Every year, over 44,500 students attend Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen, Germany. With over 150 courses of study, that cover a large swath of educational disciplines, the university is among the leading scientific and research institutions in Europe.

In addition to the large student population, 540 Professors, 5,373 other academic staff and 2,679 non-faculty staff, work at RWTH Aachen University. In turn, this makes the university the biggest employer in Aachen. For years, RWTH Aachen has been a driving force in shaping the successful structural change from a region dominated by the mining industry to a modern high-tech center.

The bottom line: there’s a lot of people who go to school and work here.

The university felt that it was time to begin the process of updating their wireless network and turned to Cisco for help.

As with most universities, RWTH Aachen University offers a university-wide WLAN infrastructure. The wireless networks include eduroam for students, staff, and visitors from institutions using Eduroam (a common SSID that is broadcasted by many schools worldwide so that students can connect anywhere securely), as well as guest SSID MoPS for other visitors to the University. Students can send extra-large files around the world using a service called GigaMove.

The new deployment upgrade included nearly 2,000 access points, featuring the new 802.11ac Wave 2-compliant, Cisco Aironet 3800 Access Points. Thanks to the Cisco products, RWTH Aachen University has created a cutting-edge wireless network that is both fast and secure.

One example of the new deployment can be found at the school’s new facility, the C.A.R.L. auditorium. An energy-efficient state of the art building, the C.A.R.L. Auditorium has 11 lecture halls with 3,500 seats and 16 seminar rooms. Since this new building is outfitted with a lot of glass, it can make Wi-Fi coverage difficult. This is the primary reason why RWTH Aachen University made the choice to go with the Cisco Aironet 3800 Access Points. Additionally the university has adopted the 8540 Series Wireless Controllers in a highly available mode.

In addition to offering the latest in wireless technology, Thomas Boettcher from the IT Center team, deployed a number of Wave 2 802.11ac access points supporting the use of digital media. Not only does the Wi-Fi allow for a better learning experience, but it has a nice benefit for the students too. The state-of-the-art Wi-Fi enables international students to use Wi-Fi calling to talk to their families.

The wireless deployment in this auditorium consists of 90 Wave-2 802.11ac Access Points. Sixty-six of the access points are outfitted with internal antennas, 23 with external antennas and there is one outdoor AP. All access point uplinks are patched to MGig ports at 5Gbps data-rate. A majority of the access point are configured to use both 5GHz radios with active Flexible Radio Assignment (FRA) to maintain best data-rate performance for most of the clients.

FRA allows the access point to automatically change its radio settings to provide additional bandwidth when more people walk into an area. For example, with an Aironet 3800 Access Point deployed in a lecture hall will see an automatic radio switch from 2.4/5 GHz to 5/5GHz when a lecture begins and students fill the room. Once the class is over and the students leave, the access point will switch back to 2.4/5GHz.

RWTH Aachen University has been extremely happy with their new wireless network and will continue to count on Cisco as they update other buildings.

Below are statistics and graphs for the wireless network at RWTH Aachen University.

Table 1: association count for a typical week at C.A.R.L. Auditorium.

Table 2: RWTH WLAN total traffic statistics for the last 2 months

Table 3: RWTH WLAN total association statistic for the last 2 months


Jeevan Patil

Director, Product Management

Wireless Network