Get Connected: Using Wireless at Tufts

Christine Fitzgerald
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 12:15pm

Tufts Technology Services (TTS) understands how important it is for our faculty, staff and students to have access to a robust and modern wireless communications environment. In recent weeks, we have heard from a number of sources that the wireless experience on the Medford/Somerville campus is causing our community some frustration.

We hope the following information about wifi at Tufts will help you get and stay connected, and let you know how you can help us address the challenges and improve the community's experience with wifi on campus.

Tufts Wireless Network

There are three wireless network options at Tufts.

This wireless network connection option for registered devices provides protection against identity theft and data loss.

For quick access while on campus, select tufts-secure from the list of available wireless networks on any computer, phone or tablet. Login using your Tufts Username and Password is required each time your device connects to Tufts-Secure from a different location.

Tufts Wireless is an open wireless network and registration is required each year.

Available on all 3 campuses, the Tufts wireless network (tufts-wireless) gives registered laptops, phones, tablets, and e-readers access to all Tufts network services, including Internet browsing, connection to personal and departmental network drives, printing, Exchange email, and more.

Tufts Guest is an open wireless network for visitors and guests.

Tufts guest wireless network gives visitors and guests on Tufts campuses temporary access to the Internet without the need for device registration. Intended for short-term use, it is separate from the Tufts wireless network and provides no access to Tufts network drives or services.

Initially rolled out out in 2010, the Tufts wireless network implementation was focused on providing strong wireless coverage to areas with a high volume of users. As usage increased and the service evolved, focus has been on providing better coverage across campus. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, wifi was extended to outdoor areas with a primary focus on public gathering areas and athletic fields (e.g. President's Lawn, The Green, Ellis Oval, the quad, tennis courts, etc.). Today, Tufts wifi works across all three campuses, including many of the outdoor spaces that have a high-density of people and events. Our current wireless network consists of approximately 2,700 access points across all three campuses with 1,970 of those access points deployed on the Medford/Somerville campus.

Evolving the Wireless Network

Wireless technology remains among the most rapidly changing area of the IT landscape and the industry sees significant enhancements in the protocol and technology approximately every 3 to 5 years. Tufts intends to pace its wireless network renewal, enhancements and refresh cycles with industry technology changes to provide our community with the best possible experience.

There are a number of things that impact and/or challenge the provisioning of wifi and the community's experience using it on campus.

  • Outdoor settingsWireless technology was not necessarily built for covering very broad areas with a small number of devices; cellular technologies were better designed for this originally. Improvements continue to be made in the technology that will help better provide coverage in these outdoor areas, with current efforts at Tufts focused on providing access in outdoor spaces that have high-densities of people and events where there is a greater demand for coverage and data throughput.
  • Proximity to Wireless Access Points: The closer the device being connected is to the access point, the stronger the signal strength and the better the user experience.
  • Wireless Network selected: The wireless network on campus your device is connecting to (tufts-secure, tufts-wireless or tufts-guest) will affect your experience.
  • Volume of Users, Devices and Applications/Services: The number of faculty, staff and students, and the number of devices, does have an impact on the efficiency of a wifi service, though it is not that simple. The growing number of users and devices coupled with the applications and services accessed will impact the wifi effectiveness. For example, today there is a significant amount of traffic over the network for high-definition video using a wide variety of applications such as Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, YouTube, Periscope and Netflix.

What's Next?

So what can we do to address the challenges and improve the community's experience with wifi on campus?

To address near term issues, TTS is adding additional wireless access points, where feasible. As a long-term strategy, spaces across all three campuses have been reassessed and surveyed, using standard wireless criteria and "heat maps" that show where coverage is weaker, identifying where improvements in coverage and new access points are needed. Using information from these assessments, we have an initiative to refresh Tufts wireless infrastructure and more densely deploy wireless access points across all three campuses. The recent Tufts Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex (CLIC) at 574 Boston Avenue, which was brought online using the latest wireless technology, providing coverage inclusive of hallways, stairwells, etc., will be used as a model for the wireless refresh standards across all campuses.

Support and Feedback

You can improve your experience with wifi on campus by doing a few simple things:

  • Make sure that you connect your device using “tufts-secure” or “tuftswireless” not “tufts-guest.”
  • If you experience any issues with the wireless connections, including weak-to-no signal strength, please contact the Tufts Technology Services (TTS) 24/7 Service Desk by calling 617-627-3766 (for fastest service) or by emailing it@tufts.edu and include information about your location, what type of device is being connected, and which wireless network you are using (tufts-secure, tufts-wireless or tufts-guest).

For more information about wireless access at Tufts see: https://it.tufts.edu/wireless-access.