Does Your K-12 District Really Need Wi-Fi 6?

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Technology has transformed the way students are learning. Kids want to be constantly connected and they expect Wi-Fi everywhere. Classrooms are transforming into high tech interactive learning environments and maker spaces. Students are building robots and 3D-printing prosthetic hands. They are exploring the streets of ancient Rome and the depths of human anatomy in virtual and augmented reality. Parents, too, want their kids to have personalized, engaging learning to set them up for success in a ferociously competitive world.

School Sites are Getting Smarter
More devices and more digital content in the classroom is just the beginning. IoT is unlocking increased conveniences, efficiency and safety. Smart connected devices support facilities and operations.

Building access control and security systems help increase physical safety and security, as districts have the unfortunate need to protect students, faculty and staff against growing threats and violence. Many districts have stepped up their use of video surveillance to monitor what’s happening inside the schools as well as outdoor areas like parking lots and playgrounds. Building access control systems enable school site personnel to determine who enters the building and when and prevent unwelcome outsiders from wandering the hallways.

Primary schools are adding outdoor Wi-Fi, not only so students and parents can share their experiences at sporting events but also as a safety measure, since many sites use athletic fields as a gathering point during emergencies.

Districts are looking to IoT and automation to make their school sites more environmentally sustainable. Building automation systems can control temperatures based on usage and occupancy to deliver energy savings. Classroom temperatures can be regulated differently than large open spaces like gyms and auditoriums, making the environment more comfortable. Smart water fountains encourage kids to drink more water while also monitoring water quality. Smart trash cans eliminate the problem of overflowing garbage in some areas, while other trash cans are barely used.

Where are Schools with Wi-Fi Today?
Pervasive Wi-Fi is an expectation for school districts to support engaging learning and more efficient operations, and the 2018-2019 Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) infrastructure report shows promising improvements.

Even districts that have been slower to embrace 1:1 initiatives are catching up. Forty percent of tech officials surveyed by CoSN said their districts provided each student with their own device in the classroom. Adding in the popularity of BYOD programs, more than half said that all students in their districts had access to laptops, netbooks or tablets in the classrooms.

CoSN also expects 1:1 initiatives to morph into 2:1 scenarios over the next three years, as more students have multiple devices. The consortium projects that 38 percent of students will have two devices within three years, nearly doubling from today.

The majority of districts reported robust networking in the CoSN report. Ninety percent of district tech officials said they were confident or very confident that their wireless networks could support one or more devices per student. And they’re not limping along, mostly. Nearly three-quarters use 802.11ac gigabit networks.

But there’s room for improvement. One quarter of school districts still employ 802.11n – or older – Wi-Fi technology. Wi-Fi coverage is not yet pervasive across the entire campus. Less than a third of schools provide wireless in every classroom.

5 Reasons to Consider Wi-Fi 6 In Your District
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the industry is rolling out Wi-Fi 6, the next-generation wireless technology that’s also known as 802.11ax. Wi-Fi 6 promises to enhance user experiences, even with the rapidly growing number of mobile and IoT devices.

But with school IT budgets constantly squeezed, the real question is: When do school districts really need the latest wireless? Here are four reasons to consider migrating to Wi-Fi 6.

  1. Deliver a better experience for everyone and everything.Wi-Fi 6 is designed to deliver a better user experience. It’s ready to handle a growing and diverse amount of applications and traffic. Multiple devices connected to an access point can communicate at the same time. Wi-Fi 6 is designed to handle demanding applications like voice, collaborative applications and streaming video with ease. And it enables the fast growing contingent of IoT devices to share the airspace nicely.
  2. Eliminate Wi-Fi pain points. Wi-Fi 6 is ideal for ultra-high-density mobile environments, like large multipurpose rooms, auditoriums and stadiums. If students and faculty are reporting poor wireless connectivity in these areas, consider deploying Wi-Fi 6 strategically.
  3. Planning for a network refresh.Don’t worry—you likely have a lot of good years of service left in your 802.11ac wireless network. But if you’re considering a network refresh or extending Wi-Fi to new areas, put the latest Wi-Fi technology into the consideration mix. Deploying Wi-Fi 6 now will enable your district to move forward with a great educational and operational experience, without worrying about Wi-Fi capacity for the next several years.
  4. Build solid network foundation for IoT. When mounted on the ceiling, access points are ideally positioned to provide coverage for devices that use Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). These access points are ideal for temperature controls, intrusion detection, energy management, asset tracking as well as wayfinding and geofencing for location services. Wi-Fi 6 can even extend the battery life of IoT devices. It has a power-efficient operating mode that minimizes battery drain, allowing allows devices to sleep for longer periods between checking in with the access point.

Boost Success with Aruba Networking
When you’re ready to migrate to the latest wireless technology, Aruba has you covered. Aruba Wi-Fi 6 access points deliver high-performance, automated connectivity and enhanced user experiences. That’s why so many school districts rely on Aruba wireless and wired networks to power a richer learning experience and more efficient facility operations. Managing the network from the cloud with Aruba Central vastly streamlines the work of managing a high-density network.

Go Deeper
Learn more about Aruba’s Wi-Fi 6 access points.

Watch the 5 Steps to Get Ready for Wi-Fi 6 webinar.

See how Pearland ISD is using AI to address cybersecurity.