Google Cloud Apps Admins

9 Myths and the Truth about Wifi in K-12 Education [Part 1 of 5]

Written by Joey Allen (Google Admin) | January 9, 2016

Wi-Fi is one of the most popular forms of Internet connectivity, but in consumer, business and education arenas alike, there remains a multitude of myths about Wi-Fi's performance that leads to less and poorer adoption among people who would benefit from a strong Wi-Fi centered network.

In this series of articles, we'll be discussing in detail what the most prominent myths are, as well as the truth behind those myths. Whether you're a home user, a business leader or an IT advisor in education, these articles should help you better understand Wi-Fi deployment and technology.

In this article, we'll be giving you an overview of the most prominent myths, of which there are nine. They are, as follows:

1. You need to upgrade your Switches if you're going to upgrade your Wi-Fi.

The recent surge of 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi means that many network switches all over may not be adequate to handle the stress incurred by these high-power networks.

At least, that's what they say. The accuracy of that statement will be conflicted later.

 

2.  One AP (access point) per classroom provides optimal performance.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course having as many access points as possible will ensure that everyone has a good Wi-Fi signal. Anyone who's ever had to deal with a Wi-Fi access point that's two brick walls over will know how irritating sparse access points can be.

However, one per classroom isn't always the right solution. There are multiple factors to take into consideration here, especially concerning signal conflict and performance degradation, but more on that later.

 

3.  APs (access points) need to be mounted inside classrooms.

An AP will perform at its best closer to the client device. This is simple logic that nobody will try to conflict. However, having APs in classrooms may lead to worries about students messing with the APs- if that's a concern, you may want to consider mounting them in the hallways.

Contrary to popular belief, this can be done- with the right solution.

 

4.  Wave 2 APs won't help without Wave 2 clients.

This myth is pretty sensible. New standards only work when everyone is following the standard, right?

Most client devices on the market nowadays don't yet support Wave 2 Wi-Fi, so unless you're focused on future-proofing, the popular advice is simply to wait. However, you don't need to use Wave 2 devices to benefit from Wave 2 APs, and we'll talk about those benefits in depth later on.

 

5. Keeping students' smartphones off the network improves Wi-Fi performance.

There's multiple reasons that people argue that smartphones shouldn't be allowed on school Wi-Fi networks, but this shouldn't be one of those arguments. A good Internet connection from your school to the provider shouldn't be prone to connection saturation (in which case your solution should be to upgrade), but even if you do keep smartphones off the network, they can still degrade network performance.

How? We'll talk more about that one in detail later. There's actually quite a bit to cover on that topic.

 

6.   Wi-Fi is the weakest link in your IT security.

This is a popular myth, especially since early Wi-Fi implementations suffered from security issues. However, these issues have long since been ironed out. Standards have evolved quite a bit over time.

To learn the difference between those standards, and how even the networks with the best technology can still be compromised, stick around and we'll fill you in.

7. Upgraded PoE (Power over Ethernet) is needed when upgrading APs.

Power over Ethernet is the practice of passing power through ethernet cables. Since new standards factually have greater power requirements, doesn't that mean you'll need a better PoE implementation to compliment it? Sure. Sometimes.

You don't always need upgraded PoE, though. More on that later.

 

8. Increasing APs' transmit power increases coverage.

Increasing an APs' transmit power does support coverage. At least, a kind of coverage. The coverage often mentioned in relation to increasing AP transmit power is often defined as simply being able to see or connect to a Wi-Fi network, butin truth there's quite a lot more to good Wi-Fi coverage than just that.

What else is there? You know the drill. Keep reading and find out.

9.   Band-selectable AP radios improve performance.

Contrary to popular belief, band-selectable AP radios generally do not improve performance. In some implementations they may be necessary- say, if you don't have enough devices that can support a 5GHz band- but having band-selectable radios leads to its own list of serious issues.

 

 

To learn more about these issues, stick around. We'll be covering these myths (and the truths behind them) in great detail here at Coolhead Tech.