Wireless Standard

Title

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Wireless Standard

Introduction

Purpose

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's (UNC-Chapel Hill) Wireless Standard provides a structure for managing wireless communications spectrum on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. The UNC-Chapel Hill technology infrastructure is provided to support the UNC-Chapel Hill business and its mission of education, service, and research.

Wireless communications for data and voice are an increasingly important part of the overall technology plan of the University. Thoughtful management of that spectrum will improve reliability, availability and security of these services to all members of the campus community, and support compliance with applicable law.

Wireless networking is an area of rapid change and innovation. New unlicensed radio spectrum enables novel use cases and new licensed spectrum expands the footprint of cellular service providers. Central coordination of Radio Frequency (RF) uses protects operational campus networks from interference and makes institutionally scoped opportunities possible without negation by small-scale uses.

This Standard is intended to identify situations where units either must or should ask for direction when planning to implement technology that makes use of any wireless functions, while identifying when such consultation is unnecessary.

Scope of Applicability

The owners and managers of those hosts, workstations, switches/bridges, routers, servers, sensors, cameras, controllers, and other devices capable of sending and receiving wireless network packets operating on UNC-Chapel Hill premises.

Standard

This standard applies only to over-the-air use of wireless spectrum. It does not include any broadcast-over-wired systems such as Cable TV. This standard applies to both the licensed and unlicensed portions of the radio frequency spectrum. It does not apply to wireless technologies outside of that spectrum, such as Infrared.

Wireless interference is one risk from deployment of devices that use any part of the RF spectrum. Interference may degrade important campus services (including campus Wi-Fi networks). Common sources of wireless interference include: wireless hotspots (including phones configured as hotspots), printers, media streamers, cordless phones, gaming systems, video devices, garage door openers, Bluetooth devices, and improperly shielded microwave ovens. Some research or medical equipment may have specific wireless functions that can seriously interfere with surrounding devices or networks. Some energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs leak RF interference that interrupts wireless signals.

Depending on the source of interference and degree of disruption to the campus WiFi network or other devices, ITS may request or require relocation or removal of a disruptive RF source.

Turning off or intentionally interfering with wireless access is not allowed and is considered a violation of the UNC-Chapel Hill Acceptable Use Policy.

As described in the Data Network Standard, ITS Communications Technology is tasked with managing effective networks for the University. In the complex regulatory and fast-evolving area of wireless spectrum, this regularly creates new challenges. In order to provide the clearest guidance possible, this Standard is intended to identify situations where units either must or should ask for direction when planning to implement technology that makes use of any wireless functions, while identifying when such consultation is unnecessary.

Risks of implementing new wireless devices are that they may use a wireless function (specific spectrum, amount of bandwidth, type of activity) that would conflict with other technology on campus, not work effectively, or absorb unanticipated resources. This could mean that a purchase would not be useable, might interfere with an important system (life-safety, campus police, or others), or might cause technical issues that could be avoided by consultation with a subject matter expert prior to implementation. Some scenarios pose such a high risk that consultation is required ("must") others are at a risk level where consultation is recommended ("should") but the unit may choose to accept the risk of losing the use of their devices if they later prove to cause unacceptable interference or otherwise not "play nicely" in the campus ecosystem.

The Communications Technology group welcomes questions from any campus Constituent concerned about how the wireless functionality of a device they have or are considering obtaining will fit into the campus. At help.unc.edu go to the Networking Services request and choose "Consultation" to get that help. The guidance below is intended to clarify when asking for that consultation is required, when it is a good idea, and when it is probably unnecessary (but always your option if you have a concern!).

First, use by individual students or employees of personal consumer technology using very short range (like Bluetooth, ANT/ANT+) protocols pose very low risk of causing difficulty on campus wireless spectrum. As long as students and employees comply with the Acceptable Use Policy, Information Security Controls Standard, and related technology policies, there should be no need to request a consultation unless you have a specific concern. Students should not place any persistent wireless device on campus (other than in their residence hall rooms) unless they are under the supervision of a faculty member. Employees should not do so outside the scope of their work responsibilities.

Your risks and risks to the University are highest when your unit will rely on a device with wireless functions in order to do business, when devices will be left in place longer, when the wireless function uses a protocol that covers a wide area, when the device(s) are of a new or unusual kind, or when a device may be moved to different places and create difficulty troubleshooting if it conflicts with other devices.

Note: Individual consumer grade devices like laptops, watches, and phones are not usually sources of interference concern. Devices that others connect to or large numbers of small devices, even with only short-range transmission, are sources of risk that this Standard seeks to address. The intent is not to stop these activities (though some might be stopped), but to make sure ITS Communication Technologies has an awareness of what technology is being used on campus so that systems can coexist peacefully.

Units must request a Networking Services consultation before implementation if any of the following are true or if, at any time, the wireless function of the device appears to be interacting in negative ways with other devices or networks on campus.

  • Devices with wireless functions that will span beyond a single campus building. (Examples include mesh-networks or beacons) This is not meant to cover consumer devices that simply connect to a campus wireless network with a signal that might reach across a building.
  • Devices in quantities that might impact other campus network services (if connected to a wireless campus network for example). This may include devices that transmit large quantities of data, like sensors of various kinds, or that could interfere with nearby devices. Please be conservative in your estimate of how many that quantity is based on the device's type and function. Examples: Campus unit wants to deploy hundreds of wireless sensors around campus for a research project. Lighting controls (due to the density of required controllers). Mesh-networked fire or other alarm system.
  • Any device intended to monitor wireless spectrum or data networks (note that these devices should not be used by non-ITS staff other than in coordination with ITS Communication Technologies and the IT Security Office).
  • Devices (that are not mass-market consumer grade) that your unit will rely on to perform an essential business function, particularly if the cost would be a substantial loss to your unit if the device was determined later to be incompatible and could not be used. Example: MRI machine that requires its own wireless network.
  • If the device will transmit Sensitive (Tier 2/3) information, any risk assessment required by the Information Security Controls Standard will take into account wireless functionality of the device. (This may include consultation between the Information Security Office and ITS Communications Technology.)
  • Handheld radios or other devices often used by campus safety staff.

Units should request a consultation, but are not required to do so, if any of the following are true:

  • The device(s) will be moved from place to place or be on only intermittently and have a risk of creating difficult-to-troubleshoot wireless issues. This is unlikely to be consumer devices or those that simply connect to a campus network. The focus should be on new types of devices, those using dedicated spectrum that is easily subject to interference (such as wireless handheld radios) or those with longer range rather than short-range signals.
  • Expensive projects of any kind. All kinds of devices come with wireless functionality now, including things you just might not think would do so. Even if you don't intend to use that function, it may be on by default. If a project is important or expensive, even if it's just a lot of one consumer-grade device, you can reduce your risk by checking with an expert. Example: Deployment of A/V equipment with wireless controllers in many rooms.
  • Fixed, long-term devices that don't extend a signal beyond a single building. Particularly if they are of a new type, or have any characteristics that don't quite rise to the list above. Examples: wireless doorbells, intercom systems, video streaming plug-in devices.

Faculty making transient use of a few devices for research or instruction that might otherwise fall on a list above do not require consultation if they otherwise adhere to IT policies. But if the faculty member responsible has any concern about creating wireless interference, a discussion with Communication Technology engineers would be appropriate.

Exceptions

Specific or blanket/process exceptions to the application of this standard may be made by the Vice Chancellor for Information Technology, Assistant Vice Chancellor for ITS Communications, or their delegate(s), and documented in writing.

Definitions

  • Licensed Spectrum: The use of licensed Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum is controlled by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • Unlicensed Spectrum: The FCC provides several portions of the RF Spectrum for public use without licensing.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Constituent: UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, staff, students, retirees, contractors, distance learners, visiting scholars, and others who require UNC-Chapel Hill resources to work in conjunction with UNC-Chapel Hill.

Related Requirements

External Regulations and Consequences

University Policies, Standards, and Procedures

  • UNC-Chapel Hill Data Network Policy

    Contact Information

    Primary Contacts

    Subject Contact Telephone Online
    Policy ITS Policy Office 919-962-HELP Its_policy@unc.edu
    Networking ITS Communications Technology 919-962-HELP help.unc.edu (Networking Services Request, "Consultation.")

    Important Dates

  • Effective Date and title of Approver: Effective May 2, 2017, Deputy Chief Information Officer Susan Kellogg
  • Revision and Review Dates, Change notes, title of Reviewer or Approver: Standard derived from superseded Wireless Networking Policy dated November 24, 2014. For additional dates see Policy Repository history.
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Details

Article ID: 131265
Created
Thu 4/8/21 9:05 PM
Modified
Wed 7/14/21 2:40 PM
Effective Date
If the date on which this document became/becomes enforceable differs from the Origination or Last Revision, this attribute reflects the date on which it is/was enforcable.
12/15/2020 10:51 AM
Issuing Officer
Name of the document Issuing Officer. This is the individual whose organizational authority covers the policy scope and who is primarily responsible for the policy.
Issuing Officer Title
Title of the person who is primarily responsible for issuing this policy.
Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
Last Review
Date on which the most recent document review was completed.
12/15/2020 10:51 AM
Last Revised
Date on which the most recent changes to this document were approved.
11/10/2020 1:31 PM
Origination
Date on which the original version of this document was first made official.
05/02/2017 12:00 AM
Responsible Unit
School, Department, or other organizational unit issuing this document.
Information Technology Services