Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

New wireless network faster, more secure

The University of Alabama’s Office of Information Technology recently added a secure wireless network for student use; however, its addition was prompted more for basic security measures than overall faster connectivity, Vice Provost John McGowan said.

“Wireless networking presents a real and unique set of security challenges,” McGowan said. “In general, though, cases of abuse of open wireless networks are commonplace and so there is no reason to think we would be safe from it.”

In the past, students have been forced to connect with these open wireless networks like UA Public and UA ResNet. This gives unauthorized users the ability to eavesdrop and capture sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers, McGowan said.

The new secure network, UA-WPA-PSK, is protected with a password that users must provide to gain initial access.

“WPA-PSK is easy for users to set up and use and yet provides a reasonable level of encryption and some basic access control from the network,” he said.

Some students, upon receiving the University’s email this Monday introducing the new network, thought this meant Internet connection on campus would subsequently improve.

Elie Zeitouni, a freshman majoring in management information systems, first tested the network in the Alston building and was pleased when he compared connection speeds of older networks using, a public website used to measure Internet connection speed.

“The download speeds for the old networks were steady at 10 megabits per second and the upload speed was consistent with one megabit per second,” Zeitouni said. “The new network reached speeds that averaged at 40 megabits per second for both download and upload.”

While these new speeds seemed promising, they did not hold true for Internet connection in his Riverside dorm room, returning back to the normal 10 megabits per second for download speed.

“Students will probably see improved speeds in the classroom, but not as much in the dorm unless something changes,” he said. “My advice to the University would be to provide faster cable to dorms to improve upload speeds for at least wired connections.”

The campus has over 2,700 wireless access point devices installed across campus and each can support up to 30 user sessions, but this number is highly dependent upon the type of network traffic demanded, McGowan said.

“If several people are connected to the same wireless access point as you and they are doing video streaming sessions like Netflix, you will probably not get a very good connection,” he said.

Living on campus all four years, Claire Davis, a senior majoring in English, said dorm room wireless connection has always been more of a problem than campus-wide Internet speed, but security is more of her top priority.

“While the new network still tends to work more consistently in other areas of campus aside from the dorms, the new secure connection is a great improvement because I can finally believe my private information is protected,” Davis said.

More to Discover