Big challenges loom for school Wi-Fi networks

Big challenges loom for school Wi-Fi networks

High definition content will create real issues for school Wi-Fi networks, a network performance expert has warned.


NETSCOUT SYSTEMS, INC. (NASDAQ: NTCT), a leading provider of business assurance, has highlighted a number of issues that principals should be aware of when considering the type of content their schools will stream in the year ahead.


Matt Foster, the organisation’s channel account manager, Australia and New Zealand, said the evolution of content streaming from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD) and ultra-high definition (UHD) will place “unexpected demands” on the network.


Below, The Educator speaks to Foster to find out more about how school leaders can navigate these issues.


TE: This is certainly an important issue for K-12 school leaders. In your view, what are some of the considerations principals should make in terms of navigating this issue and making sure their schools aren’t impacted by this?

MF: Unfortunately, most people don’t understand Wi-Fi and the complexities regarding bandwidth delivery over the air. A large percentage of our Wi-Fi exposure is via home Wi-Fi networks that are easy to set up and just seem to work.

Enterprise Wi-Fi is a completely different beast, as it’s used for all applications (general data, steaming, and voice) to a larger pool of clients with multiple devices. So, when the IT department requests more Wi-Fi coverage or more Wi-Fi bandwidth, you could imagine the response from a principal or business manager of a school.

Wi-Fi networks are a living, breathing entity and a basic understanding of bandwidth expectations are required, such as the type of bandwidth and the amount of bandwidth. The amount of bandwidth required is an easy one to calculate if you know what the usage case is, but the type of bandwidth is trickier.

TE: Can you provide an example you’re aware of in which a school has been impacted by this issue?

MF: NAPLAN was the trigger last year to start the discussion about Wi-Fi deployments in many schools If Wi-Fi went down or could not keep up with the NAPLAN bandwidth requirements, this would impact the students’ ability to achieve their maximum score and ultimately the overall school’s score, which could affect enrolment numbers etc.

The bandwidth requirements for NAPLAN are quite small in respect to other types of media used in schools today.

When looking at deploying Wi-Fi, we first need to understand the syllabus and the delivery medium used. If the syllabus delivery method uses Wi-Fi, such as streaming YouTube video, we need to also understand how many students are streaming and what is the content demand (i.e. SD, HD VHD).

TE: Do you expect many Australian schools to adopt HD and UHD content streaming in 2018? If so, why?

MF: Video streaming is always an interesting topic, as there are many points of view on this subject. Currently the use of SD streaming media is commonplace in primary and secondary education. Anyone that suggests that HD and UHD will not be used is not looking very far ahead, nor do they understand how we evolve as technology users. Content will drive streaming quality. Once nobody records and uploads SD content, then we will be streaming HD content, then UHD etc. In the past 15 years, bandwidth and data usage rates are on a steep incline and will not stop.

By mid to late this year you will see some HD content utilised by schools due to the content availability, but unlikely to reach major pain points, as not all classes will stream HD at the same time. We will see major take up next year for HD. 4KUHD usage in schools is not likely to be commonplace for a few years yet as the content availability will be the driver.

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