Information Technology Services (ITS)

Enhancing campus connectivity: Rotman’s Wi-Fi upgrade

Published on: October 11, 2023

As part of the University of Toronto’s tri-campus Wi-Fi upgrade program, the ITS Enterprise Infrastructure Services team (part of the ITS division) successfully upgraded the wireless infrastructure in the Rotman School of Management building from its self-managed legacy wireless infrastructure to the Aruba Wireless infrastructure. This upgrade puts Rotman in alignment with the campus-wide standard and provides a significant enhancement of the wireless services at Rotman. This modernization highlights progress in the work central IT is doing to harmonize the University’s technological landscape.

At the beginning of September, EIS completed the installation and commissioning of 140 new Aruba access points across the Rotman campus. Prior to this, Rotman’s wireless network had been operating with technology that was two generations old.

With this upgrade, Rotman’s wireless network is now integrated into the broader campus wireless system and is no longer an island of independent wireless service. This is another step towards the entire University network operating as an integrated and unified system, paving the way for future implementation of advanced services and seamless integration of wired and wireless network resources.

The process

The EIS team began by performing a complete radio frequency survey of the Rotman building and planned the coverage accordingly, with a particular focus on eradicating any lingering “dark corners” (i.e., areas of poor Wi-Fi coverage). As a result, no matter where you are in the building, you will now experience quality Wi-Fi service.

In this discovery phase, rogue access points were also uncovered and eliminated. Rogue APs are wireless access points that have been set up on a secure department or residence network without explicit authorization from ITS. The use of rogue access points on campus is actively discouraged as these devices, while often set up with good intentions, can create major issues for other wireless users. First, they broadcast on the same frequencies as the institutional Wi-Fi, which reduces download and upload speeds as there are now competing systems using the same wireless channels. Second, they are a back door into the University’s network, as they may not provide secure and authenticated access to University resources. Third, if configured incorrectly, they can have highly disruptive effects on the operation of a departmental or residence network.

“I want to thank the EIS team for the exceptional work that was put in to move Rotman this robust Wi-Fi solution, and in doing so, providing an enhanced user experience,” says John Latremouille, Director, Information Technology Services, Rotman. “From the heat mapping to deployment, the project was executed with professionalism and minimal disruption to our user community.”

How does this upgrade benefit Rotman?

As a result of this upgrade, Rotman IT staff will no longer need to focus human and financial resources on operating and maintaining an independent wireless solution. They will be now able to focus these resources on solutions that directly benefit their local community.

Notably, the adoption of the campus-wide solution has also translated into significant cost savings for Rotman. By embracing this institutional standard, they have avoided capital expenditures related to the project, such as costs for access points, cabling throughout the building and the replacement of power over Ethernet switches. Furthermore, the added need for internal Wi-Fi network management has been alleviated, resulting in an annual 0.25 FTE savings.

John continues, “Since the upgrade, we have had the least number of Wi-Fi related incident tickets in the last seven years and the service has been extremely reliable. I hope the Rotman experience will encourage any division who are reticent to move to U of T Wi-Fi to embrace this and move forward with confidence that the execution will be very well planned and executed.”

How does the Wi-Fi upgrade program benefit the U of T community?

A key benefit of the new technology is that it is highly modular and can be upgraded easily to incorporate new features as they become available. It is also managed as a single, cohesive entity, which allows the system to dynamically adjust to different load demands and service requirements. This adaptability ensures that the University remains at the forefront of technological advancements and continuously evolves to meet the needs of our specific community.

“Embracing the Aruba technology’s new features opens up a world of possibilities, from advanced authentication and analytics to wayfinding services,” explains Douglas Carson, Senior Manager, Enterprise Networking, ITS. “Its capability for seamless integration with local wired facilities holds great promise, especially in the realm of classroom AV integration and access to network resources.”

With the new infrastructure in place, service and firmware upgrades can be executed transparently, no longer requiring a service outage to complete.

Ultimately, what the community will notice is the improvement in Wi-Fi quality for the students, faculty and staff, with faster downloads and enhanced coverage. This, in turn, will support innovation in pedological methods and processes.

The tri-campus wireless upgrade program is not only an impressive technological advancement — it also underscores the competency of our ITS teams and the trust departments have in them. Over 10,800 unique wireless access points are now in service across our three campuses, and we are looking forward to seeing the continuation of this transformative journey towards a more connected University.