As in-person classes return to UTA this fall, the amount of people on campus continues to increase. The additional students, staff and faculty need to access the internet, and the members of the Office of Information Technology department are the ones who ensure that access is available.
OIT said in an email on Aug. 31 that users were experiencing network connectivity issues and dropped Teams calls. Jeffery Neyland, chief information officer, said slow connections and network outages are other issues OIT contends with.
Jason Hardy, director of infrastructure and operations, said OIT put in a new wireless network system February 2020. The new system doubled the number of access points and increased access in underserved areas like the outdoors and parking garages.
Hardy said the issues at the beginning of the semester were caused by the configuration of the system, and OIT was able to resolve the problems within a week of classes resuming.
There are over 4,300 access points across the campus, he said. Access points allow devices to communicate with the school’s network.
“So over the last year we've added at least 2,000 new access points to the campus,” Hardy said. “A lot of that's been in areas that were underserved before. Those underserved areas are actually our most popular or most widely used areas.”
Almost half a million individual devices have connected to the network since the start of the semester, he said. There have been peaks of 20,000 concurrent connections and most were made to access points outdoors.
Hardy said usage is also high in places like the University Center, the Maverick Parking Garage and the West Campus Parking Garage. The garages didn't have Wi-Fi before last March.
In the two weeks prior to the semester starting, the network was peaking at around 5,000 concurrent connections, Hardy said. On the Monday and Tuesday before school started, it was about 7,500. Once the semester began, that number more than tripled.
“When school started it was, you know, everything went crazy,” he said. “So 24,000 was, I believe, the highest peak we had, which was on Tuesday of the second week of school.”
Hardy said the new system has decreased the amount of network incidents on campus. Since the new system was put into place, there have been about two and a half incidents a month, compared to roughly 8 incidents a month in 2019.
Neyland said incidents do not only include a total network outage, but also outages in a particular section of the network or slow network speeds.
Hardy said that sometimes connections to the network drop because the campus is so large and there isn’t equal coverage throughout. The amount of people in an area can also affect the network.
“So all of the people in the area are each connected to the access point, and you're sharing a finite resource,” Hardy said. “So at some point, you're going to either be competing for access to the access point, or you're going to notice that your share of the bandwidth is a little bit reduced.”
Hardy said OIT will continue to improve the network around campus. There are plans to install 200 more access points into the new Social Work building and to upgrade 71 access points in the College Park Center. He said OIT also wants to expand coverage to more of the campus, specifically outdoors around the west side of campus.
“The one thing we do know is as we move forward," Neyland said, "the use of data is going to increase."