Web Services Council

Wireless Network FAQ

It is strongly recommended that you do not use wireless networking (WiFi) when taking tests or when involved in critical applications that may impact your grade if the data were to be lost, corrupted or compromised.
There is no guaranty of coverage, usability, security or reliability.

As of May 10, 2010 802.11b Wireless Clients are not supported on the ISU wireless network. 802.11a, g, and n are supported.
As of May 14, 2012 WEP encryption is no longer supported on the ISU wireless network. WPA2 encryption is supported.

Will the Wireless LAN replace my current "wired" connection?

Wireless connectivity gives mobility and flexibility, however, it is not as robust or secure as a wired connection. Wireless technology is a shared technology.  What that means is, everyone using the wireless connection in your building is competing for the same resource.  The more users, the slower the response.  It is also less secure and susceptible to many types of interference. We do not recommend replacing a hard wired network connection with a wireless connection in offices or instructor podiums.
It is strongly recommended that you do not use wireless networking (WiFi) when taking tests or when involved in critical applications.

What area does the Wireless Network cover?

5th Street Apartments (Housing)
Administration Building
Albion Hall
Alumni House
Armory Building (Diesel Mechanic Program)
Boise (ISU-Meridian Health Science Center)
Campus West Apartments (Housing)
College of Business
College of Education
Dental Clinic
Dyer Hall (Housing)
Facilities Services (M&O)
Fine Arts
Frazier Hall
Garrison Hall (Housing)
Graveley Hall
Holt Arena
Hutchinson Quadrangle "Quad"
Energy Systems Technology & Education Center (ESTEC)
Idaho Falls Bennion Student Union
Idaho Falls Center for Higher Education
Idaho Falls Tingy Administration
Idaho Falls Health Education Bldg (EITC Campus)
Liberal Arts
LS Lecture Center
MacIntosh Manor (Housing)
Nichols Hall (Housing)
Owen-Redfield (Housing)
Performing Arts (Rotunda area only)
Physical Science
Pond Student Union
Pulling Courts (Housing)
Red Hill
Reed Gym
Rendezvous (Classroom & Housing)
Ridge Crest (Housing)
Roy F. Christensen
Schubert Heights (Housing)
Speech Pathology
Trade and Technology
Turner Hall
University Courts (Housing)
Vocational Arts

What type of coverage can I expect in each building?

Each building is different. One time funds are used to install and upgrade wireless capability on campus. The system is not designed or funded to cover offices or classrooms in a manner that allows an entire classroom to connect to the wireless network at the same time. Coverage is dependant on building construction, where you are in proximity to an Access Point, the type of card you have, and how many users are associated to the Access Point you are associated to.  Those areas that do have classroom coverage, for an entire class, have been funded by departments.

Can I connect to the Wireless Network outside or between buildings?

The Hutchinson Quadrangle, "the Quad," is the only outside area with good wireless coverage. There may also be other outside areas on-campus with usable signal caused from building "bleed-over," however, this is not supported.

What frequency does the Wireless Network use?

2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz

Which wireless standard is being used?

IEEE 802.11a, g, and n

IEEE 802.11 is a set of standards for wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication, developed by the IEEE LAN/MAN Standards Committee IEEE 802 in the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz public spectrum bands.

Why was 802.11b turned off?

In summary, the 802.11b technology is several years old. Current notebooks and wireless clients come 802.11a/b/g compliant (and now 802.11n).
The vast majority of wireless users on campus have 802.11a/g ready devises. 802.11g devices are not able to fully utilize 802.11g speeds when 802.11b clients associate with wireless access points.

Please Explain-
Any time an 802.11b client associates with an access point all users associated to that same access point are throttled
back to 802.11b speeds. In other words, even if you are associated to an access point using an 802.11g client (54Mbps)
once an 802.11b client associates to the same access point, everyone is throttled back to the lowest common protocol,
i.e. 802.11b (11Mbps). By allowing 802.11b clients on the wireless network we would punish those who have
the 802.11g client.

I have been told that a microwave oven or cordless telephone can interfere with a wireless LAN.

IEEE 802.11g WLAN operates at 2.4 Ghz
Microwave ovens operate at 2.45 Ghz
Cordless phones operate at 900Mhz, 2.4 Ghz and 5.8 Ghz

Tests confirm that microwave ovens, Blue tooth and 2.4 Ghz phones do interfere with 802.11g WLANs. The frequency spectrum in which WLANs operate is regulated by the FCC, however, they are not coordinated or licensed. As such, wireless LANs are vulnerable to inference from other technologies and wireless devices using the same spectrum. This is of particular concern now that the wireless LAN has become ubiquitous on campus. Most complaints are the result of cordless phones or personal "rogue" wireless access points. (a rogue access point is defined as a personal wireless router broadcasting a wireless signal on campus.)

Due to disruptions to the wireless LAN caused by interference, 2.4 Ghz cordless phones and rogue access points are not authorized on campus.

Why is wireless sometimes unreliable?

Wireless technologies have spread quickly in recent years and are now widely deployed in corporate, campus and home environments.
The human dependency on those technologies has increased to the point where one can find wireless devices almost everywhere,
from network devices to laptops, SmartPhones, cameras, cordless phones, keyboards/mice, blue tooth, and so on.

In using wireless technologies, one must always keep in mind factors that impact your wireless transmission:

Think of the wireless network like you do a cellular phone. You put up with noisy or distorted conversations and dropped calls as a trade-off for convenience, flexibility and mobility. You know the quality is not perfect, but you are willing to accept the limitations in exchange for mobility. With a cellular phone you can hear when there are problems with the connection. With a wireless network you cannot hear connection problems, but you can experience them. In other words, sometimes it works well, sometimes it does not, and it does not work everywhere.

Wireless has become so commonplace, and with the ease of deployment built in, users of wireless networks do not realize how vulnerable they are to attack or having their transmissions intercepted. Though these devices support standard security options and protocols useful to thwart common attacks (ciphering, authentication, etc), many kinds of attacks are still possible. It is with relative ease that even an unsophisticated "hacker" can gain unauthorized access to a wireless network. "Open" networks with poor or no security in place are found everywhere. An open wireless network allows ease of penetrate, making it possible to steal information or bounce anonymously elsewhere over the Internet. These threats come from external locations such as from a parking lot, walking or driving down the street, through windows or walls, or even inside your own environment by "network seekers" using PDAs or laptops and readily available scanning software.

In a campus environment, where there are literally hundreds of wireless "hot spots" and thousands of users, unidentified/unauthorized ("rogue") access points are both a security risk and point of interference. Ad hoc networking is another common practice that causes interference and connection problems for surrounding users.

As wireless internet access continues to be expanded we note complaints are often the result of the following:

Client Configuration-
The ISU wireless network is not "open" but rather requires the proper configuration and authentication of each wireless card that seeks access to the wireless network. Open wireless networks are typically "plug-and-play." The ISU wireless network is not plug-and-play. The PC client software must be configured properly and the MAC address must be registered in the wireless system.

Extensive Interference-
Interference can be caused by a number of factors outside anyone’s control. Microwave ovens, motors, other wireless devices such as Bluetooth, wireless keyboards/mice, cordless phones that share the same frequencies, and personal wireless access points (often referred to as a DSL or Cable Modem Wireless Routers.) There is such a large concentration of wireless users on campus that interference is unavoidable, making wireless use very frustrating for some.

Quantity and Quality of Associations-
So many campus users are connecting to the wireless network. The quality of the signal you receive is dependent on how many users are connecting to any one access point and the distance you are from that access point. The quality is also dependent on what your “neighbor” is doing on the wireless. Are they simply browsing or checking email, or are they gaming or sharing video/audio files or uploading/downloading some other large file? The wireless network was not designed to support intense applications. It was designed for academic purposes, not recreational activities. If someone in one room is trying to take a test and someone in another room is file sharing, the person taking the test will be the one that suffers.

What wireless equipment is being used?

Cisco 3502i & 1142 Access Points.

Is my wireless transmission secure?

We are using Service Set Identification (SSID) and Wireless Protected Access II (WPA2) to mitigate exposure, however, as with all wireless technologies, there is a risk of interception and interpretation of your transmission.

What type of encryption is being used?

WPA2 encryption is being used.

What kind of network card do I need?

Any 802.11a, g, or n card will work. Most cards are 802.11a/b/g/n ready. Some cards are better than others. In other words, you will get what you pay for. Less expensive cards will operate at 30mw of power, while others operate at 100mw. Most notebooks come wireless ready today.

How do I get access to the Wireless Network?

Contact the IT Service Desk. You will need to have an ISU Computer Account and register your wireless network card MAC address for authentication.
Paying for a computer center account allows you to access academic computing resources on campus. When you pay for a computer account, you are not paying for wireless access, you are paying for access to campus computing resources, i.e. Internet, email, etc.

How do I get help?

If you have difficulty setting up your personal computer to use the Wireless Network , or need help installing a network interface card, browser, or any other related problems, the IT Service Desk is available to assist you. Simply dial x4357 (HELP) on your campus telephone.