Schools in Northern Ireland will have access to wireless services as part of the £170m Education Network Northern Ireland (EN(ni)) contract awarded to UK infrastructure services provider Northgate Managed Services. The wireless equipment and solutions will be supplied by US firm Meru Networks.
The scheme will deliver Wi-Fi connectivity to over 350,000 teachers and pupils in 1,200 schools. The cloud-based network - the first of its kind in education in Europe - has been designed to create a dynamic, future-proof, flexible service that will give schools increased access to learning resources and enable teachers and pupils to better collaborate and communicate.
Schools will have greater flexibility and choice in how wireless is used across the curriculum as the solution allows teachers and students to get access to the network and resources securely via personal devices, such as smartphones, iPad tablets, tablet PCs and laptops. Teachers and students will also be able to use educational resources and toolsets through Northgate's My-School learning portal.
The Meru wireless network will be built around 10,000 access points located throughout the school buildings, and 38 MC4200 controllers in a central data center. The datacenter will be connected by superfast telecomm connections to the access points on the school campuses.
Bami Bastani, president and Chief Executive Officer from Meru Networks, said: ‘Cloud-based WLAN connectivity is a major advancement for learning environments because it offers flexibility and choice to organizations which are struggling with the demand for fast, reliable and robust Wi-Fi to support large numbers of mobile devices being brought onto campuses. Our proven ability to deliver reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi in such dense and diverse Wi-Fi environments makes us a natural choice for schools. Our solutions are designed for simplicity and flexibility and yet they meet the demand for wireless in these fierce conditions.’
A Meru Education partner of three years, Northgate will take responsibility for all aspects of the installation and ongoing service, including the wide area network (WAN), wireless local area network (WLAN) and telecomm services. The five-year contract will see Northgate design, implement, manage and support the network and will ensure secure access to network resources 24x7 from a wide range of devices. The network will be designed to provide the ability to scale computing resources to meet the needs of schools both today and in the future.
Andy Ross, chief executive of Northgate Managed Services, said: ‘This is a tremendous achievement for the company and is one that clearly positions both Northgate as a leading provider of innovative wireless services for schools and Meru as the wireless innovator of choice. Building the first Education Cloud in Europe is a significant point in the company's history and creates a fantastic platform for future growth in the UK and beyond.’
Jimmy Stewart, Director, Classroom 2000 (C2k), the organisation that procures technology for schools in Northern Ireland, added: ‘The new service has been designed to recognize the educational requirements of schools in Northern Ireland, deliver technology-driven learning environments and incorporate the very latest innovations in technology. Northgate has continuously demonstrated excellence in the education services it has developed and has a highly talented and dedicated team in place. I look forward to working with Northgate in the coming months and to deploying the EN(ni) infrastructure in schools across Northern Ireland.’