BERKELEY'S NEWS • OCTOBER 01, 2022

UC Berkeley makes improvements to Wi-Fi infrastructure, funding issues

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JUSTIN WANG | STAFF

After having budget provisions expanded, UC Berkeley's IT department has largely fixed campus Wi-Fi infrastructure issues with a five-phase plan set to finish December 2022.

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AUGUST 16, 2022

UC Berkeley has updated its Wi-Fi infrastructure following issues in signal coverage and strength over the past few semesters.

According to a campus announcement, more than 600 obsolete access points have been replaced during the past year. David Browne, executive director of campus IT infrastructure, said in an email that the number of Wi-Fi access points has nearly doubled from 5,200 to 9,950 between 2018 and 2022.

“Campus Wi-Fi infrastructure software is updated on a continuous schedule, as new software releases are provided by vendors,” Browne said in the email. “Hardware is updated as equipment becomes obsolete and end-of-life, on an ongoing schedule.”

Browne added that a five-year plan for Wi-Fi improvement was first developed in 2017; however, only 45% of required funding was approved at the time. 

Campus’s IT department has been making annual requests for additional funding and improving infrastructure steadily from 2017 to 2022.

“The biggest factor in our ability to make progress in the past has been years of underfunding,” a campus IT department press release reads. “We are thrilled that, as of July 1, 2022, we are now fully funded to continue this critical work, however, we are playing catch-up and changes cannot happen overnight.”

Funding issues were resolved by creating a provision for Wi-Fi infrastructure in the annual budget, according to Browne. In order to address infrastructure issues, a five-phase plan has been implemented that will be completed by December 2022.

Phases one and two from October 2017 to June 2021 focused on increasing Wi-Fi coverage across campus, especially in residence halls. This work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phase three, which occurred from July 2021 to January 2022, involved improvements to accessibility and security with a focus on user experience.

“Troubleshooting efforts in January identified another bug in the vendor software causing authentication errors and timeouts which resulted in devices becoming unresponsive when connecting to campus Wi-Fi,” another IT department press release reads. “The vendor developed a bug fix, which was tested and validated in the campus Wi-Fi system, but when the permanent fix was applied to the system it resulted in additional issues.”

During phase four, this issue was fixed March 2, 2022. Phase four further involved an abatement of the campus Wi-Fi network named AirBears2. Lastly, it will involve adding a Wi-Fi keys portal, as well as a replacement of Cisco infrastructure with Aruba Networks equipment.

From September 2022 to December 2022, a final phase will involve the launch of residential Wi-Fi services, the replacement of the campus Wi-Fi network CalVisitor with Berkeley Visitor and enhanced connectivity for international students in China to ensure access to course materials.

“We want the campus community to know that we are doing everything in our power to ensure a better network experience for everyone this fall and beyond,” Browne said in an email. “As part of these efforts, we have increased our Wi-Fi support for fall semester start.”

Contact Ratul Mangal at 

LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 17, 2022


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