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Langaton kampusverkko eduroam yhdistää miljoonat käyttäjät ympäri maailman

A wireless network is probably the first thing that a visitor needs when arriving on campus Picture: moodboard/ThinkStock

The wireless campus network, eduroam, connects millions of users around the world

Tiina Leiponen ja Heta Koski

When a visiting researcher or student arrives on campus with a smartphone and laptop, what does she need first of all? A power socket for her laptop? A printer? No. The first thing she needs is a wireless connection.

Research and studying have become increasingly international and work is more often done somewhere other than at one's own desk.  The first thing a visitor to a new campus needs is fast, secure and affordable internet access. This is just as true when visiting a neighbouring town as it is when in Humboldt University of Berlin, or even the Trinidad and Tobago campus of the University of the West Indies.

So, how can you access a working internet connection from your laptop, tablet or smartphone? The short answer is: with eduroam. The eduroam web connection is an international system that supports and promotes the mobility of users. With a username and password issued by his or her home organisation, an employee or student can obtain automatic wireless network access on the campuses of all organisations belonging to eduroam.

There are 34 such organisations in Finland and eduroam can already be used on around 400 sites all over Finland, from Helsinki to Utsjoki. In Europe, eduroam works on around 15,000 sites, and almost 19,000 worldwide.


Funet was among the first organisations to connect to Finland to the international eduroam infrastructure. From Europe, the service has spread around the world, to 82 countries. Picture: eduroam.org

Over a billion log ins

The wireless eduroam connection is a good example of what can be achieved through European cooperation. It all began in 2002, when experts belonging to European research networks decided to offer a visiting user an access to a campus's WLAN, on the basis of the visitor's home campus password. To this day, eduroam is based on the same idea.

"A visiting student's username and password are sent in encrypted format to his or her home organisation, where they are compared to information stored in a database. Successful authentication provides the visitor with network access," explains Wenche Backman-Kamila, a network specialist at CSC.

"Visiting users have already hooked up to eduroam over a billion times. Growth has been exponential in Finland too. Use has increased tenfold in four years and there are now over 3 million log-ins a month!

eduroam logins in Finland 2012–2016
Use of eduroam shows strong growth in Finland in recent years. Picture: CSC

This is partly explained by the fact that eduroam is also available outside campuses. Anyone can provide eduroam on their WLAN network, but only students and researchers can use it. The connection works in locations such as Turku City Library and extensively within the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District. In Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg, eduroam is available in airports, and also in hotels, restaurants and cafés in Sweden. It is one of the world's best-known network names.

A safer alternative to an open network

You can also implement a wireless campus network on a fully open basis for your own and guest users. However, WLAN networks have certain risks.

"Eavesdropping on users is possible on an open network, but eduroam provides a secure connection everywhere. This is based on secure technology, such as 802.1X authentication and WPA2 encryption," says Juha Hopia, Network Specialist at CSC.

Nowadays, studying is independent of time and place. Work is done outside traditional computer rooms, in libraries, cafés or group work rooms, where fast and secure network connections are of prime importance. Some universities have already given up their computer rooms and encouraged students to bring their own terminals onto the campus.

"It is easy to use eduroam on a range of terminals. The user only needs to run the setup program on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. After the installation, the user just enters the username and password and is online. Once entered, the username and password are saved on the terminal, enabling automatic login on sites covered by eduroam. In this way, eduroam lives up to its slogan ‘Open your device and be online,'" explains Backman-Kamila.

With eduroam, there is no need for separate visitor IDs, which reduces the user administration workload. Cost savings can also be achieved by reducing the number of computer rooms.

"All Funet members, such as universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes can connect to eduroam free of charge. We Funet experts provide assistance in getting connected," says Hopia.  
 

You can now also connect to eduroam in Musiikkitalo!

The University of the Arts Helsinki connected up to eduroam in the spring of 2016. Experts from the University's IT services confirm that joining the service went smoothly.

"The required RADIUS server was configured using the Funet instructions indicated. They were a huge help," says Information Systems Specialist Juha Nyholm.

"We installed eduroam in the University's WLAN base stations, which cover locations such as Musiikkitalo, the Helsinki Music Centre," adds Specialist Juho Kirjavainen.

 


Juha Nyholm ja Juho Kirjavainen. Picture: Tiina Leiponen

"In the case of devices maintained by IT services, we perform installations using the eduroam CAT application and instruct our users to use it when connecting to eduroam. Everything has gone according to plan, although authentication can take a little too long at times. We are investigating the reasons alongside Funet specialists," says Kirjavainen, describing their experiences in introducing the service.


A wireless eduroam network runs in Musiikkitalo, the Helsinki Music Centre. Picture: Helsinki Music Centre

 



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