Is your network ready for school?

Is your network ready for school?

Is your network ready for the mobile onslaught? Gone are the days when “student electronics” meant a calculator. Students now are carrying multiple devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop, smartwatch, fitness tracker, etc.), all of which will make demands on your network.

A classroom of students all streaming video – a not-uncommon situation in a modern classroom – places a fair load on a network; other devices may not be so demanding but will nevertheless add to overall bandwidth requirements.

Importantly, network provision affects education outcomes, as it determines how easy it is for students to access information and gain exposure to new ideas and different perspectives. This means how you provision and manage your network will have an impact on:

  • How teachers can integrate student devices into their lesson plans.
  • How each device can function as a network endpoint.

Cabled vs. mobile networks

Cabled networks and mobile data networks are, in many ways, at opposite ends of the classroom-use spectrum.

Devices owned and controlled by the school will often take advantage of the speed and stability of a cable connection. Many student-owned devices, on the other hand, will have generous data allowances; taking advantage of these can help network administrators balance loads and reduce congestion at times of peak demand.

With this in mind, admins must decide whether that reduction is enough to justify allowing classroom material to be transmitted over the mobile network and, if so, whether the school should explore installing femtocell transceivers to encourage students to keep their devices off the school’s Wi-Fi network.

2.4GHz vs. 5GHz protocols

Many mobile devices can now take advantage of 5GHz Wi-Fi protocols. These are both faster and can support more users but are less able to penetrate walls and other physical barriers, meaning repeaters or signal boosters may be needed.

One solution is to put school-owned wireless devices on 5GHz channels, leaving the slower 2.4GHz band for student-owned devices. This helps makes the most of the available spectrum and can simplify security and governance.

Student-owned devices are complicating life for school network managers, but a plan for balancing traffic across all available network technologies can keep the student body’s mobile fleet from wreaking havoc on your infrastructure.