Frequently Asked Questions

Why use 802.1x (WPA) as opposed web redirect (AKA coffee shop) authentication?

The University of Birmingham is a very large institution comprising many thousands of students and staff. It can be considered in most respects to be a major enterprise class establishment and as such is subject to enterprise class business decision making.

When deciding on the best approach to providing a wireless network solution across the main university campus it became apparent very early on that the security of the many thousands of student and staff Active Directory accounts was of paramount importance and a (the) major driver in the decision making process. Accounts which are now routinely used to access many services such as Canvas, Email, Access control systems etc. and not just as a mechanism for providing wireless network access.

Unfortunately, web redirect systems in coffee shops, airports and the like, although very easy to connect to, do not provide sufficient security in terms of their authentication process or encryption of traffic over the air. Use of this type of solution on campus would we feel compromise the security of individual accounts as well as user data, opening up potential misuse in terms of security, data access, identity theft etc.

WPA2 is a standards based authentication method that provides a very secure authentication process which secures user credentials from interception over the air and across the wire. It also comes with encryption of traffic over the air built-in and as such is the wireless access method of choice for enterprise class networks such as our own. It is also a JANET(UK) recommended authentication solution for the JANET Roaming Service.

When deploying wireless networks one is confronted with a challenge – ease of access versus security. In general terms, the easier it is to connect to a wireless network, the less secure the service. In providing a secure, standards based, enterprise class wireless network, we believe that at the University of Birmingham we have struck the right balance for our many students and staff.

 

What should I check if I think my Wireless LAN Connection is not working correctly?

If you think your Wireless LAN connection is not working correctly and before seeking further help, please check the following:

  • Your device has a compatible integrated wireless network adapter.
  • You have a client device that supports the wireless authentication mechanism WPA2.
  • You have the latest drivers for your type of wireless network card.
  • Your client device is fully patched and up to date.
  • If you have a built-in wireless LAN card, check it is not switched off. Some built-in wireless cards automatically turn off when the battery power is low. Also, some laptops have a switch which allows you to physically disable wireless - check this is on if you have one.
  • Check you are in range of a university wireless access point, you should see the eduroam identifier when you view available wireless networks.
  • Check you have a good/strong wireless signal.
  • Check your configuration settings.

 

How do I connect to the University Wireless Network?

Follow the instructions under the Getting Started section of these support pages.

 

Which wireless card is recommended when using the University WiFi?

Any WiFi wireless LAN Card should be able to connect to the wireless network

 

What settings are required on my Wireless Device?

Follow the instructions under the Getting Started section of these support pages.

 

Can anybody connect to the eduroam wireless network?

No. You must be a registered member of a participating academic institution and have valid credentials to be able to access the wireless network.

Visitors and guests should use either the eduroam or WiFiGuest services.

 

What is the effect on battery life?

Because you are constantly sending and receiving data through the wireless connection on your device, battery life will shorten. The extra power used can be between 5% and 20% of the overall battery time between charges.

 

Is it safe?

Yes. The radio signal transmission from a wireless network is significantly less than from a mobile phone for example.

 

Can I install my own Access Points?

No, this is against the University Wireless Network Policy for the following reasons. Wireless LANs, although making use of unlicensed airspace, make networking difficult when the use of the air space is uncoordinated within the University. Individual schools or users deploying their own wireless access points can jeopardize the integrity and performance of the campus wide authenticated wireless network.

If you or your group do not have wireless LAN access and require it, please contact the IT Service Desk.

 

What if I need further help?

Support is provided through the IT Service Desk.

 

Important

The University does NOT accept any responsibility for your private laptop/hardware or any problems that may arise.

 

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