Supporting Video Games (and Academics) at Universities

With the ever-increasing popularity of video games, it’s no surprise that there’s a day dedicated to recognizing video games and the gamers playing them. July 8 is Video Games Day, so whether you’re more inclined to crush candies or join friends for a round or two (or 10) of Fortnite, today’s your day!

In the world of online gaming, players want fast upload speeds, even faster download speeds, and low lag. When multiple players are using the same internet connection, the required capacity is multiplied by the number of players.

For most of us, that’s a function of our home internet connection. However, there’s one location where this need for bandwidth is crucial because of sheer volume: the college or university residence hall. Gaming consoles are among the average of eight wireless devices students bring with them when they move on campus. (Curious about the others? Phones, laptops and tablets, as well as smart TVs, wireless printers and wearables are among the other common devices.)

What’s a university to do when the primary gaming demographic is the same demographic as their enrollment … and they all want those fast speeds and low lag rates at the same time? Fear not. There are solutions. And the good news is, when wireless coverage is sufficient to support online gaming, it is adequate to support academic needs also!

Look at Coverage and Capacity

Coverage and capacity provide two approaches to improving the performance of a wireless network.

Coverage: With 100 percent wireless coverage in all areas of the residence hall, students and staff will be able to connect and have Wi-Fi service everywhere they need it. If there are areas where interference and dead zones are an issue, a wireless site survey can determine coverage needs and identify any remediation that is needed. It’s also a good idea to keep an inventory of all wireless devices and their operating frequencies to manage and limit interference between devices.

Capacity: Wireless capacity is the ability of the network to provide reliable, responsive wireless access to the growing number of wireless devices that are competing for bandwidth – in other words, each of those eight devices that students are bringing to campus. This could require more access points in closer proximity, higher power access points, or a mix of both.

Without addressing the wireless needs, you might find that students will take matters into their own hands and bring personal routers, which can wreak havoc with the university’s installed infrastructure. A robust wireless network that meets both coverage and capacity will eliminate these rogue routers before they become a problem.

Increase your Bandwidth

For more than a decade, wireless has been the application driving the need for higher performance cabling infrastructure. The latest generations of WAPs are designed to simultaneously support more than 200 client devices. To get the promised performance, however, the cabling infrastructure that connects the WAP has to perform to those standards.

Wi-Fi 6 (the common name for IEEE 802.11ax) is poised to become the largest and fastest growing wireless standard in history. And, Wi-Fi 7 is fast on the heels of Wi-Fi 6, with significant improvements beyond Wi-Fi 6. If you’re installing or upgrading cabling infrastructure today, you’ll want to be sure it meets the requirements for Wi-Fi 7 at a minimum, so you’re prepared for future generations of access points.

This means Category 6A cabling, to support 10GBASE-T, plus two to four cables per access port. Why four? A minimum of two cables is required to allow for speeds up to 20 Gbps with link aggregation. An additional two Cat 6A cables are then recommended to allow for increased densities over time. It’s easier and cheaper to install the added cables today, than it is to add them later.

Consider Power over Ethernet

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is the new power grid in today’s buildings, with the latest PoE standards allowing for up to 99W of power via the same structured cabling that is moving data to and from the device. Wireless access points are a prime candidate for PoE. With PoE, WAPs can be moved, added and reconfigured at will, without worrying about whether there is an electrical source near the access point.

Once again, Category 6A is the go-to for PoE. The construction of Category 6A cables means they are better equipped to handle the heat rise that comes with PoE. Panduit’s Vari-MaTriX Cat 6A cables are designed with improved thermal capacity, to provide the ultimate in heat rise protection for PoE.

Design for Aesthetics

If you’re adding wireless capacity to existing residence halls, you might not be able to run cabling infrastructure above the ceiling, where that infrastructure typically lives in newer buildings. In cases like this, we’ve seen universities have success using a raceway to contain the cabling infrastructure.

Purdue University successfully added wireless capacity in historic residence halls using a raceway solution plus small diameter cabling. Learn more about the award-winning Purdue project in our Purdue University Case Study.

Game On!

Adding or improving wireless capacity for resident students doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right infrastructure in place, paired with our recommendations above, your students will be ready to game – or study – to their hearts’ content.