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Informatics Wireless policy

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This page sets out the School's policy on the use of wireless devices.

Because wireless networking spectrum is a scarce resource, it is the School's policy that its use be regulated, as follows:

  1. Users may make use of the University's centrally-provided wireless networking service, subject to its conditions of use and any additional eduroam conditions as applicable.
  2. Users must not create additional wireless networks without prior approval.
  3. Users operating unapproved wireless networks may be required to disable them, failing which to remove the offending equipment.
  4. Additional wireless networks will only be agreed subject to a sufficient case being made, and on condition that other legitimate users are not unduly affected. Technical conditions may be imposed to mitigate the effect on other users.
  5. Any such approved wireless networks will be reviewed periodically. Users may be asked to remove them if the School then deems the justification insufficient or that there is a higher-priority use for the spectrum.

Discussion

Wireless networking spectrum is a scarce resource. In the 2.4GHz band (“802.11b/g”) there are essentially only three non-overlapping channels available. Things are not quite as tight in the 5GHz band (“802.11a”), but there is by no means generous provision there either. To make matters worse, these are not dedicated WiFi bands, but are shared with bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, radar installations, baby alarms, and so on. This makes provision of a reliable wireless service in the Forum difficult.

The problem is this: because of all the steel and concrete, we need to have quite a number of access points to cover as many nooks and crannies as we can. However, there are open spaces too, and as a result many of the cells overlap with several neighbours, above and below as well as on the same floor. The access points do their best to negotiate good channel allocations, trying to avoid each other and otherwise busy or noisy channels where possible, but don’t always succeed.

Any additional wireless activity is therefore likely to have a negative impact on the service for the rest of the users in the Forum. This makes it essential that anyone contemplating operating any kind of wireless equipment in the Forum must discuss this with the support team beforehand. Please submit a support request in the usual way. This includes both WiFi networking and any other use of the same wireless bands.

Please be aware that many pieces of equipment may have a wireless mode of operation, and in some cases this is even enabled by default. If there is a corresponding “wired” mode, we would always recommend using that instead, as this is faster as well as being more secure and reliable. In such cases, the wireless side should be turned off. Examples of these devices have included backup appliances and some multimedia equipment.

We have also noticed cases of phones and other similar portable appliances being operated in access-point mode. If you have this enabled on yours for whatever reason, please remember to turn it off again. Turn off bluetooth as well, while you’re at it. You’ll find your battery life is better too!

Last reviewed: 
19/05/2017

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