Getting the Best Wireless Experience at Pitt

Introduction

The utilization of wireless service here at Pitt has increased dramatically during the past few years. In the month of September 2011, there were 1.2 million wireless sessions on all the University's campuses. By September 2013, that number had grown to 17.5 million sessions. In the month of February 2014, there were more than 19.3 million sessions.

As more and more people connect more and more devices to Wireless PittNet, the speed and performance of wireless service on campus can occasionally be affected. The purpose of this Web page is to help you understand how wireless service at Pitt works so that you can get the best possible wireless experience.

A Brief History of Wireless Service at Pitt

A Brief History of Wireless Service at Pitt

CSSD launched a pilot wireless program in 2002 by providing access in a number of areas on the Pittsburgh campus, including Hillman Library, the Cathedral Commons Room, the Petersen Events Center food court, and a second floor study area in Posvar Hall.

In December 2006, we launched our Wireless PittNet service by activating wireless in five campus buildings: Allen Hall, Thaw Hall, Old Engineering Hall, the Space Research Coordination Center and Nuclear Physics Laboratory.

By August 2007, most academic buildings on campus had Wireless PittNet service, as well as the common rooms and study areas of University residence halls.

In December 2007, we launched a guest wireless service to provide short-term wireless access to individuals visiting Pitt on official University business.

In June 2012, Pitt began its participation in eduroam (short for education roaming), which enables students, faculty, and staff to use their University email address and password to obtain wireless Internet access at more than 2,000 participating institutions around the world.

In the summer of 2013, we expanded Wireless PittNet service to all residence hall rooms on the Pittsburgh campus. We also replaced and upgraded the wireless access points in campus classrooms.

In the summer of 2015, we introduced Wireless-PittNet-Fast, a companion network to Wireless PittNet that provides faster wireless speeds for newer devices.

Factors Affecting Wireless Service

Factors Affecting Wireless Service

CSSD makes every possible effort to provide outstanding wireless coverage on campus. Despite the substantial number of wireless access points throughout campus, your wireless experience can be negatively affected by a number of factors.

  • The number of people connected to a wireless access point: Wireless PittNet is a shared resource. That means your experience is directly tied to and affected by the other people who are using the network in the same location and at the same time as you are. When you are connected to a wired port (on campus or in your residence hall room), you are the only person using that bandwidth. In contrast, a single wireless access point on campus provides 54 Mbps of shared bandwidth on Wireless PittNet and 300 Mbps of shared bandwidth on Wireless-PittNet-Fast. That means that as more people connect to a single access point, the bandwidth available to each person will decrease.

  • What people are doing on the wireless network: Some activities consume more wireless bandwidth than others. Browsing a Web site or sending an email typically consumes a small amount of bandwidth. But streaming a high-definition movie or downloading very large files can use significant amounts of bandwidth. You may be sharing a wireless access point with a relatively small number of other people, but if those people are all performing activities that require a lot of bandwidth, then your wireless experience will be significantly and adversely affected.

  • Interference from other devices: Other devices ranging from cordless phones, Wi-Fi enabled printers, wireless cameras, Bluetooth devices, wireless game controllers, wireless audio headsets, and computer peripherals (for example, wireless mice and keyboards) can disrupt access to wireless networks.

  • How close you are to a wireless access point: The farther away from an access point you are, the slower your connection speed will be. You may notice this in common areas outside certain classrooms. We focus our wireless access points on providing excellent service within classrooms. As you start to move away from an access point located in a classroom, your wireless signal will weaken and performance may be negatively affected if there are no other access points nearby.

  • A building's architecture and the construction materials it uses: Just like with cell phones, a building's architecture can greatly affect its ability to support a robust wireless network. If the walls are too thick or constructed of signal-blocking material, wireless signals can be adversely affected. In addition, items consisting of metal or plaster with embedded mesh (e.g., furniture, metal decor, lighting, appliances) cause very high levels of interference. Items consisting of paper or heavy fabric (e.g., books, draperies, posters) cause high levels of interference. Items consisting of glass (e.g., glass decor, windows) cause medium levels of interference.

What We Do

What We Do

CSSD is committed to delivering the best wireless experience to students, faculty, and staff. We do this by:

  • Adding a faster network optimized for newer devices. We launched Wireless-PittNet-Fast in August 2015 to provide faster wireless speeds for newer devices that support the 802.11 a/n/ac standard. Most devices made within the last 18 months will be able to connect.

  • Regularly monitoring the wireless network to determine where the areas of heaviest usage are located. This helps us to better plan for future enhancements to our service. Monitoring also helps us identify access points that are not working so that we can repair or replace them.

  • Conducting wireless site surveys to determine the optimum installation locations for wireless access points. We use these site surveys to determine where to place new access points and to reevaluate areas where we have received reports that wireless service is under-performing.

  • Upgrading and adding new wireless access points. Based on our monitoring and site surveys, we will add new access points to areas that may require them. We also upgrade existing access points to keep pace with the latest technology.

  • Providing assistance connecting to Wireless PittNet. You can visit our Technology Help Desk at the University Store on Fifth for in-person assistance connecting to Wireless PittNet. Our Technology Help Desk can also assist you with troubleshooting any wireless issues you might encounter.  

What You Can Do

What You Can Do

If you are experiencing poor wireless performance somewhere on campus, there are a number of steps you can take.

  • Try connecting to WIRELESS-PITTNET-FAST: Wireless-PittNet-Fast provides faster speeds for newer devices. Your device must support the 802.11 a/n/ac standard to use Wireless-PittNet-Fast. Most devices made within the last 18 months will be able to connect.

  • Reposition your device: Sometimes simply physically rotating your device to face a different direction can improve wireless speed.

  • Move to a new location: If you are in an area where a lot of people are using laptops or mobile devices, moving to a less crowded area may significantly improve wireless performance.

  • Turn your wireless adapter off and on: There are multiple access points in academic buildings and residence halls. Your computer might be connected to an access point that is too far away to provide a good connection. Turning your wireless adapter off and then back on resets the list of available access points. Your computer may then connect to an access point that is closer.

  • Try upgrading to a newer version of your wireless drivers: If you are having trouble staying connected, then you may need to update your wireless drivers. This is a more advanced topic and you may wish to consult the Technology Help Desk for assistance at 412-624-HELP [4357] or online.

  • Try Setup-Pitt-WiFi: To ensure your laptop is properly configured to use Wireless PittNet, try connecting to SETUP-PITT-WIFI. The SETUP-PITT-WIFI network was designed to automatically optimize computers to use Pitt's wireless network. Just select SETUP-PITT-WIFI as your network, complete the connection wizard, and then connect to Wireless PittNet as you normally would.
    Note: SETUP-PITT-WIFI is used for Windows and Mac computers only. Mobile devices---including smartphones and tablets---should not be connected to SETUP-PITT-WIFI.

  • Limit your viewing of streamed content and other high-bandwidth applications: Always keep in mind that wireless is a shared resource. When you stream high-definition videos or download large files, it consumes bandwidth that then cannot be used by other wireless users in the same area.

  • Perform OS installations and major system updates while on a wired network: Major system updates, like those from Apple and Service Packs from Microsoft, are often quite large (several gigabytes in size) and therefore should be applied while connected to a wired network. Operating system downloads should also be handled while connected to a wired network.

  • Keep a clean machine: A computer that is infected with viruses or other malicious software can lead to high network traffic that affects wireless performance. Be sure you have downloaded Symantec Endpoint Protection from the Software Download Service at My Pitt (my.pitt.edu) and that you use it to scan your laptop regularly.

  • Tell us about any issues you encounter: If you encounter slow or poor wireless performance somewhere on campus, please submit an online wireless feedback form to us so that we can look into the issue. For immediate assistance with a problem, be sure to contact our Technology Help Desk at 412-624-HELP [4357] or online.

Tags: Wireless Help