5 Campus Wi-Fi Trends Every College CIO Needs to Follow

The higher education landscape is constantly changing, especially when you’re focusing on the industries Wi-Fi networks. What used to be fairly straightforward is no longer simple or one size fits all. College and University campuses are among the most demanding wireless environments in existence today.

However, even more important, is the expectation placed on these institutions from its users. Their unique challenge is to support high-quality, reliable and secure Wi-Fi, not only at work and in the classroom but during their personal (play) time as well.

While this issue is creating a need for stronger campus wifi network design, it’s what’s around the corner that you should start preparing for as well.

But what’s in store for the future?

Here are some campus wireless network trends that your college or university can start planning for right now.

Growing User Expectations

Within the Higher-Ed industry it’s becoming common knowledge that the quality of your Wi-Fi can directly impact your bottom line, both from potential students as well as from potential business partnerships. This means that both Colleges and Universities in order to stay competitive need to invest in their wireless networks today.

It’s important our institutions have the tools to support things like fast on-boarding and efficient management, allowing them to fully support the growing number of different device types. This of course is all while keeping that quickly expanding number of users secure.

Most IT departments are relatively small, but are expected to support extremely large networks. This is why more institutions are looking to automated wireless network management systems that can perform wireless administration tasks, produce reports and even offer very detailed troubleshooting.

These management tools are also helpful by remaining vendor neutral—meaning you can choose the software solution that fits your institution best no matter what your current wireless infrastructure is made of.

Suggested Reading - "How to Design Your Wireless Network for Coverage and Capacity"

Another management tool worth mentioning are cloud-delivered options. Your campus doesn’t have to have on-site systems, but rather can choose from solutions that are cloud-based. This averts a significant amount of technology costs for investing in and maintaining those systems, and allows you to shift those resources to where they may be more useful.

Expansion of Online and Hybrid Learning

No matter how big or how small your college or university is, everyone from students to the administration are turning to mobile applications and online resources to enhance and improve the overall higher education experience.

Online learning expands educational opportunities to an increasing number of people. Many of these users are highly mobile, and want access on the move.  

This anywhere, anytime scenario causes the demand on your campus wireless LAN infrastructure to grow, both from a performance and security point of view.

This has to be supported through the right campus wifi solution. Coverage used to be the key to your Wi-Fi network, but now density and capacity are becoming the focus.

Suggested Reading - "7 Amazing Open Education Resource Tools for Your Classroom"

IoT and Wearables are Changing Wi-Fi

IoT (Internet of Things) devices and their demands are changing the game for wireless networks. IoT devices are everywhere, accessing WLANs directly or through tethering and the fact is, the number of connected devices is increasing by leaps and bounds. Analysts believe we could see that number reach upwards of 30 billion devices over the next five years.

One way to support the desired performance of wearables and other IoT technologies is through the deployment of 802.11ac APs (access points). However, increased security solutions will also be critical, since many of these IoT devices produce new security challenges.

The job of our campus Wi-Fi networks will be to provide constant protection, while remaining flexible enough to make sure the appropriate Quality of Service (QoS) levels are met. This will happen by implementing the right firewall and wireless management solutions that offer the right amount of visibility and control to guarantee your students and teachers safety no matter where they are on your network.

802.11ac Wave 2 Devices are Almost Here

Wave 2 of 802.11ac devices are on their way. While Wave 1 brought data rates of 1.3 Gbps, Wave 2 will increase this to support usable data rates of up to 1.7 Gbps. There will also be a variety of other upgrades—MU-MIMO for one—and Wave 2 will also be able to handle the use of multiple devices by one person by utilizing up to 4x4 antennas.

However, to get any of the benefits from Wave 2 it’s essential you have Wave 2 chipsets. The change probably won’t take place in 2015, but innovative campuses will start prepping for it and begin to deploy Wave 2-enabled wireless infrastructure sooner than later, especially since device density continues to grow inside classrooms and common areas across our campuses.

Using Wi-Fi to Gain Revenue

One thing people take seriously is high-performance Wi-Fi. There are those who are even willing to pay for it. Educational institutions can take advantage of this opportunity by charging non-enrolled visitors a reasonable fee to use the network. Implementing the idea takes some thought though. Guests will need a separate, secure network, and management tools will be needed to streamline it.

It’s hard to say which of these trends will most affect your school, but change will always be a part of the future. Preparing for those changes to prevent issues is a far better choice than to idly sit by. It’s the difference that can make you a cutting-edge leader.

At SecurEdge we've helped countless numbers of Colleges and Universities design and implement a successful secure campus wireless network. If you have any questions regarding your current WLAN or would like to discuss plans for your new network simply contact us here, we'd love to see how we can help.

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Danny Mareco

Danny Mareco

Danny is the Marketing Manager at SecurEdge Networks. This basically means it’s his mission in life to make sure you have the secure mobility tools and resources that you actually want and can use. P.S. He also loves a good craft beer.