Analysis of a Campus-wide Wireless Network

David Kotz and Kobby Essien

Abstract: Understanding usage patterns in wireless local-area networks (WLANs) is critical for those who develop, deploy, and manage WLAN technology, as well as those who develop systems and application software for wireless networks. This paper presents results from the largest and most comprehensive trace of network activity in a large, production wireless LAN. For eleven weeks we traced the activity of nearly two thousand users drawn from a general campus population, using a campus-wide network of 476 access points spread over 161 buildings at Dartmouth College. Our study expands on those done by Tang and Baker, with a significantly larger and broader population.

We found that residential traffic dominated all other traffic, particularly in residences populated by newer students; students are increasingly choosing a wireless laptop as their primary computer. Although web protocols were the single largest component of traffic volume, network backup and file sharing contributed an unexpectedly large amount to the traffic. Although there was some roaming within a network session, we were surprised by the number of situations in which cards roamed excessively, unable to settle on one access point. Cross-subnet roams were an especial problem, because they broke IP connections, indicating the need for solutions that avoid or accommodate such roams.

This paper has appeared in four forms, listed in reverse chronological order, definitive version first:

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Research supported by the Cisco Systems University Research Program

Last modified: Wed Jan 12 14:51:19 2005