Is Netflix Slowing Down My WiFi?: The Impact of Growing ResNet on University WiFi Speed
In this space, we have talked previously about the many challenges that come with providing WiFi on college campuses. Students live, learn, and play on campus, but they aren’t necessarily doing all three of those things at the same time and in the same place. That’s why college campuses require multiple types of WiFi designs, making them especially tricky.
For example, the WiFi design for residence halls will actually resemble that of a hotel, and it will look very different from the WiFi design for lecture halls, sports complexes, dining halls, and other on-campus common areas.
Residence halls are different from the rest of the campus because they are where students live and spend their downtime. The layout of a residence hall is unique, and it means that access points are needed for every dorm room, laundry room, gym, lounge, and kitchen.
Usage needs in the dorms are also different than they are on the rest of campus, since devices and applications used in the residence halls are typically different than in the lecture halls and libraries. In addition to accessing applications like Blackboard and university email servers, students in the dorms are also using streaming services, social media, and various IoT devices like Alexa and smart watches.
It is this difference in WiFi usage on residential networks (ResNets) that is causing students, and in turn, campus IT and business leaders, some frustration. With more and more students streaming video in the dorms, there is increased demand on the ResNets to support all of these bandwidth-hungry applications.
The last thing a student wants while typing a research paper on Google Docs is for her connection to be slowed or interrupted because it’s 9 p.m. and a bunch of people on her hall are watching Netflix or gaming. Likewise, those students watching Netflix on their phones down the hall don’t want their streaming interrupted for the same reason.
Each year, the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I) puts out a “State of ResNet” report tracking the trends in residential network use in higher education. The 2018 report, which surveyed 435 business, IT, and housing officers from 312 different institutions, asked this question: “What’s eating all the data?”
The answer is clear: TV and video consumption (in other words, Netflix) is the #1 bandwidth-consuming application in dorms.
Source: 2018 ACUHO -1 Annual State of ResNet Report
In other words, more and more non-academic activity is happening on ResNets, and college and university decision makers will need to find ways to support the recreational WiFi demands of their students in order to stay competitive and keep enrollment numbers (and tuition dollars) where they need to be.
ResNets and the Future
So what does this mean for IT and business leaders on college campuses? How can this information help inform ResNet policies and resource allocation for the next year, the next five years, and beyond?
The good news is that the 2018 State of the ResNet report shows a massive uptick in the amount of money (between $750K and $2.5M per school compared to less than $750K in 2017) and bandwidth (72% of schools now offering 1 GB or more to ResNet, compared to just 25% of schools offering that much in 2012) being devoted to residential networks.
Source: 2018 ACUHO -1 Annual State of ResNet Report
This means that technology and business decision makers in higher education do grasp what’s going on with ResNets. They recognize the challenges and are devoting resources to their ResNets in an effort to provide students with what they need and want from their on-campus WiFi.
But what if a ResNet is running on a subpar WiFi design? If this is the case, then simply adding more equipment in an effort to increase bandwidth won’t be effective in the long run.
It’s not always a matter of adding access points. In fact, at SecurEdge, we have seen colleges spend money on equipment that doesn’t actually improve their WiFi performance. Unfortunately, calling us after the fact to troubleshoot the issue ends up costing the school more money than if they had begun at the beginning, with proper WiFi design..
There is bandwidth to be regained when WiFi design is done properly. SecurEdge has been trusted by colleges and universities to provide expert wireless design to support the bandwidth-hungry devices and applications proliferating on campuses, and in the dorms in particular.
The best, most efficient and future-facing approach is to assess your campus WiFi design and determine if it is optimized for the changing usage and capacity demands of students, especially in the dorms.
Our certified, experience wireless engineers can help you determine if your primary issue is lack of bandwidth or poor WiFi design. Contact us to get started.
Dana Adams blogs regularly for SecurEdge and other tech companies. She believes technology should serve people, not the other way around. When she's not blogging, you'll find her enjoying the outdoors with her family and two rescue dogs.