Wireless Internet, Simple Right?  I Think Not!

This article is being written as a way to possibly open the eyes of many people that might not understand the complexity of a wireless network.  Below are a few examples of possible issues that can occur.  Please keep in mind that each of these possible issues require time to diagnose and troubleshoot.

1.  Wireless is ran over a radio frequency, so it has the potential for a lot of different types of interference.  On a grand scale, hundreds of thousands of devices use radio frequencies.  Cars, airplanes, military devices, phones, and on and on and on.  For example, if a military helicopter were to fly over Ogden Preparatory Academy on a Tuesday at 9:54AM while using its radar, that has the potential to temporarily knock out part of our system due to interference.

2.  Radio Frequencies are regulated.  This means that at anytime a frequency can be shut down or overridden by law.  For example, whenever a military entity uses radar, radio frequencies in the area shut down temporarily.

3.  Wireless Access Points do not extend coverage.  Explanation:  If you are in one room with your device and you walk down the hall into another room, your device does not just remain connected to the network.  It actually drops and reconnects continuously as you are moving through the building.  It is the responsibility of the device to connect to the strongest signal, not the network.

4.  Wireless Access Points can only handle a certain amount of data transfer.  Regardless if you have the fastest internet on the planet, any particular access point can only hold so much.  So if you have a classroom full of 30 chromebooks and you have your computer, an iPad, student phones, an apple tv, your phone, etc, all of those devices are probably connected to the Access Point closest to your room and all of those devices are retrieving data from that one access point.  Once that data reaches its maximum, you are going to start having connectivity issues.

5.  There are two types of frequencies, one that works better over distances, and one that works better with more devices.  The frequency that works better over distances is slower, and can’t handle as much data.  The newer one has a better capacity capability but can’t travel very far, doesn’t work through walls, and only works with some devices.  Example, the old Netbooks do not work with the frequency that handles more capacity.  A Macbook and newer Windows devices can work with both frequencies, but they always try to connect to the newer frequency which can cause issues if the Access Point is on the other side of a wall…

6.  Other wireless networks can be running on the same frequency channel.  So for example, the Condominium complex next to the school has the potential to have a home Wireless network in every condominium.  This creates the potential for a lot of interference possibilities.

7.  Wireless Access Points are not wireless.  Explanation:  A wireless access point has a cable connected to it, which runs back to a server room, which runs through a series of switches, which runs through a series of routers and firewalls and ultimately out to a fiber line outside the building.  Cables go bad, switch ports malfunction, commercial escavation equipment hit fiber lines while digging, etc, etc, etc.

I think you may now have a better understanding of some of the possible issues that can arise.  Unfortunately its not as simple as turning off a device and turning it back on.  Many times OPA IT has to diagnose all the different possibilities and still may not be able to fix the issue because an airplane flew over the building at the exact moment you were showing a presentation to your second period class, or you iPad connection frequency bounced off a metal crossbeam in the ceiling and caused you to lose connection to your AppleTV.

OPA IT wants to thank you for your patience while we attempt to fix as many issues with the wireless system at the school.  We also want to thank you for understanding that no matter how efficient we make the wireless system at the school, there will always be connectivity issues.  It is our job to minimize those issues, but eliminating them is an impossibility.

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