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UAE’s Habitat School Ajman upgrades wireless network

School upgrades Wi-Fi network to cope with the increasing amount of academic activity that is conducted online

Pupils at Habitat School in the emirate of Ajman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), are being encouraged to carry out more of their studies, assignments and homework on their own devices after the school upgraded its Wi-Fi connectivity.

The school aims to address the challenges of modern-day schooling, using technology to help meet the needs of the expatriate community living in the emirate.

Much of the school’s curriculum is delivered online, and with more than 1,000 devices connecting to its core IT network, students depend on good connectivity to download educational apps and materials from the cloud and access information from the internet. Teachers test and grade students’ work online and there are also portals for parents to monitor their children’s progress from home.

Habitat runs three schools in Ajman – the International Indian School, Habitat School and Habitat Girls School – and there is another Habitat School in the neighbouring emirate of Umm Al-Quwain.

Over the years, Habitat School has evolved to keep pace with rapid changes in the use of technology in education.

More than 6,000 pupils and over 110 staff at the school have at least one device each, and its network transmits up to 750Mbps of data at any one time. It was this sustained level of activity, along with the rising number of Wi-Fi connected devices, that prompted Habitat School Ajman to seek a more powerful, secure wireless network.

Clint Sebastian, director of technology at the school, said a reliable Wi-Fi connection for students and teachers had become as vital as electricity for the smooth operation and management of the school. “Reliable Wi-Fi connectivity across the school’s district was needed to power the everyday online learning experience for both teachers and students,” he said.

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Sebastian said that over the past few years, Habitat School Ajman had seen a steady increase in the number of devices connecting to its network, including smartphones, tablets and notebooks, as well as PCs.

“Pupils are no longer getting information from books alone,” he said. “Slowly, information has moved to the cloud and assignments and homework can be done and accessed online. Learners benefit from the vast amounts of information at their fingertips.”

However, this level of connectivity makes the school more susceptible to network latency, slow performance, network threats and viruses. Because of this, it is critical that the network is secure, reliable and available all the time.

After evaluating several options from networking suppliers that conducted proof of concepts (PoCs), the school engaged TP-Link to provide a wireless network for students and teachers.

Previously, the school had used a cluster of third-party networking and IT security suppliers. After extensive consultations with TP-Link’s provider partner in Ajman and the supplier itself, the school was recommended to deploy TP-Link’s EAP 330 wireless access for students, teachers, parents and guests.

“The primary goals were to gain the network throughput and have a wireless LAN controller (EAP controller), which could be used to configure, manage and monitor network traffic, devices and activity,” said Sebastian.

Security focus

Network security was a further focus, said Sebastian. The school wanted to make sure its IT team selected the best technology to detect malware and locate devices on the network that may not have permission to be there.

The school implemented 85 TP-Link EAP 330 wireless access points for indoor and 30 EAP 110 units for outdoor wireless network coverage.

The EAP 330 wireless access points enabled it to gain speeds of up to 1.2Gbps over concurrent dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO and TurboQAM technologies, allowing the school to achieve its primary goals of having an enhanced network throughput and high performance, said Sebastian.

Naseer Karim, pre-sales manager for the Middle East and Africa at TP-Link, said the company had helped the school to set up a captive portal that provides a convenient method for guest authentication.

Karim said the school’s IT department could manage and monitor hundreds of TP-Link EAPs in multiple sites via a controller in a single location. “The ability to control, adjust and visualise the entire network from any connected PC makes centralised business Wi-Fi management more efficient and cost-effective,” he said.

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