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The aim of Selfnet e.V., a non-profit student association run entirely by volunteers, is to promote ICT education. Indeed, for the last 20 years, Selfnet has provided a platform for ICT students to both develop and apply their knowledge.
To this end, Selfnet organizes various events focusing in IT and networking. It builds and manages its own network for its halls of residence as a real-world project, giving students practical, hands-on learning opportunities. At the same time, the network provides direct, unrestricted, and fast access to the university's research networks and the Internet, in turn supporting research and education. This is vital infrastructure, then, based on a core network of dedicated fiber optic connections (dark fiber) running between multiple student dormitories.
In October 2013 Selfnet e.V. started building a Wireless LAN (WLAN) network in several dormitories, to offer wireless network access, alongside the wired gigabit connection available in each room.
Currently 14 dormitories have wireless access, serving around 3000 students (roughly half of Selfnet’s total population).
• Website: https://www.selfnet.de
• About us: https://www.selfnet.de/association.html
• About the network:
• Live statistics are available on http://dashboard.selfnet.de/
Selfnet had several requirements for the network, including user authorization via RADIUS, in order to match IP addresses to users, since this is linked to IP address assignment. It also needed redundant controllers in two physically different locations, in order to provide High Availability (HA) Wi-Fi.
Selfnet provides Wi-Fi in several student dormitories around Stuttgart. Since the environment and building of each is always different, each presents a unique challenge. In the first step of Wi-Fi expansion, Selfnet focused on a minimum of 20–30 Mbit/s in every room. (If a building is completely renovated or a new dormitory is built, higher bandwidth is provided.)
With Wi-Fi coverage in every room, outdoor areas of some dormitories also required coverage. This was especially true for the Stuttgart-Vaihingen campus, which has a long-term vision of providing uninterrupted, outdoor Wi-Fi access across the entire campus.
In another scenario, Selfnet provides Wi-Fi for students alongside Internet access via LAN. Selfnet also provides Wi-Fi in its offices and an Access Point (AP) is deployed in every room, with switches helping to address the lack of mobile reception in basements.
Final requirements included encryption of the control link for all APs via DTLS, and data link encryption for APs in the Selfnet NOC and Selfnet offices. Access via STelnet/SSH to APs was also important for Operations and Maintenance (O&M), as APs are distributed all over Stuttgart and physical access requires substantial effort.
Huawei provided several products and solutions to meet Selfnet’s demanding requirements.
Huawei AC6605 has been deployed with hundreds of indoor APs: AP6010DN-AGN, AP5030DN and AP4050DN, AP2051DN and AirEngine 5760-10. There are also dozens of outdoor APs — AP8030DN and AP8050DN — in a solution that provides both stability and flexibility for campuses.
Elsewhere, Huawei Access Controller (AC) and high-density APs provide easy access to campus networks. Wi-Fi 6 APs deliver services on 2.4G and 5G radio frequencies simultaneously, with a rate of 5.95 Gbit/s for each device. With two ACs in dual-link cold backup mode, tunnel forwarding provides ease of traffic management.
Since Selfnet is completely run by volunteers, most work only begins in the late afternoon or in the evening. Huawei’s local Technical Assistance Center was able to provide support 24/7, responding to requests promptly within two hours, matching the efficiency of Huawei’s general collaboration throughout the entire sales and supply chain.
In particular, Huawei effectively addressed Selfnet’s special challenges for their Wi-Fi network, satisfying their PPSK and RADIUS requirements: Selfnet needed to provide Wi-Fi to personal and IoT-devices — such as gaming consoles, printers, smart speakers, and more — but authentication had to be performed via RADIUS.
Huawei’s ability to provide long-term roadmaps for upcoming APs and software releases are also proving helpful in terms of planning for the expansion of the Wi-Fi-dormitory network.
The Huawei WLAN solution equips Selfnet with the latest technologies. Selfnet was able to expand its Wi-Fi network rapidly, completing expansion for five new dormitories with over 350 Huawei APs in 2019. Yet, Huawei also provides long software support, even for older models such as AP6010DN-AGN, ensuring Selfnet’s investment for years to come.