Network: Performance Issues

This article is directed at the residence hall community but also applies to other areas of the campus.

St. Cloud State University has a well done Youtube video called "How to Improve Your Wi-Fi Service" that details many of the issues addressed in this article.

What can I do to improve my wireless?

Wireless printing is desirable in residential settings but very disruptive in a dense living spaces such as our residence halls. Turn off wireless printers and use a direct connection, typically a USB cable. If you notice others using wireless printers ask them to do the same. Verify the wireless has been turned off in the printer settings. An online search by model will return instructions on disabling wireless.

Many times poor wireless is a result of malware, adware, viruses or other malicious software. There are many tools available for the diagnosis and removal of malicious software. DoTS can provide guidance for removal of malicious software.

Be on the lookout for other interfering devices. If you notice devices magically interacting with the “Internet,” they may be an interferer. Encourage the person to contact DoTS with the name of the device. This will help DoTS build a better list of interference causing devices.

Wi-Fi hotspots from cell phone companies, i.e. MyFi’s, operating as Wi-Fi hotspots. Wi-Fi hotspots either in the form of a Mi-Fi or cellphones put into hotspot mode are considered major interferers. You can, however, connect a device directly to a hotspot using a USB cable (referred to as  "USB tethering"). Discourage other residents from using wireless hotspots while in densely populated areas.

If you have moved from one room to another, your computer may be holding a connection with the previous access point. In Windows, you can right click on the "wireless signal" icon and click "diagnosis" to resolve the issue. On many systems, you can turn the Wi-Fi off and on (either through software or a hardware switch on your device). This forces your device to find the closer access point. Unfortunately, this is a feature of your mobile device and we cannot force it to make this change for you.

What is the university doing to improve my wireless?

The Division of Technology Services (DoTS) is working jointly with the department of Residence Life to improve the Wi-Fi Internet services offered in the Residence Halls. We are progressing along a multi-year plan to improve the density of network equipment to increase the coverage in all of the buildings. Enterprise grade Wi-Fi equipment is very costly and it is essential to stage the expansion in controllable packages to reduce the impact on your housing rates. Please notify us of any dead zones in the buildings. While we may not be able to immediately address the coverage issue, it does steer where we invest available funding into each year of the cycle.

DoTS and Residence Life are also working to create awareness to the interference issues and to educate university staff on how to address the community-related issues caused by interference. We need your assistance in working with your neighbors to address any interference issues. If you have identified any interference devices not on the known interference producer list below, please alert us us so that we can research it and add it to the list.

Known interference producers

Wi-Fi has been around for over a decade now and there are a number of known interferer. Some of them we can mitigate but most can only be mitigated by not using them at all. Here is a list of interference producers that we have identified with a brief description of what their impact is and suggested remediation techniques you may be able to use. We continue to update this list as interferers are confirmed.

Microwave ovens

Microwave ovens cook by directing 2.4 Ghz radio frequencies into your food. These frequencies can exit the machine and they then are a "broad spectrum" interference while cooking. This interference has a large footprint over large square footage and is a very "loud" and "intrusive" interferer. We suggest that any longer term cooking be done in the basement kitchens, if applicable, or that you use the convention stove tops and ovens provided in the floor kitchen for long cooking needs.

Printers

Wi-Fi enabled printers are the second most common and most impactful interferers. The "ad-hoc" wireless mode will emulate an access point so your other devices can find and print to your printer. Most printers do not participate in or respect the Internet Wi-Fi network. Turn off the Wi-Fi option on your printer. Instead use a USB cable to print to your device.

Go Pro and other Wi-Fi enabled cameras

GoPro cameras are similar to printers in that they share in "ad-hoc" mode which emulates a wireless access point so you can download your photos or videos directly from the device. Turn off the Wi-Fi mode and connect directly to the camera using an USB cable. The download speeds you will get through the USB cable will be much better than the Wi-Fi direct connect as well.

Xbox game controllers

The controllers use a Wi-Fi direct connect between the controllers and the consoles. They do not participate in or respect the the Internet Wi-Fi network. They are low impact but sporadic interferers. Too many controllers in a close proximity to each other could become a larger interferer to your other devices.

3G/4G hotspots

Hotspots or "Mi-Fi" devices provide a mobile wireless access point that is backed by the cellular network provided by carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile. These devices (or app on your smartphone) often have different power settings and can be detrimental to a small to larger square footage footprint. Many of these devices can be used with "USB Tethering" mode and we recommend that you use the USB cable to connect through your device. Please disable the Wi-Fi sharing when used on campus. There are only three channels available in the 802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz space and your device is going to interfere directly with our provided services. These are considered rouge access points and by policy are forbidden.

Bluetooth headsets, speakers, streamers, controllers

Devices that communicate with each other on very short distances over Bluetooth use the Wi-Fi space as well. Bluetooth is a direct competing technology to Wi-Fi and it can have a minor to a completely devastating impact on Wi-Fi services around the devices. Wireless headsets used for Skyping, speakers for streaming Pandora or some game controllers will use Bluetooth to communicate from device to device. It is suggested that these devices not be used in the residence hall environment. We recommend a number of lower cost alternatives to accomplish the same task. For example, instead of Bluetooth speakers, use a set of inexpensive wired speakers.

Wireless speakers, cameras or other devices

If wireless speakers, cameras or other devices are not using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to make their wireless magic occur, then they are probably using a proprietary means to provide their wireless services. These devices can be very detrimental, causing as much as 100% interruption to the Internet Wi-Fi during their use for up to 300 feet around those devices. These devices are not permitted in the buildings at all because they are direct jammers to network services. Alternative wired options need to be found to provide the same services between the accessory and your tablet or computer.

Internet-enabled TVs

Some televisions will allow you to connect directly with our campus network and register the device in the My Devices Portal. Some televisions will "bridge" through your laptop or tablet but do not connect directly to the network. There is no standard to Internet enabled televisions; some televisions may not be an interferer and some others may be.