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Unleashing Performance and Intelligence in Higher Education Networks

min read

Wi-Fi 7 delivers a leap in performance and coverage that today's higher education campuses demand, while artificial intelligence empowers IT departments to manage increasingly complex environments.

Ruckus | CommScope

Digital transformation is sweeping across higher education campuses, and expectations have changed for students, faculty, and administrators. Innovative learning models and devices are transforming how students and instructors think about education. The EDUCAUSE "2023 Top 10 IT Issues" predicted that institutions will soon utilize more extended technologies such as smart glasses, augmented reality (AR), digital twins, and virtual environments.Footnote1

Students, faculty, staff, and visitors expect dependable, high-performance wireless connectivity in classrooms, labs, dorms, offices, and other campus environments. It won't be long before new technologies and applications test the limits of existing wireless networks. Higher education IT teams face serious challenges as they try to keep pace with change and plan for the future.

Staff and resources are limited: Budget constraints are always an issue in higher education. IT departments are under constant pressure to meet new demands, even as they contend with small teams and limited funding. To help staff be as productive as possible, IT departments need solutions that enable them to manage networks efficiently and effectively, whether they are working onsite or remotely.

Device choices are expanding: From laptops and PCs to smartphones, printers, tablets, and even gaming consoles, students, faculty, and staff are using a diverse array of devices on campus. It's up to the IT team to streamline onboarding and keep everything secure and safe from the latest threats.

Maximizing performance is critical: Optimizing bandwidth and latency is key with so many devices accessing high-bandwidth content and applications simultaneously. IT departments need high-performance, low-latency wireless solutions to deliver a superior user experience every time and meet the high expectations of technology-savvy students using the latest generation of phones and tablets.

Users are constantly on the move: Higher education campuses are dynamic environments, and devices on the move are vulnerable to signal interference. Whether students are in the classroom, roaming from one building to another, or accessing the network in an outdoor space, they want to stay connected without compromise.

How can IT departments overcome these challenges to deliver the services academic users expect? They need to deliver advanced connectivity and provide an efficient, intelligent way to manage it.

Extending Coverage and Performance with Wi-Fi 7

Wi-Fi® standards have been continually evolving, and the latest standard, Wi-Fi 7, represents a major leap forward compared to its predecessors. It can operate utilizing three available bands, including 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz, which was first introduced with Wi-Fi 6E. While Wi-Fi 7 uses the same frequencies as previous standards, it also applies innovative technologies to boost performance:

  • 320 MHz channel width: Channel width, or the amount of radio spectrum a device can use, determines communication speed. Wi-Fi 7 can use up to 320 MHz, twice the channel width available on the widest Wi-Fi 6 channel. As a result, Wi-Fi 7 can support much higher data rates. Data can also be transmitted and received faster with a wider channel, reducing latency. Low latency is critical to latency-sensitive e-learning and videoconferencing applications as well as emerging education applications like AR and virtual reality.
  • 4K quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM): QAM is a technique that enables radio waves to transmit more data into each wave cycle. Wi-Fi 7 supports the delivery of 4K QAM, unlocking approximately 20 percent greater throughput than Wi-Fi 6E. It can also adapt to interference and other channel conditions by switching between modulation levels to help utilize available bandwidth more efficiently.
  • Multi-link operation (MLO): Older generations of Wi-Fi could use only one band at a time. Wi-Fi 7 MLO aggregates multiple Wi-Fi frequency bands to dramatically improve speeds while minimizing latency. If a band experiences interference or congestion, MLO smoothly maintains the connection on the other bands to maximize network reliability.

Wi-Fi 7 offers a smoother, more responsive user experience, especially in crowded or high-traffic campus areas and for high-bandwidth, low-latency applications. It enables higher education students, faculty, staff, and visitors to enjoy faster download and upload speeds, reduced latency, and improved performance overall.

Simplifying Complexity with Artificial Intelligence

Maximizing wireless performance and availability delivers great benefits but doesn't solve every higher education challenge. Lean IT organizations also seek to manage increasingly complex network environments to free up their teams and unlock higher levels of network assurance. Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered network management can help them do both.

As the volume and complexity of data and devices on higher education networks soar, analyzing the resulting alerts and events that could impact services is becoming increasingly difficult for IT professionals. AI can help higher education IT teams by supporting sophisticated analytics that can detect network incidents without human intervention. Incidents can be automatically reported and categorized by severity or other criteria without requiring IT staff members to manually define specific rules or conditions.

Even better, AI can help identify root causes and recommend specific remediation steps to help IT teams address service issues. The result is faster network and client troubleshooting, stronger network assurance levels, and a better experience for students who rely on network connectivity for learning and research every day. As training costs for AI models decline, the efficiency and computational power of the technology are rising—putting AI solutions within reach for more colleges and universities than ever.

Higher education institutions will continue embracing digital transformation to deliver better experiences to students and other campus community members. With the right technologies and solutions from a proven leader like RUCKUS, institutions can confidently keep pace with the latest innovations without leaving users or IT teams behind.

To learn more about the challenges that higher education teams face and the solutions to solve them, read our brochure on the top issues facing higher education IT professionals.


  1. Susan Grajek and the 2022–2023 EDUCAUSE IT Issues Panel, "Top 10 IT Issues, 2023: Foundation Models," EDUCAUSE Review, October 31, 2022. Jump back to footnote 1 in the text.

Christopher Mohammed is Senior Director, SLED, at CommScope.

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