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College/Sixth-Form WiFi

Last response: in Wireless Networking
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January 26, 2010 8:10:17 PM

Hi there,

I suggested to my college that they should have a student WiFi available and if I can find out how to do it and costs e.t.c. then it'll happen!

How would I go about setting up an open WiFi for the students in my sixthform? The sixth-form holds about 300, and the school about 1000. I don't know whether i'd want a sixth-form WiFi or a full school WiFi yet as I don't know enough!

I have a wireless network in my home, but I imagine that it's very different to that, because I imagine you would need multiple routers that link up or something, to provide signal strength for everywhere?

The size of the college appears to be critical. It really is a rather small building. It only has 2 main rooms downstairs and about 5 classrooms upstairs. THIS is a picture of the Sixth Form Centre, the building is aproximately 2 classrooms in depth. Each classroom being say 2 windows across (in reference to the picture).

As you can see, the building is rather small for a college. It is a small Sixth Form for only about 350 students. I would imagine the main use would be for students accessing the Internet on their mobiles to browse the web. Whilst at any one time maybe up to 20 students maximum would be on a laptop accessing the Internet.

At first, I was thinking of something similar to the type of set-up that they have in Shopping Centres.

For an Ideal set-up, Students would be able to access, but not edit, the "Shared" network (that stores the files that students can use) however integrating this with the already installed system I would imagine to be very problematic/expensive as it would require the entire removal of the old system? At the moment, every computer in the school is wired up, and after logging onto your account (each student has their own account) you can then access the files that that account has privelages to (Student or teacher files). This would mean that each mobile or laptop joining the wireless system would then have to have the LAN set-up on their device no?

Therefore, maybe simply adding an entirely seperate, internet only system, would be the simplest option.

What I was thinking was, for a simple example, when I bring a laptop into my home, I simply "Search for wireless networks" and then log onto our home network. Would such a thing not be possible for what I am trying to do?

Obviously doing that, would mean it would have no encryption, which I undersatnd is a bad thing, but if there are no "files on the network" to be shared, and the wireless isn't really strong enough to venture out of school grounds, then would it matter?

Any further advice, answers or tips would be much appreciated!

Thanks again,

Mike
Anonymous
January 27, 2010 9:41:09 AM

I think you need to follow the example of a coffee bar which has free wireless internet intended only for customers.

Maybe do a pilot scheme using something like your home equipment but strongly restricted to a very small group of students. Daily password changes or an Access List filter by MAC ID might suffice.


While an open network sounds simple -- with schoolkids knowing more about this tech than you, you'd be at the mercy of every little herbert with a handheld device who wanted to prove his hacking skills -- or download large (possibly illegal) stuff which would flood the system.

I suspect that with the large scale you envisage, cheap domestic equipment would not be able to handle the volume of traffic. Thus, you start getting into expensive territory.

January 27, 2010 4:30:04 PM

Thanks for the response!

It does sound rather large scale, but for a sixthform, the building is rather small. I mean realistaically it could even be considered the size of what was a very large house as far as square footage goes I would imagine. Also, I wouldn't imagine that many people would be on laptops/netbooks using it at any given time, however obviously everybody would have their WiFi enabled phones conneted to it, yet I don't think many would people be necessarily actively using it.

Something similar to that of coffee bars is a good idea- I hadn't thought of that. Do they just have one powerful router on an open network or? How about the way that shopping centres provide wireless WiFi internet to everyone in the shopping centre? I was speaking to a friend at a college that does have WiFi and he says that when at school on his mobile he can scan for WiFi and he detects both a student and seperate teacher (encrypted) WiFi. He says that the student WiFi isnt encrypted to log onto, but when he goes onto the Browser on his phone, they then have to log-onto their internet account. How does this work?

What are Access List filters/MAC ID's? :) 

Thanks in advance :) 

Mike
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Anonymous
January 27, 2010 4:55:53 PM

a) Access List is an option in Router wireless security. It allows you to identify trusted users by means of the MAC ID (a standard id system used for all wireless networking equipment) that their wireless adapter broadcasts.

b) As you describe most free wifi systems in use a proxy system which presumably allows the owner to exclude non customers -- not really my area of expertise.

A visit to McDonalds with a wireless laptop will give you the idea.
January 27, 2010 5:36:50 PM

Thanks, might ask a coffee shop manager or something if they know how its done!
January 29, 2010 6:34:33 PM

I'd recommend sending a wireless mesh or WDS based network which would enable you to add extra APs as needed.

I presume you are allowing internet access? You also need to think about setting up some sort of QOS which would allow/disallow various activities like filesharing and monitor BW usage etc which you could charge for if you wished.

There is a program called Bandwidth manager which costs about USD100 which you might want to take a look at.

If you can find an old PC for free (just about anything will do) for this then you are looking at a budget of a few hundred pounds. There is a bit of work involved but it could be done by some of the students themselves and would make for an interesting educational project.

Send me an email if you need to discuss further.
!