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Learning the Truth about Wi-Fi in K12 Education


In certain technical circles, learning the specifications of Wi-Fi technology isn't strictly necessary.

The circle a lot of IT specialists work in deals mostly with computer hardware building and repair, as well as software diagnostics- in other words, everything you really need to know to build and repair computers (and work in IT). So even IT professionals with years of experience working in school environments may never need to investigate Wi-Fi in detail, since usually the networking is assisted by outside parties.

Learning more about Wi-Fi technology coming from that circle is actually quite enlightening. Computer hardware isn't as complex as people make it out to be, usually- and a lot of the prominent myths about Wi-Fi and its implementation in education might even make sense to technical professionals. Keeping Wi-Fi access points mounted in classrooms- with one per classroom- sounds like a no-brainer, for instance. More signal = better connection, right?

As covered in the article where we went over this, that actually wasn't the case. Wi-Fi APs don't necessarily need to be inside the classroom, and due to how Wi-Fi signals work around building architecture, one-per-room is not only greatly expensive, it also results in quite a number of technical glitches of its own. Things like this may not naturally occur to a computer repair technician- adding more RAM, for instance, doesn't result in memory disruptions. Hardware is pretty simple, once you get down to it.

But Wi-Fi isn't. It's one of the most well-known technical terms, and perhaps the most frequently used connection type, but not many people, even tech gurus, know exactly how it works. Enthusiasts in computer building and repair like to perform what is called "overclocking" of their hardware, namely their graphics cards, CPUs and RAM. A part of this overclocking requires increasing power consumption, and upgrading hardware in general often requires a newer power supply if you were cutting it close beforehand.

So you'd think that Wi-Fi would follow the same rules. Upping transmit power sounds incredibly straightforward, but in truth it doesn't actually help with connectivity problems that much- in fact, in situations where signals are congested, it can actually make it worse. True coverage works differently. People also assume that upgraded PoE is required whenever upgrading an AP- even the best AP will have to turn something off in order to meet a lower power standard, but upgrading the PoE method isn't strictly necessary, especially if you buy an AP that only turns off unnecessary extras, not radios and antennas.

A lot of common wisdoms that apply to computer hardware and technology in general doesn't apply quite the same to Wi-Fi technologies. To learn in more detail how Wi-Fi differs, feel free to start reading our articles on it here. For more from Coolhead Tech, read our blog or contact us!