WIA: Frequently Asked Questions

What equipment do I need?

To use our Halls network you need a PC or laptop (Windows, or Mac) running an up to date copy of Windows (XP, Vista or 7) or Mac OS X. You also need to be running up-to-date Anti Virus software.

Can I use a “netbook” (Acer Aspire One, Asus Eee PC or similar) with WIA?

See our minimum requirements for details of potential issues using netbooks with WIA.

Where can I purchase a wireless LAN adapter and how much does it cost?

Most laptops now come with a wireless adapter built in; however, you can purchase a wireless network adapter (or wireless LAN card) from any local computer shop or online from an Internet website. Prices start at £15 for a basic 802.11b card and £30 for a 802.11g card.

How do I sign up?

Please follow the instructions on the WIA page to sign in.

Where is the wireless network available?

Wireless logo (courtesy LSE)The wireless internet access service is available across campus and in all university accommodation.

What level of technical support is provided for WIA?

As outlined in the Terms of Use, section 1.2 and 1.3; IT Services’ support for the WIA service is limited to running the WIA network itself. Users who require a managed, supported service are advised to use the University’s computer rooms; WIA is aimed at users with prior experience of configuring their laptop for secure wireless networking and the technical know-how to troubleshoot connectivity issues.

I’ve heard that wireless networks are insecure, what is the University doing about this?

To protect our wireless users, we are using industry standard 802.1x security to authenticate users (so that only registered users can access the service) and encrypt traffic (so that outsiders cannot “eavesdrop” on WIA users’ communications).

To protect our existing network of desktop PCs and servers, the WIA facility uses a dedicated separate network. WIA machines are effectively “outside” the University network.

How fast is the wireless network?

The wireless network itself runs at 11 mbps or 54 mbps depending on the type of wireless adapter you use (respectively 802.11b or 802.11g), although the connection speed you get will depend on how close you are to an access point. The WIA’s Internet connection for HIA/WIA is limited to 90 mbps incoming (download), and 90 mbps outgoing (upload) traffic.

What factors will affect the speed / reliability of my wireless connection?

The wireless network uses radio waves to link your laptop to the nearest access point, anything which interferes with this signal can affect the speed and reliability of your connection. For example:

  • Obstacles (eg pillars) between you and the access point
  • Metallic objects near your wireless network adapter (eg a metal pencil case)
  • Distance from the access point to your laptop

The WIA Internet connection is shared between all users. If one person is downloading a large file this will affect the connection speed for others. For this reason, it is good manners not to download large files during busy periods.

What is the difference between the 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards?

The main differences are in the speed of connection and the availability of hardware (access points and wireless network adapters). 802.11a and 802.11g have a maximum speed of 55 mbps, while 802.11b gives an 11 mbps connection.We have chosen 802.11b because it is the most widely adopted of the wireless standards.

The WIA “Sign up steps” and Terms give the minimum steps I have to take to secure my laptop. What else can I do to protect my work?

The next step we would recommend is the installation of ‘personal firewall’ software on your laptop. This monitors connections into and out of your computer and allows you to authorise or block them. For ease of use most personal firewall packages come with sensible default settings and the ability to learn your responses – so you aren’t prompted every time you send an email.

For users without existing commercial ‘personal firewall’ software a number of ‘personal firewall’ products are available free for personal use. See the review at:
http://www.snapfiles.com/Freeware/security/fwfirewall.html.

(This link is provided for users’ convenience only, the University of Buckingham has no connection with the organisation carrying out the review nor the companies or products mentioned in the review and makes no representation or warranty as to the
fitness for purpose of those products).

If you want to delve further there is a wealth of information about computer security available online. Windows users can start at: http://www.microsoft.com/security/.

Where’s the ‘W’ logo from?

Wireless logo (courtesy LSE)The distinctive ‘W’ logo was developed at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and is proposed as a standard for the signage of wireless “hotspots” in UK higher education institutions. (Note that LSE own the rights
for the symbol and any requests for permission to use it should be directed to their IT Service department www.lse.ac.uk/itservices/).

Can I use Skype on WIA?

Following feedback from students, we have recently updated our firewall policies to allow the use of Skype on the HIA service.