How WLAN Vendors Can Solve The College Dorm Problem

Ladies and gentlemen of the WLAN industry, here are the problems with wireless networking in college dorms, and a head start on how you can develop a solution.


  1. College dorms are usually covered by the same enterprise 802.1x network used on the rest of campus, but are really more residential feeling at the operational level.
  2. Wireless printing doesn’t work where you have hundreds of anything-goes printers with no coordination on the same WLAN- and consumer-grade $40 printers don’t support enterprise security.
  3. Game consoles and Bonjoury toys also are fraught with problems and usually need yucky work-arounds on the business network usually found in dorms, or get relegated to the wired network.
  4. Rogues get installed to get around what campus WLAN can’t easily provide
  5. Ditching the enterprise WLAN and letting students bring their own wireless routers is a recipe for chaos and angst from the RF and support perspectives.


It’s not cut and dry, and my enormous cranium hasn’t yet formed the whole solution. But it starts like this:

  1. Keep all the benefits of a centrally-managed solution. RF coordination, central monitoring and configs, etc- whether cloud-based or local not so important here.
  2. Study PowerCloud’s Skydog network paradigm. Everything about it doesn’t fit the dorm challenge, but a lot of it does. If you can treat each dorm room as an apartment, with a dedicated SSID or some other compensating control (not all dorm rooms would need their own AP) we’d be off to a good start
  3. Maybe use elements of Ruckus‘ Secure Hotspot in a way that lets a single student or roommates have all of her/their gadgets in a little “private WLAN” all somehow using the same private PSK.
  4. Make sure any one student’s most common gadgets can all interact in their own little WLAN space (even Bonjour toys and printers), that it’s all easy to self-setup, and can be administered by WLAN admins if trouble hits. 
  5. With all device types accomodated, the reasons for rogues are eliminated.
  6. Make sure students can’t get to each other’s stuff, but allow for on-demand temporary access when sharing is desired.
  7. Make sure that however it all gets put together, the RF environment is still well-coordinated.

There- that was easy. Now someone just needs to build the code and interfaces… 



5 thoughts on “How WLAN Vendors Can Solve The College Dorm Problem

  1. Keith R. Parsons

    Lee, you sure don’t ask for much… Let me add one more. This solution needs to work with whatever vendor AP’s you have in place today – I mean, you’re not going to replace your entire infrastructure just to get these Dorm features are you?

    1. wirednot Post author

      Actually, if the right solution came about that solved the many challenges and nuances of dorm life and wireless, a forklift upgrade would be totally reasonable… especially if timed out with upgrading to 11ac:)

  2. Dave

    I have been pondering this too… The Ruckus wall units could do all of this, but just need a management portal ( self management) . Each room with its own SSID, and VLAN(to tie the eth ports on the 7055) using dynamic PSK. I have tried it out and it works, but it is too much of a kludge without a proper management interface

  3. A

    Aerohive guest management solutions seems closest for now. Not that you will get separate SSIDs (you probably would not want that many beacons in the air), but you can have PPSK group and let students become ‘sponsoring employees’ for their devices.
    If they have a decent role-based firewall solution that can enforce pretty much just one rule “devices from the same PPSK group can talk to each other – others can’t” – you’d be pretty close to where you want to be. Or not?


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