As part of the School Network Upgrade, we’re replacing network equipment in schools with next generation wireless technology – known as Wi-Fi 6. Learn more about what the new tech means for your school in the blog below, written by our wonderful guest blogger, Bill Bennett.

Wireless networks are about to get better. Soon you’ll be using Wi-Fi 6. It’s the latest version of the technology used for networks inside schools, homes and offices.

Wi-Fi 6 promises a faster local network and a better internet experience. On paper it is three times faster than Wi-Fi 5. You won’t notice that kind of improvement in the real world, but it will take less time to download big files.  

A faster network is great, but for school users the more important improvement is that Wi-Fi 6 works far better than older versions of Wi-Fi when many devices connect to the wireless router at the same time.

When the first versions of Wi-Fi appeared, people would connect one or two devices to the network at the same time. Over the years the number of devices per network connection has multiplied. Market analysts predict within a few years most homes will have 50 or more devices attempting to share the same connection. It’s as true in the classroom. 

Wi-Fi 6 takes a few approaches to managing network congestion. It lets a router communicate with more devices at any given moment. Wi-Fi 6 lets the router send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast. Earlier versions couldn’t do this, they would constantly switch between devices. Previously devices would all be competing for the router’s attention all the time. With Wi-Fi 6 they take turns. 

A useful way to understand this is to think of a pizza delivery company. If it has a couple of drivers and things get busy, it will take longer for some people to get their dinner. Moving from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6 is like hiring more delivery drivers. 

Added together these congestion management features mean that wireless network connections stay strong and reliable even when there’s a lot going on. 

For classrooms this means students will be less likely to notice the network slow down at busy times. If you have Wi-Fi 6 at home, you’ll be able to stream Netflix while family members do their homework or entertain themselves on, say, an Xbox. 

The other advantages of Wi-Fi 6 are lower latency, better wireless coverage and improved security. It also needs less power. 

Latency is the time it takes for data to take a round trip from, say, a laptop to an internet server and back. Lower latency means you won’t see those short delays in video conferencing calls. Better wireless coverage means there will be few dead spots in a classroom. Everyone, even the students sitting in the farthest corner will reach the network. 

The security in Wi-Fi 6 makes it harder for hackers to guess passwords. It also makes data less useful to crooks if they manage to get hold of it. 

Wi-Fi 6 is still new. It’s been on sale for around a year. To get all of its benefits you need both a Wi-Fi 6 router and suitable student devices. Most new devices come with Wi-Fi 6, but older devices won’t have it – meaning those with newer devices will see more improvement.