A major upgrade of school Wi-Fi networks means teachers can spend more time focusing on students’ learning without having to worry about managing and maintaining the technology. N4L is replacing and supporting wireless equipment in schools as part of the Ministry of Education’s Te Mana Tūhono programme.

As a result the programme will give ākonga a safer way of connecting to the internet and a more seamless Wi-Fi experience while at school. It means fewer network disruptions and more students will be able to use the internet at the same time. 

Until now N4L’s Managed Network stopped at the router. After the upgrade the Managed Network will extend to the classroom – meaning the team can monitor, maintain and manage the internet connection every step of the way. 

Scheduled to run over four years, the upgrade started in early 2020 and will replace over 12,000 switches and 38,000 wireless access points in 2,450 schools. At the core of the upgrade is a move to the latest Wi-Fi 6 equipment. While it can mean faster connections, the main benefit of Wi-Fi 6 is that it does a better job of handling many connections at the same time. N4L is also increasing network security by splitting Wi-Fi access into separate networks for staff, students and guest users.

Craig McDonald-Brown is principal at Awakeri School, which is a primary school in a rural area 12km southwest of Whakatane. He says he is looking forward to being part of the Te Mana Tūhono programme: “We live in a connected world, and there are great learning opportunities available through the internet. At the moment our wireless infrastructure doesn’t support us accessing what it has to offer. It’s disruptive to our learning when it stops working, and is frustrating to both teachers and students. 

“We look forward to N4L supporting us with establishing and maintaining a strong online connection. It means we’ll be able to spend more time focusing on our students’ learning without having to worry about managing and maintaining the technology.” 

As part of the upgrade of school Wi-Fi, N4L is also providing support and assistance to schools with aging wireless equipment before they are eligible for the replacement. If a piece of their equipment fails, N4L will work with the school to either fix or replace it as quickly as possible to ensure online learning can continue. 

N4L is working with a panel of local installers and IT support companies around the country who have a proven record of working with schools to deliver the upgrade. 

The COVID-19 lockdown meant N4L revised its original plan to replace the equipment in 200 schools by 30 June 2020 to have 50 schools done by 31 August. N4L recently replaced the equipment in the 100th school.