Created Nov. 6, 2001
Last revised Nov. 9, 2004
As authorized by K-State policy, this document applies to all uses of Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technologies at all physical locations on the Manhattan and Salina campuses of Kansas State University, both inside buildings and in outdoor areas, and to all devices connected to the Kansas State University network. by law. Exceptions may only be granted by the Vice Provost for Academic Services and Technology or designee. It does not apply to cellular wireless technology.
All K-State Information Technology policies (http://www.ksu.edu/vpast/itpolicies/) apply to the use of K-State's WLAN, as do all other applicable K-State policies and procedures and all federal, state, and local laws.
The widespread adoption of the 802.11b standard for wireless networking in 1999 and the subsequent proliferation of interoperable, affordable products that support that standard, WLAN technology has established itself as an important complement to the traditional wired data network on the K-State campus. More and more faculty, staff, and students are buying notebook computers - most with built-in wireless capability - because of the mobility they provide. Faculty want to work on their class lecture in their office, then simply pick up the notebook computer and move to the classroom to give the lecture without having to bother with cables and rebooting their computer. Students and faculty alike want to move freely throughout Hale Library with notebook computer in hand (or better yet, a PDA) and work at any available table near the printed materials they need for their research. They want to be able to move freely from one bench in their lab to another while recording data. People want to check their e-mail while eating lunch in the Union Food Court or in the Commons area outside the Union.
802.11g/b WLAN technology is also beneficial for gaining network access in locations that are difficult, expensive, or inconvenient to wire. Examples include large lecture halls, large open areas like the Union Food Court, outdoor areas, conference rooms, rooms with solid walls (to avoid running cables in unattractive surface-mounted conduit), structures with asbestos, and historical buildings with strict regulations governing modifications.
Despite these advantages, WLANs have their limitations. For example, they are slower than wired LANs. Despite claims of 54 Megabits per second (Mbps) of bandwidth (11Mbps for 802.11b), the practical limit is in b/g compat mode drops to 11 about 11 Mbps -- and that's shared among all people using that Access Point. Consequently, it is not hard for one person to monopolize the bandwidth of an Access Point and impact the performance for the other people using it. Compare that to a typical wired, switched network connection on the K-State campus that is dedicated to one computer and operates at 100 Mbps in full duplex (i.e., you get nearly the full 100 Mbps in both directions -- incoming and outgoing data traffic). WLANs are also inherently insecure. Tools are readily available to capture data packets from the airwaves and thereby "snoop" on someone else's communications. Consequently, wireless users must take extra precautions and adhere to standards to ensure secure communications over a WLAN.
While the standard does allow a wireless PC card from one vendor to connect to an Access Point from another vendor, the devices must all be carefully configured to support this and every product has proprietary features that don't interoperate. This is especially true when it comes to security and management. Consequently, a K-State WLAN standard and central management of the campus "air space" are necessary to protect valuable information resources and to ensure the highest degree of interoperability as one moves from one location to another on campus with a wireless-equipped computer.
802.11b: An IEEE standard for wireless data networking rated at up to 11 Megabits per second throughput operating in the FCC unlicensed 2.4 GHz Industrial/Scientific/Medical (ISM) band using Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) technology to transmit the signal. The range of the signal indoors is up to 150 feet at 11 Mbps (300 feet diameter), or 800 feet outdoors. The range and strength of the signal are reduced significantly as it passes through walls, floors, or other obstructions. The 2.4 GHz band is also used by Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other electronic devices. This may result in interference, lower bandwidth, and shorter signal range.
802.11g: An IEEE wireless network standard that increases the bandwidth to 54 Mbps per Access Point using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technology. Like 801.11b, it operates in the 2.4 GHz band, and is also succeptable to interference from other common electronic devices. Most 802.11g devices are also backwards compatible with the 802.11b standard, though providing this compatibility may impact 802.11g bandwidth.
802.11a: An IEEE wireless network standard that increases the bandwidth to 54 Mbps per Access Point using OFDM technology, but decreases the range of the signal to about 35 feet indoors. It operates in the 5 GHz unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) frequency range, which has more difficulty than the 2.4 GHz range in penetrating walls, floors, and other obstructions. Because the 802.11a standard operates in a different frequency range from the 802.11g and 802.11b standards, 802.11a is not hardware compatible with the other two standards. Some devices include both 802.11a and 802.11b/g units in the same enclosure.
Access Point: A hardware device that serves as a communications "hub" for wireless clients and provides a connection to the wired LAN.
Bluetooth: An IEEE wireless networking standard (802.15.2) operating in the 2.4-GHz frequency band designed for lower power and shorter range (less than 30 feet) than 802.11b, hence its label as a "personal area network" wireless technology (WPAN). It's designed to replace cables that connect devices, such as a PDA to a desktop computer, rather than functioning as an extension to a wired network like 802.11 wireless networks. Bluetooth uses a spread spectrum, frequency hopping, full-duplex signal at up to 1600 hops/sec.
eID: The K-State electronic identification used by members of the K-State community to access information technology (IT) resources provided by K-State. See the K-State eID Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.
SSID: The "Service Set Identifier" may be used as a relatively insecure security key for a WLAN, somewhat like a password. If the SSID is set in the Access Point, then only client wireless cards configured with the same SSID may connect to that Access Point.
WEP "Wired Equivalent Privacy" that provides limited security to a wireless connection by encrypting all data transmitted between the computer and the Access Point. At this time, 40-bit and 128-bit WEP is available on most vendors’ Access Points, and K-State supports both.
Wireless PC Card: Hardware device in a client computer (most often a card that fits in a PCMCIA Type II slot in a notebook computer) that communicates with an Access Point via radio signals (i.e., without wires). Also known as "wireless client adapter".
WLAN: "Wireless Local Area Network". The term often used for a wireless network within a limited area consisting of one or more wireless Access Points that provide network connectivity to computers equipped with wireless capability (usually a notebook computer with a wireless PC card). In essence, a WLAN provides the functionality of a wired LAN without the physical constraints of the wire.
Installation and Management