Frequently Asked Questions

Project Questions

What is the scope of the Campus WiFi Upgrade Projects?

There are actually several projects for the upgrade of the WiFi networks on the Ann Arbor Campus. In 2013, a capital investment was approved by the Provost to upgrade University Libraries. In 2013, upgrades were completed to Hatcher Graduate Library, Shapiro Undergraduate Library and the Buhr Shelving Facility. In 2014, the Provost approved capital funds to upgrade WiFi networks at 18 Public Facing facilities. Upgrades to the Public Facing buildings were completed in June, 2015.

In April 2015, approval was received for a capital investment of $24.4M for the Campuswide WiFi Upgrade Project. This project will provide WiFi upgrades for 275 academic, research, administrative and residence hall buildings on the Ann Arbor campus over the next three years. These projects do not include Medical School or University of Michigan Health System buildings.

What is the process to upgrade WiFi in these buildings?

Project efforts require a site survey to determine where to place WiFi access points (APs); conduit and network design; installation of conduit, wiring, switch, and access points; network equipment activation and configuration; and post installation testing. In some cases, additional construction activities may be required to address emergent facilities issues such as asbestos abatement. Schedules will be coordinated with building and unit leadership to minimize disruption and respect academic and business cycles.

The project implementation for this project will take a multi-phased approach. In order to keep site survey crews moving across campus, site surveys may be done well in advance of the planned upgrade. Project teams will also be taking advantage of decreased traffic over the summer months to complete large classrooms in priority buildings on campus. This means that the building will be completed in multiple phases, and not all at once. Project managers will keep unit/building representatives apprised of upcoming work to their building.

How are buildings prioritized for upgrade?

The order in which buildings will receive upgrades was prioritized by the representatives from Unit IT Steering Committee and IT Commons working with ITS. Many factors were taken into consideration to form the project schedule, including the state of the current WiFi network, the age of hardware currently installed, the purpose of the building, current or planned construction projects in the building, and budgetary limitations.

Will all buildings on this list receive upgrades?

These buildings have been recommended by ITS for upgrades to their WiFi networks. The actual order that buildings are upgraded in, however, has to do with many factors such as when the building is available for construction activity and when the building may be undergoing renovation. Each building is subject to final CIO and Provost Office approval when a more detailed building evaluation and construction cost estimate is made.

How will I know when my building is scheduled to be upgraded?

Once a building is scheduled for upgrade, the targeted completion timeframe will be published on the project website. A project manager will contact leadership in your building before the building is scheduled to be upgraded. The project manager will work with leadership in each building/unit to schedule each phase of the upgrade in order to create the minimal amount of disruption to work, teaching, and learning.

Project communicators will provide a variety of electronic and printed materials to keep building occupants, users, and visitors informed during planning, construction, and deployment efforts.

What should I do if there is upcoming construction planned in our building that may interfere with our scheduled upgrade?

Units that have planned construction to their facilities are encouraged to contact their Telecom Project Manager to discuss how the WiFi upgrade project can accommodate your construction plans.

What should we do if our unit/building has a need to upgrade our WiFi network prior to the scheduled upgrade date?

Units are encouraged to engage with their Telecom Project Manager to discuss any issues with the scheduled date for upgrade.

What is the difference between a wired and wireless network?

Access to a wired network requires a physical connection, i.e. a cable. Access to a WiFi network requires a WiFi-enabled device that uses radio waves to connect to the network.

WiFi networks are:

  • Short-Range. You must be in a defined area where the radio signal is available; if you move out of this area, the radio signal will be too weak and you will be disconnected.
  • Shared. All devices connected to the same Access Point (AP) share the total bandwidth available from that AP.
  • Subject to interference from other devices that use that same spectrum, such as microwave ovens, wireless headsets, and cordless telephones. The radio signals can also be affected by interior and exterior environmental conditions.

To gain a better understanding of terms relating to wireless networks, please visit the Glossary of Terms.

For information related to devices that interfere with WiFi Networks, see the WiFi Good Citizen page.

What is the difference between a Home WiFi Network and an Enterprise WiFi Network?

As of winter term 2014, the U-M Ann Arbor Campus WiFi network had approximately 6,400 Access Points (APs) and will grow to approximately 12,000–14,000 APs. The ability to centrally configure, manage and monitor this equipment is critical and enables an efficient and seamless WiFi environment. An enterprise environment requires hardware that has a greater feature set and functionality than products meant for the home/single family use.

A home AP supports approximately 10 devices simultaneously connected before performance degradation may occur. The typical home AP has limited features and settings, supports one SSID (network name) and in some cases an additional guest SSID, is powered and managed locally, and security is usually limited to WPA/WPA2 Pre-shared Key (PSK). There may be limited or no support for enterprise authentication methods.

An enterprise AP is more robust and versatile than a typical home AP.

It is designed to:

  • be installed and work with many other APs,
  • support many (50-60) devices simultaneously connected,
  • support multiple SSIDs,
  • react to changing environments in real time,
  • coordinate and be managed with many other APs from a single interface.

Enterprise AP features include:

  • A high performance radio—has a more efficient radio chipset that allows more devices to connect to the network.
  • Increased processor capability.
  • More memory capacity.
  • Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN): support allowing for segmentation of various user groups, accommodating clients with different security requirements and capabilities.
  • Quality of Service (QoS): prioritizing traffic for different application requirements, necessary for voice and video performance.
  • Fast/secure roaming: allowing authenticated clients to roam securely from one AP to another without perceptible delay.
  • Client tracking: using radio management information to provide near real-time tracking information.
  • Advanced encryption and user authentication standards, including TKIP and AES, 802.1X and EAP-based authentication, support for RADIUS server user registries.
  • Scalability and extensibility—Features and settings that accommodate the size and uniqueness of campus buildings as well as the ability to successfully integrate with other campus systems such as authentication, monitoring and logging tools.
  • Configurable transmit power—enables the Radio Frequency (RF) to be customized for the individual location or use. This allows for increased number of devices to be used in a single area without degrading the performance of the APs.
  • Support for 802.11a/b/g/n and 802.11ac as it matures.
  • Support for Power over Ethernet rather than having a power outlet next to every AP.
  • Vendor support for interoperability, feature enhancements, bug fixes, etc.—This enables U-M to request enhancements and changes to the product both to the vendor and standards groups either as a single institution or in concert with other universities that use the same product.

Implementation Questions

Are there differences in how this upgrade project will roll out from traditional unit upgrades?

Yes, due to the scope of this project (275 buildings in 3 years), and the high traffic experienced in these buildings the approach for this project will be different than a traditional upgrade. Project staff will be focussed over the summer on large classrooms in the high priority buildings. Classrooms directly impact the University Mission and are heavily scheduled during the Fall and Winter semesters. We will take advantage of the reduced traffic to upgrade as many of these classrooms as possible.  Because of this multi-phased approach, project staff will be returning at a later date to complete the rest of these buildings.

After a building is upgraded, who pays for changes, if rooms are converted to classrooms, or size of class increases?

The Provost has approved one-time funding for this upgrade. Cost for additional upgrades to the building WiFi will be the responsibility of the Unit.

Will ITS ask to use ports off unit switches?

In an effort to be responsible stewards of university funds, ITS will work with each unit to determine if available ports can be used, or if new equipment needs to be purchased.

Who is responsible for providing access for non-UM staff involved in the Campus WiFi Project?

ITS will arrange for all vendor access.

Are the current efforts to replace Meru Access Points with Cisco Access Points part of this project?

The two projects are related, but separate. Replacing the Meru AP’s with the new Cisco platform will assist the transition to the new WiFi networks being installed as part of this project. This change also allows for significant improvements in ease of network management on the Ann Arbor campus.

Many classrooms are occupied during the summer months, how will ITS handle upgrading these classrooms?

Classroom occupation during this work does present a challenge for ITS. Project staff will work with building/unit representatives to ensure minimal disruption to the learning environment in these buildings.