Wi-Fi (Wireless) Policy

Design of the UW Wi-Fi Network

The UW Information Technology organization has been charged by the University Administration with overall responsibility for proper deployment and management of a fully monitored Wi-Fi network service, including infrastructure elements and radio frequency (RF) spectrum use. Wi-Fi infrastructure deployed by UW Information Technology is designed to operate harmoniously with our existing, managed wired networks and with negligible impact to wired network performance and resources. The Wi-Fi network managed by UW Information Technology is also designed to enhance seamless roaming between access points within and between many buildings and outdoor areas.

UW's Wi-Fi network is designed to be a supplement to--not a substitute for--the wired network. The UW Wi-Fi network is also not designed to support latency intolerant applications such as VoIP over Wi-Fi. The UW Wi-Fi network is designed as an "open" network, which means there is no network-level data encryption or authentication requirement to access the network. Some departments may restrict access to select network resources via firewalls or other means to limit access from Wi-Fi devices (please check with your local IT administrator), although UW Information Technology employs no such selective access controls. The UW does, however, enforce access control to resources external to the UW networks through the use of Web authentication via UW NetID. The Wi-Fi network should be used primarily for general functions such as Web browsing and email. It is not designed to efficiently support high-bandwidth applications such as, but not limited to, streaming media or large file transfers. Wi-Fi "access points," which are located throughout many buildings and common areas of all three UW campuses, allow compatible wireless devices to connect to the UW network, as well as UW NetID authenticated access to the Internet.

Wi-Fi bandwidth is shared by everyone connected to a given Wi-Fi access point. As the number of Wi-Fi connections increase, the bandwidth available to each connection decreases and performance deteriorates. Distance from the access point, buildings or objects shielding the access point, signal interference, quality of your equipment, battery power and other factors may also impact performance. Applications that generate high network traffic do not work well on Wi-Fi networks and negatively impact performance for everyone connected to the same access point.

UW Wi-Fi is defined as a production service. User problems and outages on the UW Wi-Fi network will be handled along with the queue of incidents and outages on the wired network.

To promote efficient and secure Wi-Fi network access, UW Information Technology maintains strict standards for the deployment of Wi-Fi devices at the University of Washington. These standards and their related restrictions are outlined in further detail below.

Wi-Fi IP Address Policy

  • DHCP is the standard addressing method for the UW Wi-Fi networks, and it is expected to meet the majority of customer requirements.
  • Wi-Fi is a dynamic service. Due to the dynamic nature of Wi-Fi, IP space serving a building or open space can, and will, change over time due to capacity re-engineering.
  • Wi-Fi static IP addresses are available for clients with a demonstrated need. These clients should understand that due to the dynamic nature of Wi-Fi address space, they may be required to change these addresses periodically and possibly with short notice.

Restrictions

  • University of Washington policy requires that all new deployments of Wi-Fi infrastructure be installed and maintained by UW Information Technology. Installing departmental or DIY Wi-Fi access points is prohibited to avoid possible interference with the UW Wi-Fi network, unnecessary impact to the wired network, and to minimize undue security risks to the University. Additionally, in areas where centrally-managed Wi-Fi networking is available any pre-existing locally managed access points must be removed.
    • Any exceptions to the above policy must be approved by UW Information Technology as the University Technology Advisory Committee (U-TAC) delegated exception authority.
    • Departments with research-related and/or clinical requirements to maintain a locally managed Wi-Fi network will be required to abide by the Wi-Fi LAN Security and Co-existence Guideline.
    • Departments meeting these requirements may request an exemption and/or fee waiver by contacting the UW Information Technology Service Center at help@uw.edu or 206-221-5000.
  • It is UW Information Technology's intention to maintain the highest level of service possible for our Wi-Fi clients. In order to facilitate this goal, students and staff are asked to minimize the potential for interference from other non-infrastructure devices that use the unlicensed 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio frequency (RF) bands. UW Information Technology will regularly monitor activity in these bands and will notify users of interfering devices that have potential to impact the campus Wi-Fi network. The University, through UW Information Technology, reserves the right to restrict the use of any 2.4/5GHz radio devices that are found to be potentially disruptive to the Wi-Fi network in all University owned or managed properties.
  • Use of the Wi-Fi network is subject to the usual policies for use of UW campus network services. See Policy page.
  • Only devices authenticated via UW NetID may access network resources outside the UW network.
  • The University, though UW Information Technology, reserves the right to disable your Wi-Fi network access for a variety of reasons, including "excessive" bandwidth usage, a misconfigured or compromised device, or degradation of service to other users. The UW operates an unencrypted Wi-Fi network, therefore any sensitive information transmitted over the network should follow the UW standard for minimum computing security. Because Wi-Fi networks deployed by UW Information Technology do not use network based encryption protocols, it is your responsibility to use protected transport-level or session-level protocols if sensitive information is transmitted over a Wi-Fi network. If your department handles Personal Health Information (PHI), additional steps may be required to ensure the security of that sensitive information. (See UW Information Systems Security policy statement .)

Wi-Fi Network Facts

  • The Wi-Fi network's maximum data speed averages less than 1/10th the speed of the campus wired network. High-bandwidth and latency-sensitive applications like large file transfers, Microsoft Window system updates, streaming media, and file sharing programs can impact user experience.
  • Wi-Fi systems have limited control over the RF medium. Consequently, performance varies and may not meet the needs of critical and high-availability services.
  • Wi-Fi connections from off-campus areas and sections of campus not designated for Wi-Fi coverage are not supported by UW Information Technology.
  • Be aware that microwaves, cordless telephones, and other RF devices that operate in the same frequencies as WiFi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) are known sources of Wi-Fi signal interference.
  • On UW campuses, using an 802.11a capable Wi-Fi device will often improve performance, especially in large classrooms and auditoriums. (The Wi-Fi services map shows where 802.11a is available.)

More Information

Last modified: January 16, 2015