Campus Wireless Refresh

About this project

IST began a complete refresh of the Campus Wi-Fi network in 2020. The project is well underway, and hundreds of users are already connected to the new infrastructure. On this page you can find more information about the project, how it is progressing, and how to get support for Wi-Fi.

Project goals

  • Replace aging wireless access points.
  • Deploy Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
  • Upgrade aggregate bandwidth for Wi-Fi clients.
  • Improve failover and redundancy.
  • Deploy a network analytics and reporting engine.
  • Deploy Identity services infrastructure for network access.

Behind the scenes

Access Points

The new access points (AP) are Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) models; the latest enterprise Wi-Fi hardware available. The 802.11ax standard represents a multi-generational leap forward from the existing access points.

Controller-based Architecture

Over 6000 APs on campus do not run autonomously. All configurations, radio frequency (RF) management, and client traffic management is done by two pairs of highly available, geographically disperse, wireless LAN controllers (WLC).

In the event of a failure, each controller member can handle the entire AP load assigned to the pair. In the rare event that both members of one pair fail, the second pair of controllers can manage every AP on campus.

Wireless Core Routing

In 2019, IST completed a redesign of the wireless network core, which provided increased bandwidth and resiliency. Using this work as a starting point, the total wireless bandwidth has been upgraded to 80Gbps.

Login

The authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) system for wireless has been completely replaced. The distributed deployment of AAA services is ready to handle the ever-increasing number of wireless devices on campus. The system provides an extremely granular set of policy controls that will support local and guest clients.

Management and Analytics

The combined number of AP’s, users, devices and locations can make management and troubleshooting a network of this size extremely challenging. To support the infrastructure mentioned above, IST has deployed a next generation wireless management platform. The configuration of new APs, troubleshooting of wireless issues, and collection of statistics is all done in a single management interface. Baselines and behavioral analytics are automatically generated and compared with the current state of the network. The result is faster alerting of issues, and shorter time-to-resolution.

What’s new for end users

Guest portal

The uw-wifi-setup-no-encryption wireless SSID will soon be decommissioned. A new wireless network, “UniversityOfWaterloo”, will begin to appear in the list of available wireless networks across campus.

The UniversityOfWaterloo SSID will remain unencrypted, and should not be used for sensitive communications. WatIAM credentials will not allow access through the portal page.

This new SSID will support multiple use cases, such as:

  • MAC authentication for devices that cannot join eduroam
  • Captive portal authentication for WatIAM users
  • Captive portal self-registration for University guests

What’s staying the same

Eduroam (in name only)

The recommended wireless SSID on campus will continue to be eduroam. When you connect to eduroam in one of the refreshed buildings (see below), your device will be on-boarded to the new infrastructure. Remember to use the format username@uwaterloo.ca when prompted for your credentials.

AP placements

In most campus locations the old APs will be swapped out, one for one, with the upgraded models. The performance improvement from this change will be significant.A select number of high-density areas will undergo an AP placement redesign prior to deployment of the new APs. Over time, other areas may be reviewed and redesigned to further increase performance.

 

    How you can help

    Report issues

    The new management system will help proactively identify areas of concern. However, filing of problem reports will continue to be important in quickly resolving wireless issues.

    Keep your devices up-to-date

    A leading cause of wireless issues for users is out of date device software. Android-based phones are particularly susceptible to software bugs that can prevent the device from joining an enterprise wireless network. Regularly updating your device software is recommended by most hardware vendors.

    Remove private wireless APs

    Private wireless access points, sometimes called “rogue APs”, can degrade wireless services provided by the University. The Linksys, Asus, or TP-Link wireless router sitting in your office, or in your residence room, can cause your neighbors to have a poor wireless experience. They may, in turn, decide to run their own rogue AP to mitigate the issues, causing a cascading effect.

    If the University-provided wireless service is unable to meet a specific requirement, rogue AP approval can be requested.

    For information about why rogue APs require approval, and the approval form, please see: https://uwaterloo.ca/information-systems-technology/about/organizational-structure/technology-integrated-services-tis/network-services-resources/wireless-what-you-need-know#rogues

    Support

    Please visit the links below for wireless support or submit a support request.

    Building refresh status

    All campus buildings with existing IST provided Wi-Fi are in scope for the wireless refresh. Once a building has been scheduled for replacements, it will be listed in the table below.

    Buildings not listed are currently in the planning stages.

    Building code Status Completion date
    ARC Refreshed May 4th 2021
    B1 Refreshed April 9th 2021
    B2 Refreshed April 15th 2021
    BAU Refreshed June 2nd 2021
    BMH Scheduled  
    C2
    Refreshed
     
    CGR Refreshed March 18th 2021
    CLV Refreshed July 26st 2021
    CMH Refreshed June 21st 2021
    DMS Refreshed March 17th 2021
    DMS2 Refreshed March 17th 2021
    E6 Refreshed March 22nd 2021
    E7 Refreshed May 3rd 2021
    EC1 Refreshed March 16th 2021
    EC2 Refreshed March 16th 2021
    EC3 Refreshed March 16th 2021
    EC4 Refreshed March 16th 2021
    EC5 Refreshed March 16th 2021
    ECH Refreshed April 21st 2021
    EIT Refreshed March 25th 2021
    EV1 Scheduled  
    EV2 Refreshed June 3rd 2021
    EV3 Refreshed June 3rd 2021
    EVOL Refreshed March 16th 2021
    GSC Refreshed June 21st 2021
    HS Refreshed March 25th 2021
    MHR Refreshed August 30th 2021
    MKV Refreshed May 27th 2021
    QNC Refreshed June 3rd 2021
    RAC Refreshed March 25th 2021
    RA2 Refreshed March 25th 2021
    REV Scheduled  
    V1 Scheduled  
    UWP - BECK Refreshed July 29th 2021
    UWP - EBY Refreshed June 21st 2021
    UWP - WAT Refreshed August 30th 2021
    UWP - WELL Refreshed July 29th 2021
    UWP - WIL Refreshed July 29th 2021
    UWP - WOOL Refreshed June 3rd 2021