Columbia Public Schools Standardizes on Ruckus for Gigabit WiFi in Nation’s First District Wide 802.11ac Wave 2 Deployment

Schools Across the Country See Higher Speed Gigabit WiFi As Key to Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve as Client Performance, Density and Bandwidth Demands Explode

ISTE 2015 CONFERENCE & EXPO (Booth 635) – PHILADELPHIA – July 1, 2015 – Ruckus Wireless, Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) announced today that it has been selected by Columbia Public Schools to supply next generation Ruckus Smart WiFi products and technology. This is the nation’s first production deployment of Gigabit class WiFi using the industry’s newest 802.11ac Wave 2 specification access point (AP). Other schools making the move to Ruckus Wave 2 Gigabit WiFi include Shelby County Schools (TN), Pitt County Schools (NC), and Vancouver Public Schools (WA).

Tweet this Covering 300 square miles between St. Louis and Kansas City, Columbia Public Schools (CPS) is deploying more than 1,400 Ruckus ZoneFlex™R710 802.11ac Wave 2 APs. These access points are managed through a cluster of Ruckus SmartZone™ 100 controllers to serve over 18,000 students and staff, and nearly 20,000 WiFi-enabled devices across more than 30 K-12 schools.

“The move to Gigabit WiFi services reflects the broader requirement for educational institutions across the country to deliver much more wireless capacity,” said Dan Rabinovitsj, chief operating officer of Ruckus Wireless. “This demand for capacity is being fueled by the need for wireless bandwidth in and out of the classroom, along with the influx of increasingly powerful smart mobile devices being used to access media-rich content and online digital curriculum. The Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 is simply the best performing and industry’s only shipping access point capable of delivering Gigabit WiFi services.”

According to IDC, there has been a shift in the verticals that fuel the majority of the WLAN market growth, with Education continuing to be one of the strongest, as increasing mobility requirements in schools require higher-speed and more robust wireless networks. IDC expects 802.11ac APs will primarily be deployed to replace 802.11n equipment, representing 73.3 percent of all pendent APs shipped by 2017.

“Fast and reliable WiFi access in now simply an imperative for delivering a 21st century education,” said Christine Diggs, director of Technology Services for Columbia Public Schools. “The fact of the matter is that outside of the classroom, technology is such an important part of everyone’s lives that it must be seamlessly integrated into the educational environment and process.“

Diggs added, “Our move to a complete district-wide Gigabit-class infrastructure gives us the power to address future requirements, many of which are hard to even anticipate. This move increases our ability to support more users at any given time and extends the life of our infrastructure over a much longer period.”

With a unique mix of urban, rural and suburban students, Columbia Public Schools had stringent requirements to support much higher client densities at higher speeds—demands that its legacy HP WiFi infrastructure was unable to meet. According to school officials, the amount of man-hours required to keep the wireless network up and running was “staggering” but that‘s now been eliminated with their new Ruckus Smart WiFi infrastructure.

The CPS WiFi infrastructure is used to support a range of applications and services, such as teacher evaluations, in-class collaboration, guest access, student information systems, Apple Air Servers, Google Apps, scientific simulations, video streaming and IP-based security cameras.

Proof of Concept Testing Reveals Big Differences Between Competing Products

In the decision-making process to upgrade its wireless infrastructure to 802.11ac, Columbia Public Schools considered a number of suppliers including Cisco (Meraki), Aruba, Aerohive, and Ruckus, short-listing two final vendors to participate in an exhaustive proof of concept (POC) testing at different schools. Using standard industry test tools such as iPerf combined with real-world video streaming applications, CPS outfitted one school with Aruba AP-225 access points, and the other with Ruckus R710 APs. They then measured TCP throughput, range, density and a myriad of different WiFi metrics at both schools. 

According to Columbia Public Schools, the Ruckus equipment was able to deliver twice the WiFi capacity, and higher levels of TCP throughput at longer ranges, with a 60 to 70 percent reduction in the number of access points required. “Our goal was to push these boxes to their limit to see where they’d break by throwing as many unicast HD video streams at them as they could bear,” said Aaron Heath, network specialist at Columbia Public Schools. “With the Ruckus ZoneFlex R710, we simply couldn’t break it and were able to push more than 90 clients streaming HD video to a single AP. We just ran out of clients.”

The industry’s only commercially available and shipping 802.11ac Wave 2 product, the dual-band Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 access point offers significant increases in WiFi performance and range, delivering up to 5dB of signal gain and aggregate data rates of over two Gigabits per second (Gbps). In addition, the ZoneFlex R710 is equipped with dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with link aggregation support to satisfy peak throughput requirements for maximum investment protection. Backwards compatible with existing WiFi clients, the ZoneFlex R710 maintains full 4x4:4 802.11ac functionality with standard 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE), eliminating the need for costly and cumbersome wired switch upgrades. The Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 uniquely provides concurrent support for multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO), spatial multiplexing, and adaptive antenna switching, with the ability to create over 4,000 unique directional antenna patterns per radio, mitigating up to 15dB of RF interference while also reducing co-channel interference.

Dual-polarized smart antennas also allow the Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 access point to automatically adapt to the changing physical orientation of mobile client devices such as smartphones and tablets, thereby maximizing uplink performance and offering unmatched reception of weak mobile client signals.

“For Columbia Public Schools, the Ruckus products spoke for themselves. But more importantly, we felt the Ruckus philosophy about delivering the best possible WiFi performance and reliability within highly dense client environments really mirrored our own,” concluded Diggs.

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Located in Columbia, Missouri, serving over 300 square miles between St. Louis and Kansas City, Columbia Public Schools is accredited with Distinction by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, serving more than 18,000 students. The district supports 30 K-12 schools and contains a career center, center for gifted education, and center for responsive education. Approximately one-third of Missouri's National Board Certified Teachers are employed in the Columbia School District, which was chosen as one of the 100 Best Communities in America for Music Education by the American Music Conference and Music Teachers National Association. The District’s use of technology has brought recognition from the National School Boards Association. Only four districts in the nation were chosen. The average Columbia teacher holds a master's degree, and has fifteen years of professional experience. 90% of graduates carry on their education beyond high school.

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