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Thursday, 10 October 2013 14:55

Sydney Catholic high schools install massive Wi-Fi network


The Catholic Education Office (CEO) in Sydney has deployed ‘one of the world’s largest’ 802.11ac wireless networks, from Aruba Networks.

It has deployed an 802.11ac network across 39 secondary schools in Sydney. The implementation brings Wi-Fi to more than 30,000 users including high school students, teachers and administrators.

The network is based on equipment from Aruba and installed by system integrator Matrix CNI. Aruba said the CEO chose its products after conducting an extensive review of its existing wireless network.

According to Milton Scott, the CEO’s CTO: “We installed an 802.11n-based Wi-Fi network five years ago across our Sydney diocese. Since that time, the demand for Wi-Fi across our network has grown exponentially, and 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 5 GHz. Following an extensive network and vendor review, the Catholic Education Office saw significant benefits in moving quickly to the 802.11ac wireless standard.

“In that review, we determined that Aruba Networks is the only provider with 802.11ac technology available now, that was able to prove it could be installed easily across our entire network, projecting to all corners of the site and delivering the greater density required to provide network access to all of our secondary pupils.”

Scott said it is now common for students and teachers to connect up to three devices across the CEO network, including Apple, Android and Windows-based smart phones, tablets and laptops to the Wi-Fi network at any time.

“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 CEO.

“The system allows us 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 network was initially rolled out to nine schools and the head office, with the implementation spanning five days. The installation was completed for an additional 30 schools over a ten-day period in late September 2013, during the school holidays.

“Our project team is able to install thenetwork 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,” said Scott. “It’s literally install, switch on and forget, as we move on to the next site.

“We are confident in going with Aruba’s purpose-built access points, as our past experience with the 802.11n network showed that arguments for a modular approach were not justified. We learned from that, and the successful implementation has proven that we were far better off upgrading to purpose-built Aruba access points that feature the latest components, antennas and processors.

“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. 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.”

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson sadly passed away in Jan 2021 and a much valued senior associate editor at iTWire. He was one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is the author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’He was in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism. Graeme will be sadly missed by the iTWire Family, Readers, Customers and PR firms.

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