Portland State University is Oregon’s largest and most diverse public university encompassing 50 city blocks, eight schools, 226 degree programs, 29,000 students, including 1,700 international students from 91 countries, and 126,000 alumni. For the second year in a row, the US News & World Report has named Portland State University a top 10 “up-and-coming” national university in its Best College rankings, released online Sept. 10.

In 2010 Portland was one of the first schools to adopt the Cisco CleanAir capable Access Points 3502 to address the frequent sources of interferences found in a typical school environment. In this blog, I will describe how the students adopt technology to learn as well as share some details about our conversation with Tamarack Birch-Wheeles, the manager of Network Team in charge of the WLAN deployment with the 5760 Series Wireless LAN Controller.


At a Glance:

Located in: Portland Oregon

Number of students: 29,000

WLAN clients: Over 11,000 simultaneous clients and total 15,000 unique devices

Access-Points: 1100 units of which over half of them were Access Point 2600 Series

and the rest of them were models AP3502 and AP1140.

Controllers: 5 units of 5760 (Version 3.3.2) Planning for 3.3.3 migration shortly.

-Two primary controllers stacked with two standby controllers in Access Point Stateful SwitchOver for instant failover in case downtime of the primary controller.

-The fifth controller provides additional N+1 redundancy

Prime Infrastructure: Version 2.0.1 Planning to migrate to 2.1 shortly.

Key Trends observed by Portland State University:

-PSU received a lot of insight into student usage of technology for learning from the ECAR survey. Many PSU students commented on their desire for more online content, including lecture capture associated with their classes. At the same time, students prefer a blended mode of learning, a combination of traditional lectures in the classroom and MOOC(massive open online courses).

– Students are ready to use mobile devices for academic reasons.


-More clients operating in the 5 GHz band. This led them to configure the BandSelect feature to move 5 GHz capable clients to that band.


Deployment Details:

“These are three Wi-Fi networks on campus to choose from:

  • PSU Secure – The PSU Secure dot1x network is for students and teachers/staff because of its encryption and automatic reconnection feature.
  • PSU – The PSU network is for older computers and devices that are not capable of WPA2E security. Here security is based upon MAC filter and Centralized Web Auth(CWA). Clients are equally distributed across PSU Secure and the PSU SSIDs.
  • PSU Guest – The PSU Guest network can be used by individuals who are visiting the campus and will need Wi-Fi access for 24 hours or less. A user needs to enter appropriate details and is granted a temporary login.

Future Considerations:

The university is currently trialing the newer wall mountable Access Point 702W in the residence areas. They may migrate to the upcoming IOS-XE 3.6 software and adopt some of the software innovations within that.


Jeevan Patil

Director, Product Management

Wireless Network