May 14 2024

Wi-Fi 6E Access Points: Why the Aruba 635 Makes Sense for Schools

Now is the time for 6-gigahertz APs that deliver wider channels, faster speeds and improved security in K–12 classrooms.

In the wireless technology industry, the year 2020 saw the biggest release of wireless band for unlicensed use since the advent of Wi-Fi in 1989, opening the 6GHz spectrum and more than doubling the available bandwidth for wireless traffic. Wi-Fi 6E was the first standard to take advantage of the wide-open space provided by this new wireless spectrum.

For many schools coming into a purchase year in their three- to five-year refresh cycles for wireless access points, the improvements delivered by Wi-Fi 6E are significant and quite attractive. While there is an even newer wireless standard now available, to get the most on a limited budget, schools should focus on upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E–compatible APs.

What Are the Benefits of Wi-Fi 6E APs?

Schools upgrading their APs to Wi-Fi 6E will be able to take advantage of many benefits. To start, wireless devices will have access to much wider channels, resulting in far less network congestion.

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This is vital, as K–12 schools have seen an increase in demand for wireless bandwidth over the past three to five years. This is due in part to growing reliance on Chromebooks, tablets, 4K monitors, digital assistants and smartphones in the classroom. New Wi-Fi 6E APs will better accommodate the heavy traffic on today’s wireless school networks.

Less congestion and wider channels mean faster, stronger signals with decreased latency, creating a better user experience.

“Teachers, students and guests will all notice a significant improvement, especially with video and other streaming traffic,” says Gayle Levin, head of wireless product marketing for HPE Aruba Networking.

Wi-Fi 6E also improves overall security by extending the WPA3 improvements introduced in Wi-Fi 6 (including enhanced encryption) to the 6GHz spectrum.

Wi-Fi 6E is backward compatible, so devices built using earlier Wi-Fi standards will run on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and newer devices can take advantage of the additional capacity in 6GHz afforded by the 6E access points.

Why Is the HPE Aruba 635 a Good AP for Schools?

For schools that want to move to a Wi-Fi 6E wireless network, the HPE Aruba AP-635 is a smart, practical and economically feasible fit. Part of HPE’s 630 Series of Wi-Fi 6E APs, this device can support aggregate data speeds of up to 3.9 gigabits per second and open access to seven 160-megahertz channels in the 6GHz spectrum — a game changer for teachers and students.

“Gaining access to the 6GHz band is a big deal for the classroom,” says Levin. “It’s built to support low-latency, bandwidth-hungry applications like 4K video and augmented and virtual reality.”

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While some face challenges with Wi-Fi 6E’s slim 50MHz gap between the 5GHz and 6GHz bands — which creates a potential for coexistence interference when transmitting and receiving on the same AP, because the bands are so close — HPE Aruba Networking has developed a solution.

The company partnered with Akoustis to create ultra tri-band filtering. “Ultra tri-band filtering enables the AP to use all channels without sacrificing any to prevent interference,” explains Levin. “This technology allows schools to take full advantage of both bands for faster speeds and lower latency.”

Ultra tri-band filtering has proved so successful that it won the 2023 Best Enterprise Wi-Fi Solution award from the Wi-Fi NOW industry group.

Aruba AP-635 Integrates with Tech on a School’s Network

HPE Aruba AP-635 APs include an integrated Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 radio for Zigbee support, helping schools manage IoT-based location services, asset tracking services and smart devices, such as door locks.

These APs also have a USB port extension to provide wider connectivity for IoT devices, including classroom technologies such as artificial intelligence–powered digital assistants, smart speakers, robots and physical education fitness trackers. “All of the IoT support you need is there,” explains Levin. “There’s no need for an overlay network; these networks can carry the traffic for IoT devices as well.”

Network admins will love that the 630 Series APs can be managed from a centralized dashboard with cloud-based HPE Aruba Networking Central. This console can oversee every aspect of the school’s wired and wireless LANs, WANs and VPNs. It includes AI-powered analytics, end-to-end orchestration and automation, and advanced security features.

MAKE A CONNECTION: How is a single pane of glass used for K–12 network management?

“HPE Aruba Networking Central highlights where there’s been a real shift in how we talk about Wi-Fi APs,” says Levin. “Before, the hardware was the focus. Now, it’s mainly the software that differentiates. Central delivers AI-powered features that can help the IT team more quickly detect and fix network problems.”

One such AI tool, AI Assist, offers automated collection of log files and troubleshooting data when an event occurs, saving the IT team precious time and effort when addressing a networking issue.

Wi-Fi 6E AP Deployment Considerations

Wi-Fi access points are backward compatible, so schools can confidently move to Wi-Fi 6E even if they have older devices. Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 users can take advantage of the new band, and those on older standards will benefit from less congestion because some of the traffic has been offloaded to the 6GHz band.

Gayle Levin HPE Aruba
It’s built to support low-latency, bandwidth-hungry applications like 4K video and augmented and virtual reality.”

Gayle Levin Head of Wireless Product Marketing, HPE Aruba Networking

Another consideration for upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E APs is the school’s switching infrastructure. The Aruba AP-635 access points use intelligent power management to work with existing power. However, schools that have older architectures may need to upgrade to take advantage of multigigabit Ethernet speeds.

Schools will also need to work with their internet service provider to make sure they are aligned with the right network bandwidth because the network will be able support higher speeds and greater throughput. Finally, admins will want to research if they require a separate SSID for the new 6GHz band or if they can use one SSID for all three Wi-Fi bands. Depending on the devices using the network, one approach may be better than the other.

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