Oct 03 2022

Wi-Fi 6 Access Points Help Drive Campus Connectivity

As higher ed adapts to emerging connectivity needs, the latest access points help deliver reliability.

With the rise of hybrid learning models and the general acceleration of technology on campus, colleges and universities face a challenge delivering reliable connectivity.

“You have more and more devices on the network all the time, and with hybrid learning, you can have ubiquitous videoconferencing and remote teaching,” says Doug Cheung, director of product management at NETGEAR. Add in high volumes of research data and the daily influx of on-campus visitors, and the Wi-Fi will struggle.

Faced with an increasing number of devices and applications, school administrators must deliver seamless connectivity even in a dense wireless environment. The next generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 6, delivers faster speeds and greater capacity, along with the ability to support a far greater number of devices.

LEARN MORE: How NETGEAR can increase speed and capacity to meet higher ed's Wi-Fi demands.

How Universities Can Plan for Wi-Fi 6

To make best use of the emerging Wi-Fi capabilities, higher education IT leaders must do some thoughtful planning. They’ll need to consider physical spaces and anticipated bandwidth usage.

“You can start with a site survey, looking at the terrain,” Cheung says. Determine where and how students and faculty will be using the Wi-Fi, considering all possible scenarios.

The obvious use case is classroom connectivity, but that’s an increasingly complex consideration. For example, there are equity issues that can be overlooked. “Suppose you have five kids working in a group and just one of them is working from home,” Cheung says. “That means all six kids need to be on Zoom. You must have equal access for everybody.”

RELATED: Is your campus ready for Wi-Fi 6?

There are other variables to consider as well. How many devices will each student be carrying, not just this fall but one or two years down the road?

“I am a little bit conservative in that I use a rule of thumb of three devices per kid,” Cheung says. “My daughter has her cell phone, her iPad to take notes in class and her computer. But if you’re looking to the future, you probably want to plan for more.”

IT leaders will need to also consider the types of data in play. In addition to streaming classroom sessions, schools may need to support vast volumes of research data, along with the inputs from a rising tide of Internet of Things devices that support everything from physical plant maintenance to campus security.

“It’s not just the number of devices,” Cheung says. “All of this has to be part of your planning, and it’s very hard to predict the future. Technology evolves every day, the use model evolves every day. You have to have a platform that allows you to scale out, meaning you can add more devices, and scale up, meaning you can upgrade the technology.”

Doug Cheung
Network connectivity today is as important as running water or electricity on campus. This is fundamental to modern education.”

Doug Cheung Director of Product Management, NETGEAR

Wireless Access Points Help Universities Meet Future Needs

With a robust assortment of Wi-Fi 6 access points, NETGEAR gives higher education institutions the flexibility to adapt to emerging connectivity needs. Throughput differentiates NETGEAR’s main Wi-Fi 6 offerings. The WAX615 delivers 3 gigabits per second, the WAX630 offers 6Gbps and WAX630E delivers 7.8Gbps.

Even the smallest-capacity access point delivers major benefits.

“If you have 100 devices and you’re getting 3Gpbs overall, that’s still 30 megabits per second for each user,” Cheung says. “To most people, that is already is a huge number.”

The use case will help IT figure out which access point suits the need. In an administrative office with three or four people doing routine work, for example, a single WAX615 may be all you need. In an auditorium with 300 students streaming data and interacting online, something more robust may be required.

EXPLORE: How Wi-Fi 6 can better enable remote learning.

“It’s all about anticipating the density of devices in that particular area,” Cheung says.

NETGEAR can help IT leaders to strategize their upgrades. The company has decades of experience in supporting the connectivity needs of higher education, as well as deep expertise in the small- to midsize-enterprise space — organizations on a similar scale to, say, a big university’s history department.

In the face of ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, college and university administrators and IT leaders must be working actively toward Wi-Fi 6.

“Network connectivity today is as important as running water or electricity on campus,” Cheung says. “This is fundamental to modern education. I cannot think of any campus that could function properly without adequate network connectivity.”

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