Residence hall Wi-Fi re-wire project aims to improve connectivity

As ITS continuously strives to improve connectivity across campus, a residence hall re-wire project is underway to provide students living in residence halls with faster and more secure internet connections at a time when they rely on it most.

There are three physical updates that comprise the project: switches, structured cabling, and Wi-Fi access points. Wi-Fi access points are in every dorm room, which rely on the structured cabling to connect to switches that connect devices to a network. After the updates, students can expect their Wi-Fi to support speeds around 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) compared to the previous 10 megabits per second (Mbps). For example, if downloading 100 photos at 10 Mbps it will take 2.6 minutes, the improved Wi-Fi speed of 1 Gbps will download the same number of photos in 1.68 seconds.

Red and yellow graphic showing how your devices connect to the internet via structured cabling, switches, and routers.

The previous structured cabling installed in residence halls provided the connection speeds necessary at the time of installation but no longer support the speed needed to attend classes online, participate in collaborative video teleconferences, stream entertainment services and more. As the COVID-19 crisis increased the demand for online and remote capabilities, the urgency to start and complete the project rose.

IT manager, Connor Kuehl, and his colleagues on the ITS physical infrastructure team are responsible for managing the project as well as designing the scope. The matrixed project team led by Eric Brown and Maricel Lloyd then implement the project.

“The updates initially emerged out of our dedication to providing students with reliable services. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, we felt an increased need for the re-wire project to help keep students connected,” Kuehl said.

The driving force behind the project timeline was student input. The buildings that received the updates first were those that had historically reported issues with internet. Beyond that, the order was determined by what would be most efficient and effective.

The network engineering team led by IT manager Michael Broders, is responsible for the deployment, maintenance, and support of the university network.

“We configure and verify connectivity of the network switch hardware as well as coordinate with the physical infrastructure team when the wiring is ready. We then transition clients from the old network cabling to the new,” Broders said.

The COVID-19 crisis has caused more classes to move online than ever before. Because of the increased demand for stronger bandwidth, the Department of Residence also saw value in the re-wire project knowing what it would mean for students completing classes online. Peter Englin, associate vice president of campus life, agrees that dependable Wi-Fi is integral to the student experience at Iowa State.

“We want to provide students with the tools to be successful, both academically and personally, and having access to dependable Wi-Fi plays a key role in that,” Englin said.

Students can look forward to a successful spring semester knowing that whether they take their class from a lecture hall or their dorm room, ITS is working diligently to keep them connected.

Map of Iowa State campus showing which building have received the updates

What can you expect when it’s your turn?

Students will see contractors in their hallway and the installers will need access to their space for a day or two. The teams involved will try to keep interruptions to a minimum.

What should you do if you experience network issues?

You can contact the IT Solution Center by submitting an incident report on the IT Portal, by calling 515-294-4000 or by sending an email to solution@iastate.edu. You can also escalate issues through your hall senate leadership channels. If you think the issue is directly caused by the rewiring project you can note that in the incident report.