UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Does Eduroam Work?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 6 July 2012

Importance of WiFi at Events

Use of mobile devices (and note pads!) at IWMW 2012 (photo taken by Sharon Steeples)

A few months ago I came across a Twitter discussion about Eduroam – “It doesn’t work” complained one of my followers who was unable to access WiFi while away from his office at a conference. As at the time we were in the process of organising the IWMW 2012 event, I was concerned that participants would not be able to engage in discussions at the event using the #IWMW12 Twitter hashtag if they were unable to access WiFi. I therefore ensured that we provided advice on how to connect to Eduroam:

As described on the edroam Web site “eduroam (education roaming) is the secure, world-wide roaming access service developed for the international research and education community.

Use of eduroam for visitors to the University of Edinburgh is described in the advice for visitors provided by the Information Services department at the University of Edinburgh.

You should note the following:

    • Your home institution must be a member of the JANET Roaming service, or one of the other global eduroam federations.
    • You must be registered to use the eduroam service at your home institution.

You should note the following advice:

Before you visit the University of Edinburgh, make sure you configure your device to work with the eduroam wireless network at your home institution.

since:

If your device can successfully connect to eduroam at your home institution you should not need to make any changes to use your device at the University of Edinburgh, or any other institution which supports eduroam.

But wince we were suspected people would be bringing along a diverse range of mobile devices and may have a variety of different eduroam configurations at their own institution we realised that the UIWMW 2012 event, which attracted 172 participants from across the UK, would provide a valuable opportunity to see how reliable access to eduroam was and, if difficulties were experienced, see if we could identify the problem areas.

A Surveymonkey form was set up and, in the IWMW 2012 conclusions, we encouraged participants to complete the survey form if they have tried to connect to the WiFi network using Eduroam. A summary of the responses is given below.

Survey of Use of Eduroam at IWMW 2012

A total of 33 responses were received, with 27 providing their names, 24 providing an email address and all 33 giving details of their host institution.

As can be seen from the diagram 25 (75.8%) of the respondents had used Eduroam successfully away from their host institution before attending the IWMW 2012 event and a further 2 people (6.1%) had tested Eduroam at their host institution with only 3 people (9.1%) having never used Eduroam prior to attending the event.

But how successful were they in using Eduroam at the event? From the second diagram we can see that 21 users (63.6%) successfully connected to Eduroam, but 7 people (21.2%) had some initial difficulties, before connecting to the service.

It seems that 3 people (9.1%) were unsuccessful in their attempts in connecting to Eduroam and 4 (12.1%) used a guest username and password to connect to the WiFi (we had reserved a small number of guest accounts in case people did not have Eduroam access or encountered difficulties in connecting to the service).

In response to the question which asked for a summary of “Experiences of using Eduroam at IWMW 2012″ we received 10 additional comments:

Generally Eduroam coverage was good, but disappointingly almost non-existent in the accommodation block. However inter-access point handover did not seem effective, meaning that it was often necessary to reconnect after any change of room in the Appleton Tower.

I couldn’t get Eduroam to work at all on the Monday, so resorted to getting a temporary login to the University of Edinburgh network on Tuesday, which I used successfully from then on. I used 3G from my smartphone on the Monday, but sparingly.

On most occasions it took two attempts to get a working connection. The worst was on the last morning when I probably tried about 10 times before finally getting a connection. It kept prompting me for my login details, and despite providing them (correctly) it wouldn’t connect. I was on the verge of giving up completely before it finally connected. A very frustrating experience!

Connection problematic with Android 2.3 – had to forget and then reconfigure the connection each time I reconnected, but find the same at my home institution, No problems with Android 4

Seemed to consistently take two attempts to connect with iPad. Works fine at Cardiff, so may just have been a network thing at Edinburgh

Using my HTC Evo 3D I managed to connect successfully every time I went online at IWMW 2012. However using a Dell Inspiron Mini 1018 (Windows 7 Starter) the ease of connecting to Eduroam was inconsistent. Generally once the connection was established it held for the period I was using the netbook for, but resuming from standby/hibernate the connection has to re-establish which caused issues.

my iPhone would connect about 50% of the time, my iPad kept prompting me for my Eduroam password and when I entered it it rejected it. I checked my password was correct when I returned to Oxford, it was and it _still_ won’t connect to Eduroam.

I used the Central wifi at Edinburgh (details provided by Natasha and her team).

I used 3G connection on my Windows Mobile 6.5 phone and Eduroam on my laptop.

Connected fine from my laptop but had problems connecting from my HTC android device (although this sometimes happens with other wifi connections) it would work after several attempts.

Lost the connection very occasionally (2 in 2 days of use), but a minor inconvenience

I used the University of Edinburgh WiFi, using the username and passwd provided by the organisers of the conference on a notebook.

My user login needed changing from [username] to [username@sheffield.ac.uk] to get it working in Edinburgh

My devices both had been set up with just my username as the ‘identifier’ – which works in Sheffield. Here, I had to change this to [username]@shef.ac.uk.

There was very patchy access to Eduroam Wifi in the accommodation halls.

I also used Edinburgh WiFi successfully, although not in my room at the halls which was a pain.

However, I was not able to connect via Eduroam in Pollock halls of residence, and had to pay £10 for access. I was a bit disappointed with that.

Mostly the connections to my iPad & iPhone were OK.But the signal strength wasn’t often that high. There were also a couple of occasions where I lost connectivity all together.

iPhone worked great from home institution and connected straight away when away. Windows 7 laptop could never connect at home and still failed here.

used laptop and phone

The most popular device used at IWMW 2012, as reported in the survey, was an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch (used by 75.8% of respondents),; a laptop running MS Windows (used by 30.3%), an Android phone or tablet (24.2%), an Apple Macintosh laptop (18.2%), another type of phone or tablet (6.1%) or another type of laptop (3%). The additional devices including laptops running Linux and Windows 7 and Blackberry smartphones.

The majority of respondents (60%) were familiar with Eduroam and felt no need to read the advice provided on the IWMW 2012 or University of Edinburgh Web sites. 21.7% read the advice provided by their local institution; 9.1% provided on the IWMW 2012 web site and 3% provided by the University of Edinburgh. Three additional comments were made on the provision of online help accessed in advance of the event:

I needed to reinstall the Eduroam client from St Andrews on my newly installed Windows 8 laptop. It worked successfully in the office so I was confident of it working in Edinburgh.

I followed the advice on the IWMW2012 site and also checked the advice of my own institution. Eduroam was working fine on my laptop at my home institution before I left for Edinburgh.

Tried to use eduroam info from Janet. Entirely useless.

The following responses were given to the question “Please give a description of any problems in accessing or using Eduroam which you encountered during the event”:

No problems at all. Very disappointing that Eduroam was not available in the accommodation, however.

I basically couldn’t connect to Eduroam, even though I can when I’ve used the laptop at work in London.

Didn’t have any problems.

On my smartphone, Eduroam was being picked up but the network disconnected all the time after initially connecting and I couldn’t get it to connect again. Same problem on my laptop, despite the fact it was working at my home institution and I checked I had done all I should to get it to work away from home. Just kept getting a ‘eduroam is disconnected’ message on both devices.

no problem on using eduroam, the connection was flaky for a very short period at the start of the second day

None. Worked fine. Only issue was not having Eduroam access in the halls of residence (Pollock).

Sometimes it didn’t work and required me to forget the network and reconnect – but it did this with no trouble.

See my answer to question 6. Once connected, I had no problems at all.

same as question 6: my iPhone would connect about 50% of the time, my iPad kept prompting me for my Eduroam password and when I entered it it rejected it. I checked my password was correct when I returned to Oxford, it was and it _still_ won’t connect to Eduroam.

Using my HTC Evo 3D I managed to connect successfully every time I went online at IWMW 2012. However using a Dell Inspiron Mini 1018 (Windows 7 Starter) the ease of connecting to Eduroam was inconsistent. Generally once the connection was established it held for the period I was using the netbook for, but resuming from standy/hibernate the connection has to re-establish which caused issues.

Crappy Windown error.

The final question asked “Please give any suggestions on how you feel online access at events can be improved”. The following responses were given:

Web access in the accommodation — I had planned on blogging about the event and uploading photos to Flickr from the accommodation but wasn’t able to get online.

Would of liked WiFi in my room in halls but I just ventured down to the main entrance instead so not really that bad.

Maybe access to more specific help, although I was able to connect successfully to the Uni of Edinburgh network – I didn’t discover we could do this until Tuesday morning, though, so it would have helped to have this on the general advice available.

edinburgh and sheffield have the correct implementation of eduroam, if other institutions all went by the book the world would be a better place :)

Make the connectivity for Eduroam more reliable! And/or always provide an alternative using the local wifi network(s).

How can you improve on magic? It just connected, that’s all I needed.

WiFi in the accommodation rooms would have made things perfect.

Fellow attendees mentioned that wireless coverage in Pollock Halls was patchy. Fortunately I had a room with a good wireless reception for working before and after the conference.

Slightly surprised not to have eduroam access at the Halls, but I suppose this is where they make their money! Would be good though…

Conclusions

This post was introduced by reporting on concerns on arriving at a conference and finding that Eduroam doesn’t work. It was therefore pleasing to receive the comment:

 How can you improve on magic? It just connected, that’s all I needed.

Some of the teething problems which had been experienced seemed to be due to the need to provide a username and domain name (e.g. foo@bath.ac.uk) rather than just a username (e.g. foo) which may work locally but not when one travels to another institution. However other problems do seem more difficult to solve, such as:

However using a Dell Inspiron Mini 1018 (Windows 7 Starter) the ease of connecting to Eduroam was inconsistent. Generally once the connection was established it held for the period I was using the netbook for, but resuming from standy/hibernate the connection has to re-establish which caused issues.

In light of the feedback we received I would make the following recommendations:

Event organisers should:

  • Ensure that they advise participants on how to configure their mobile devices prior to leaving for the event.
  • Provide links to local advice on use of Eduroam at the host institution.
  • Have a number of guest usernames available for people who may not be authorised to access Eduroam or whose devices fail to connect to the Eduroam service.

In addition since in some quarters there is a perception that Eduroam is unreliable it would also be useful to attempt to identify problems across a number of events, especially IT-related events in which people experiencing problems would be able to provide relevant detailed information about the device, OS environment, error messages, etc. Perhaps a forthcoming JANET event might provide an ideal opportunity? If anyone would like to build on this initial survey, I would be happy to share information on the questions I asked and suggestions for improving the design – in particular a number of responses were related to the unavailability of Eduroam in the halls of residence. It was useful to see this confirmation of the popularity of WiFi access in halls, but this was strictly outside the scope of the survey, which aimed to understand problems in connected to Eduroam when it was visible.

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3 Responses to “Does Eduroam Work?”

  1. Ian said

    I found that I had problems connecting to Eduroam away from my home institution when I first tried to connect at an event via my iPhone. Eventually I twigged that we have a slightly different configuration at our institution and that by switching to “auto” on the proxy settings, I was able to connect. It is a slight inconvenience, but other than that I have had no other issues in connecting to Eduroam when at conferences.

  2. My eduroam connection has always worked fine for me, but I’m aware from visitors to my institution that local advice elsewhere is not always sound. Eduroam is fairly demanding to document as OS tweaks often move the goalposts, and we spend a surprisingly large amount of time on it. It would be useful to have a national survey of institutional eduroam set-ups/advice to see whether some could be improved?

    • Thanks for the comment. One of the aims of the survey at IWMW 2012 was to get a feel for the extent of the problem and the issues which need to be explored in more depth. We have seemed to have identified the need for usernames to be supplied with the local domain, as this does not always seem to be the case. On Twitter there were further suggestions that Eduroam should be the defauly WiFi network for local users as well as visitors, as is the case at the Universities of Bath, York and Kent.

      JANET have been informed of this survey. I hope they will be able to progress this work further.

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