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9 Myths and the Truth about Wifi in K-12 Education ( Part 3: Myths 4-6)


Similar to the first 3 myths, the second 3 myths of Wi-Fi in K-12 education will help you save money while stilll experiencing the best performance for your school's network. In this article, you'll learn more about what "Wave 2" actually means for your network, how smartphones and other devices effect your Wi-Fi performance, and how Wi-Fi's security actually works.

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

A popular misconception doesn't make it a correct one.

For decades, Wi-Fi's implementation has dealt with various standards that have evolved over the years. The latest standard is 802.11ac Wave 2- an advancement in technology that is actually quite significant. Most high-end wireless access points today are Wave 2 Access Points, but there's just one little problem with this latest standard's implementation.

The problem being, it hasn't been adopted enough yet. Most smartphones, tablets and notebooks are still Wave 1, and it may take quite some time for the devices to catch up to the latest standard.

However, this doesn't mean that upgrading to Wave 2 APs is pointless. Far from it, in fact!

Upgrading to a Wave 2 Access Point will still give great benefits to older devices. Better receive sensitivity (or, in layman's terms, a more solid connection) and higher range are both real benefits of a Wave 2 Access Point that can be experienced with a Wave 1 client.

The full benefits of Wave 2- including increased speed, etc- may not be experienced until all the client devices have caught up, but in the meantime Wave 2 APs still offer a significantly better experience than the older Wave 1 standard.

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

There's multiple reasons to keep students off school Wi-Fi (usually concerns about what they're doing with it), but performance is not a valid concern. Do smartphones effect Wi-Fi performance? Well, yes. Absolutely.

But preventing them from connecting to the network can be even more detrimental to performance than allowing them to connect. Allow me to explain.

Unless you're operating on a budget stretched too thin for your Internet consumption, it's very rare that the capacity of your network will be tested, even at full load. If it is, your problems require a service upgrade from your ISP, anyways.

That being said, however, preventing students from connecting to Wi-Fi via their smartphones won't stop their smartphones from doing what is called Probing. All wireless devices use Probing to find networks and get network statuses on a constant basis, in a large place such as a school with a high amount of clients and client devices, these Probes can and often do oversature a Wi-Fi network's channel time, moreso than actual traffic.

Allowing the devices to actually connect will mean less Probing being done and more regular network traffic. So your network actually will perform better if they're able to use it.

In addition, students with smartphones likely have mobile service of their own that isn't filtered in any way- your school's Internet should have filters in place, and if they're going to be using your Wi-Fi, chances are they aren't going to be able to do network-intensive tasks at the cost of your network's bandwidth.

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

Now, this myth actually does have some real truth behind it. The reason behind this myth is that at one point, it was true- earlier standards of Wi-Fi used very weak security methods, such as WEP. The latest security standards, such as WPA2, haven't ever been cracked and likely won't be for many years to come.

All data going to and from the latest Wi-Fi enabled devices and APs is encrypted. This applies to all devices manufactured since 2006. Now, steps still need to be taken to properly secure your network, and Wi-Fi does add a layer of required security on top of that. However, it is no longer the weakest link in IT security, and any properly-managed business or school using an enterprise network should be perfectly safe from the kinds of attacks that made the news so long ago.

Okay, then. Let's move on. In the next article, we'll cover the final three myths, where you'll learn about PoE (Power over Ethernet) standards, how transmit power really effects Wi-Fi performance and more.