Deployment of New Wireless Standard Covers 30,000 School Users

Aruba Networks Inc. today announced it has deployed one of the world’s largest installations of the new wireless networking standard, 802.11ac, for the Australian Catholic Education Office Sydney.

The implementation brings Wi-Fi functionality to more than 30,000 users including students (years 7-12), teachers and administrators, spanning 39 secondary schools in Sydney.

Working with its system integration partner, Matrix CNI, the Catholic Education Office chose Aruba after conducting an extensive review of its existing wireless network. This process identified the advantage in immediately upgrading from its legacy 802.11n infrastructure to 802.11ac, for better network performance and management. Additionally, there was a requirement for a single sign-on to the wireless network, and also the ability to easily onboard any device.

According to Milton Scott, CTO, Catholic Education Office, “The Catholic Education Office embraced an 802.11n-based Wi-Fi network five years ago across its Sydney Diocese. Since that time, the demand for Wi-Fi across our network has grown exponentially among our students, teachers and administrators. We have also seen a significant shift in both the type and number of devices seeking access to the network.”

As a result, the existing 802.11n infrastructure was not coping with this demand and access was restricted to notebooks that could access 802.11n at 5Ghz. Following an extensive network and vendor review, the Catholic Education Office saw significant benefits in moving quickly to the 802.11ac wireless standard.

Across the Catholic Education Office network, it is now common for students as well as teachers to connect up to three devices, including Apple, Android and Windows-based smart phones, tablets and laptops to the Wi-Fi network at any time.

According to Milton Scott, providing these devices with seamless access to the network via a single sign-on during school hours is vital. “One of the most critical and unique features of Aruba is its ClearPass Access Management System, which allows us to securely connect any approved user via a single sign-on to the Identity Management system used by the Catholic Education Office.”

The ClearPass Access Management System allows the Catholic Education Office to create and enforce policies that extend across the network to devices and applications, providing total control over mobility services and a simpler way to deliver Wi-Fi network access to students, teachers and administrators.

The Aruba solution was initially rolled out to nine schools and the Head Office – with the implementation spanning only five days. The installation was completed for an additional 30 schools over a 10-day period in late September 2013, during the New South Wales school holidays.

According to Milton Scott, “Our project team is able to install the Aruba solution with such speed that we were able to easily upgrade three schools per day, and get the network up and running at each site on that same day. The Aruba solution is simple to manage. It’s literally install, switch on and forget, as we move on to the next site.”

“We’ve seen a significant increase in performance at the sites where Aruba is now live, which even includes a major step-up in performance of the legacy 802.11n devices, " concluded Scott. "All of our secondary students and teachers can now move from classroom, to courtyard to oval and back again, and the Aruba platform easily switches them from one network access point to another with seamless connection. This has also helped overcome the issue of ‘sticky clients’ which we have experienced with some devices connected to the legacy network.”