Wi-Fi Upgrade Project

Wi-Fi is now the primary method by which students, staff, and faculty access the campus network and all other IT services. Our previous wireless network design and coverage did not adequately support the growing level of use, necessitating changes to the system. Over the past several years, Berkeley IT has worked to implement improved Wi-Fi service for campus but this work has been delayed at times when funding was not available to proceed. Despite these challenges, we have continued to make progress towards our goal of upgrading Wi-Fi infrastructure for all of campus. This work is part of a larger program of Network User Experience Improvements

Goal

The goal of this project is to improve the density of our Wi-Fi network throughout campus over the next several years to improve performance and reliability, improve the campus user experience, increase the efficiency of our networking services and better support teaching and research.

We will achieve this by implementing a modern Wi-Fi network infrastructure that supports 802.11ac/ax 5.0GHz connectivity throughout campus, with a primary focus on educational and research spaces.

Project Scope

  • Our previous wireless infrastructure manufactured by Cisco Systems has aged and reached the end of its supported life. This project replaced our aging infrastructure with a modern solution manufactured by HPE/Aruba. 
  • Extensive installation of data cabling has been completed to support the installation of approximately 8,000 new access points and relocation of an additional 4,000.
  • Cabling for relocated and abated old Wi-Fi access points were removed.
  • This work was funded through June 2020 with a plan to have 45% of approximately 12,000 total WAPs (Wireless Access Points) installed by then. This estimate was based on the current projected design and modifications to the Wi-Fi system.

Current Status

All planned Wi-Fi updates have been made as of August 2022. As the project has progressed, the goal for the number of WAPs to be deployed has decreased as a result of detailed design planning. The current goal for full Wi-Fi coverage is around 10,300 WAPs. We have installed 6,533 WAPs on campus and 3,417 in residence halls.From 2021 to 2022, we replaced over 800 obsolete access points that do not support modern services in multiple buildings on campus. This work was completed in October 2022 but we still have ~150 WAPs to abate and expect to have that done by April 2023. 

This Wi-Fi Upgrade Project Map shows Wi-Fi upgrades that have been completed, outdoor access points, and highlights Wi-Fi areas where there is poor or obsolete coverage (opportunity for future upgrades, depending on funding).

To see the difference between previous and current Wi-Fi design, view this before/after diagram showing the improvements gained in Wi-Fi coverage for the Valley Life Sciences Building (VLSB), one of the upgrades we have completed.

FAQs

When will you be improving Wi-Fi in my building? 

View the project map for current project status, further Wi-Fi upgrades will be completed when funding is acquired. 

My building has been listed as already upgraded, but my performance on Wi-Fi is still poor. What should I do? 

Submit a ticket for an ITCS consultant to help. In order to take advantage of the upgrades to the campus Wi-Fi network, please ensure that you have a modern device with good quality Wi-Fi, in other words, one which supports 802.11ac “Dual Band.”  USB adapters which improve Wi-Fi capability are available for laptops and desktops and can be a low-cost solution to improving an older device’s connectivity.

I have my own Wi-Fi router because a) yours doesn’t work, b) yours doesn’t do something I’d like it to do, or c) because I’m not sure how all this works. What should I do? 

All Wi-Fi devices share the same amount of radiofrequency and thus bandwidth. Operating your own Wi-Fi router reduces network performance and stability for both yourself and all other users of the Wi-Fi network in your vicinity. If you have specific network requirements which the current campus Wi-Fi offerings do not support, please open a service request with bIT-Network Services regarding your Wi-Fi needs at your location. If you are utilizing your own Wi-Fi router because of poor performance at your location, please contact ITCS at (510) 664-9000, submit a ticket online, or email itcsshelp@berkeley.edu

I am concerned about health issues having a Wi-Fi access point in my office/near my desk.

There are no known health impacts from the radio transmissions utilized in Wi-Fi networking. All bIT-Network ServicesWi-Fi installations comply fully with campus EH&S safety requirements for non-ionizing radiation

What can I expect when my building is being upgraded?

  • The building manager will work with bIT and departments within the building to develop a schedule. The building manager will communicate regarding expected work plans with building occupants.
  • The building floor plan showing Wireless Access Point (WAP) locations will be reviewed with the building manager. Any adjustments to this design must be approved by bIT.
  • bIT will install cabling and WAPs to new locations.
  • bIT will remove old WAPs and cabling.
  • bIT will conduct a punch list walkthrough with the building manager and contractor to identify and resolve any issues.

If you have any performance problems with Wi-Fi after the project completes in your building, submit a ticket requesting an ITCS consultant to help.

My device doesn’t support 802.11ac/ax. What can I do? 

The ac and ax standards are designed to be reverse compatible with all previous standards. If you wish to take advantage of the upgraded standards it may be best to purchase a new mobile device. For desktops and laptops, there are many USB 802.11ac and ax adapters that have been proven on campus to provide excellent results. Contact ITCS at (510) 664-9000, submit a ticket online, or email itcsshelp@berkeley.edu for additional assistance.

Why should I use Wi-Fi instead of a wired connection? 

The majority of new computing devices on campus do not have any wired ethernet port built-in. Wired network connections require the installation of cable infrastructure which can be costly for a department. bIT-Network Services is focusing its resources on improving Wi-Fi on campus, because it is now the primary network access method. Even desktop devices can use Wi-Fi with the installation of a USB Wi-Fi adapter. ITCS can advise you of options, call (510) 664-9000, submit a ticket online, or email itcsshelp@berkeley.edu.