Avoid “NoFi”

Many of you may have heard of “mobile hotspots” (or “MyFi”) – a device or capability of a device to create an WiFI network and share a 3G or 4G mobile broadband Internet connection.  While originally, that particular term referred to specific hardware manufactured by one vendor, it now often refers to the ability of many devices (such as smartphones) to become a personal hotspot/router – sharing that devices 3G/4G connection to other devices via WiFI.

We and other universities are finding that the growing number of these devices or people configuring their “smart” (I use the term loosely) devices in this manner on campus is starting to seriously impact WiFI.  At one campus, they found that a Verizon mobile hotspots device autochooses what WiFi channel to broadcast on and it used a “non-standard” channel that caused interference on two different campus WiFi channels (remember that there are only 3 non-overlapping channels available for 802.11 2.4GHz traffic — if you pick one of the 11 channels that isn’t one of those three, it will interfere with TWO OF THE THREE).  And given that we need all available channels for campus WiFI service, ANY channel will cause problems with the campus WiFi infrastructure.

At Florida State, they’ve found that a few mobile hotspots devices in their conference center caused campus WiFi to stop working entirely in the main meeting room; once everyone in and around the room turned off their mobile hotspots, campus WiFi resumed working for the attendees.

The ONLY solution is constant vigilance and getting people running events to remind attendees to turn off any mobile hotspots settings or devices. We cannot block these devices — they’re not actually using the campus network, just interfering with the shared radio space.

Please help us pass the word along to your schools and departments and anyone running conference events. The bottom line is any WiFi device not configured to connect to one of the campus provided SSID’s will create problems for campus WiFI services.  Examples include: smartphones, wireless printers, wireless cameras, wireless projectors, Apple TV’s, Chromecast devices, Apple Time Capsules, personal wireless routers, etc, etc.  Remember: the connectivity you save may be your own!!

— Jim Gogan / ITS Comm Tech