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MHETAB: Students more dense…

November 14, 2010 - 1 Comment

…In terms of the density of number of devices that will proliferate University networks in the near future. During the Mobility Higher Education Technical Advisory Board (MHETAB) several representatives from colleges and universities across the United States echoed this sentiment.

There is a common concern amongst higher education IT professionals who are trying to determine the best course of action as students, faculty and administrators introduce new smart phones, iPads/iPods and laptops to the university wireless network.  Several of the representatives also stated that even though they are still trying to tackle the older requirement to have campus wide coverage these density challenges are looming.

Why do these challenges exist? As wireless networks evolve to a necessity from a “nice to have” it is critical for higher education organizations to find new ways to manage access while at the same time support a greater scale of devices with the same resources and budgets as they had when the user to device ratio was one to one. To face the onslaught of device proliferation these organizations are looking towards solutions to provide new and unique approaches to providing students, faculty and administrators the ability to have wireless access all the time, throughout the campus from multiple devices.

In order to help these institutions, Cisco presented best practices for high-density wireless environment and dealing with the mobile device explosion at MHETAB.  This presentation focused on determining application requirements, selecting the supporting protocols, determining access point type and placement and tuning the configuration to meet end-user needs. If you were not able to attend the MHETAB, and would like more information on how to design a network for high-density environment check out the Cisco 802.11n Design and Deployment Guidelines.

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  1. It’s not just the number of new devices but the proximity of those devices to each other; device density. Lecture halls, libraries, and classrooms seem to be pushing the limits to wireless density capacity. However, there are no published guidelines that I have found that characterize what the reasonable density limits are. Understanding that there are many factors that confound this question, it would be very helpful in setting user expectations to have some kind of benchmarks with regard to the maximum acheivable user/device density under standard conditions. For example, in a 60′ x 60′ room with 14′ ceiling serving a balanced mixture of a, g, and n devices each performing a benchmark set of tasks, what is the optimum placement of APs and what will be the average time to complete the tasks with a user count of 50, 100, 200, and 300 concurrent users?