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Five key steps to upgrading your wireless network

Are you ready for the nation’s $3 billion wireless overhaul for education—or the move to online testing? Here’s what you need to know

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70 percent of K-12 schools currently lack the wireless network performance to support online testing.

In early February, President Obama made a $3 billion commitment to improve internet access in the nation’s schools to meet the new technology standards required by Common Core online testing.

Approximately $2 billion of that funding is earmarked for an FCC imperative to provide high-speed broadband internet access to 15,000 schools. And private-sector companies—among them Apple, Microsoft, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon—have pledged $1 billion in free and discounted products, connectivity, and professional development.

While this is no doubt cause for celebration, it marks the beginning of a very long road to fully realizing the benefits for education. This funding could cause a tremendous leap in the quality of education for U.S. children, helping them better compete in a world economy when they enter the workforce.  However, if not properly put into place, it could result in a debacle on par with the Healthcare.gov rollout—and a squandering of educational opportunities for the country’s students.

Implementation of wireless infrastructure to support online testing will be a significant hurdle, as 70 percent of K-12 schools currently lack the wireless network performance or wired broadband internet connectivity needed to make this a success, according to EducationSuperhighway.org. Compounding the problem is a new wireless standard, 802.11ac, which should be considered as part of any new infrastructure upgrade. Combined, these challenges are giving many school IT personnel a serious headache.

Here are five key steps that school administrators must take when building out their wireless networks.

1. Ensure proper application performance.

Schools need to ensure optimal wireless performance by controlling traffic and application accessibility at the edge of the network, where students connect—not at the internet gateway, where the network itself connects.

2. Plan for the right density of devices.

With students being given mobile devices or bringing them from home, it’s critical to understand how many students will be connected to any wireless network to ensure a proper capacity design. Underestimate the number of access points required, and your connections will slow down or even drop—causing the learning experience to suffer.

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