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Moving to 802.11n: Colorado District Beefs Up WiFi

St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD) of Longmont, CO has opted to replace its current network of access points in an effort to provide more reliable, efficient, and consistent WiFi performance throughout its 49 school campuses.

"A robust WiFi network is the life-blood of a 21st century education. Schools today must offer and empower anytime, anyplace, any pace, and any device learning opportunities," said Joe McBreen, chief information officer for SVVSD.

For SVVSD, which serves 27,000 students over 411 square miles, the exponential growth in mobile devices in recent years was an important factor in its decision to upgrade. The district has chosen the ZoneFlex system manufactured by Ruckus, and it will install 802.11n dual-band 7962 access points (APs) at each school facility. All of the APs connect to a WAN originating at the district's main office building and are all managed remotely using the Ruckus FlexMaster system management software.

The company noted that school environments today have to rely on WiFi for a wide range of technology beyond computer stations, including laptops, smart phones, iPads and iPods, VoIP communications, wireless video surveillance, and presentation technology such as projectors. In order to provide performance and service at speeds and consistency levels that users of such technology have come to expect, schools and other high-density facilities must upgrade from conventional WiFi to smarter, more flexible systems capable of adapting transmissions for heavy interference and devices that are constantly on the move, as well as those that are stationary.

SVVSD's McBreen identified both population and modern building construction as key factors affecting WiFi reliability. "Even newer buildings use a variety of materials in the walls, which can be hard for WiFi signals to penetrate. In one of our tests, we piled 78 802.11b, g and n devices onto a single Ruckus 7962 access point, and put it through its paces. We simply couldn't make it fail in typical K-12 scenarios, including dense numbers of devices consuming video, file share access, and shared Google Document collaboration."

SVVSD is one of more than 500 educational institutions around the world, including K-12, colleges and universities, and alternative schools, that have installed Ruckus ZoneFlex systems since the start of 2010, according to the company.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.