[1] wireless protocol.
  1. First generation 802.11ac, up to 433Mb/s with 80MHz channel width (theoretical speeds under perfect conditions). High density environments like the residence halls will not sustain 80MHz channel widths due to interference. Smaller channel widths are necessary to avoid overlapping channels and reduce interference. Marketing materials will list 433Mb/s, but actual user speeds will be closer to 70-100Mb with 20MHz channel widths used in high density environments. 802.11ac only operates on 5GHz band, which has less interference, but shorter range.

If you are having issues accessing or using Iowa State's wireless network, first make sure your device is configured properly by following these basic steps.

Mobile Device Configuration
  1. Make sure you're connected to the correct network (SSID). You should be connected to "ISU-CARDINAL" or "eduroam".
  2. Disable and reenable wireless on your device. Your device may not be attached to the nearest wireless access point.
  3. Make sure your device is obtaining a valid IP address. If your IP address is "10.11.x.x" or "10.12.xx", you need to Register Your Wireless Device to Access the Iowa State Network.
  4. Try connecting your device to the 5GHz band.[2]
  5. Contact the Solution Center at 515-294-4000 if you are still having trouble. We are here to help!
  1. 5GHz isn't available on all wireless devices, and configuration varies by device. If you aren't sure or are having problems switching to the 5GHz band, please contact the Solution Center at 515-294-4000.

The main reason a wireless network performs poorly is interference from other networks and devices on the same frequency.[3] You may be able to help! The following are additional steps you can take to reduce wireless interference and improve the wireless performance for yourself and those around you in the residence halls.

  • Ethernet
    Connect as many devices as possible to the wired Ethernet jack in your room.

    This includes networked desktop computers, TVs, Blu-ray players, DVRs, printers, and game consoles. Any devices in your room that aren't portable should be wired to your room's dedicated data jack with a Category5 Ethernet cable.

    For residence hall rooms with only one data jack, Ethernet splitters are provided at no charge and can be obtained at hall front desks (not available in Buchanan, Eaton, Martin, Maple, and Frederiksen Court). Ethernet switches can also be purchased at local retailers, online, or at TechCYte for a nominal price.

  • Personal Wireless Router
    Disable personal wireless routers and use Iowa State's network.

    Personal routers cause significant interference with the Iowa State wireless network resulting in issues for yourself and those around you. Additionally there is a security risk for users who attach a private wireless router to the Iowa State network. These users are assuming legal responsibility for the actions of anyone that uses their private wireless router.

  • Wireless Printer
    Disable ad hoc networks created by wireless printers.

    ITS sees a large number of printers on campus that create their own access point upon installation (likely without the user knowing) and cause interference with the Iowa State wireless network. The following steps can be taken to ensure that your printer is not one of those devices.

    1. Connect your printer using an ethernet cable to the wall jack in your room. Alternatively, if you need to connect to the printer wirelessly, please configure the printer to connect to Iowa State's wireless network (ISU-CARDINAL).
    2. Disable your printer's "Direct Print" feature. These printers can act as their own access point by self-generating an SSID and cause interference. You will need to go to the manufacturer's support page for your printer for instructions on how to disable this.
    3. Contact the Solution Center at 515-294-4000 if you are still having trouble connecting the printer to the Iowa State network or if your laptop or mobile device sees a printer network name. We are here to help!

  • Cordless Phone
    Limit the use of other devices that may interfere with the wireless network.

    Other devices such as cordless telephones, microwave ovens, and Bluetooth-enabled devices (keyboards, mice, and headsets) can interfere with the frequency that Iowa State's wireless network uses. While discontinuing use of these devices may not always be feasible, be aware they may be causing interference and disrupting the performance of the wireless network in the immediate area around you.

  1. ITS regularly detects over 500 rogue access points in the residence halls. These devices are greatly interfering with the wireless service that ITS provides. This includes personal routers that are in rooms and printers or other wireless devices creating ad hoc networks. Other things that interfere with the 2.4GHz band include microwaves, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices. Additionally there is a security risk for users who attach a private wireless routers to the Iowa State network. These users are assuming responsibility for the actions of any clients that use their private wireless router to access the Iowa State network.