Wireless infrastructure in school is now becoming the norm as it allows great flexibility in providing connectivity for portable devices such as laptop, netbook, tablet, slate and handheld devices such as PDA, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and game consoles allowing these devices to access resources on the computer network and the Internet securely. In using a wireless network the additional costs from installing fixed network sockets where connectivity is required is also lowered and a more attractive facade can be maintained without network points.
Out of the Box Simply Won’t Do
However, in considering a wireless infrastructure for schools, many people (school administrators) tend to think that this can be accomplished easily and quickly, at the cost of an access point and a patch cable. While this is very true for a home broadband connection, where installing a wireless network is nothing more than a wireless gateway router, readily available off the shelf, it is not wise to assume the same is true for the wireless infrastructure of a school.
How to Avoid Poor Performing WiFi in Schools
There are many aspects to consider when deploying a wireless infrastructure in school. Careful planning and purposeful designs are essential to ensure that the end product performs to requirement and expectation.
To start with, a proper wireless survey is needed to establish the many fixed parameters within a building such as sources of interference, neighbouring wireless access points, coverage and signal levels as well as the architecture of the building itself.
Wireless networks operate based on a shared medium. Unlike its wired counterpart that enjoys a dedicated data transfer rate of up to 1000Mbps, wireless devices have to share the medium with speeds varying between 1Mbps to 54Mbps and with the new 802.11n standard up to 160Mbps, depending on the signal level and bandwidth available.
Understanding the Basics of WiFi to Tackle the Problems
A good analogy of this is the FM radio channels. There can only be so many radio stations in the range of frequencies that when moving from one area to the next you often find radio stations that are separated geographically share the same broadcast frequency. This is no different with wireless hardware; other radio equipment and the many different sources of interference may sometimes occupy the same frequency.
A typical access points making use of a certain channel is susceptible to interference from other access points operating within the physical locality, other domestic appliances such as the microwave ovens, cordless phones and electrical transformers and switches. Under these conditions, performance and capacity of the wireless network can be severely impacted.
The wireless signal is also attenuated by walls in a building. The type of materials used in the construction of an interior wall can sometimes attenuate and block the signal from reaching other parts of the building. A planned deployment will include a site survey carried out in all the rooms requiring wireless access to establish a location suitable to mount the access point to provide optimum coverage.
Other Points to Consider
These and many more other factors such as security, performance, reliability, scalability, control, bandwidth and application will need to be taken into account when consider a wireless infrastructure for education. Read our article on the Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wireless Solution.
If you are planning a Wireless Infrastructure for your school or would like advice on improving the level of performance of your current system, give us a call or write to us here.
Author: Samuel J. Tan