How much bandwidth is enough for schools?

How fast internet is ideal for schools? This is a tricky question that has many schools stumped. I will try to shed some light based on my experiences.

As more and more schools shift towards technology-enhanced learning, they set up powerful Learning Management Systems (LMS), provide learners with beautiful tablet PC’s, acquire amazing digital content and get ready to step into the future of learning.

But then something horrible happens: everything crashes because the internet is too slow. They are dead in the water without decent internet speeds. So then the question arises: how much speed is ideal?

Internet speed guide for schools

The speed requirements for any institute will be mainly dependant on two variables:

  1. Number of concurrent students: the keyword here is ‘concurrent’. What this means is the maximum number of students that will be using the internet at any given time.
  2. Type of usage: how will the students use the internet? Will they use it just for browsing, or will they streaming videos as well? Will the content be primarily offline (apps, local server), or will it be online?

The starting point will be to establish the above at your question, and then make a decision from there.

As an example, let’s say your school has 1000 students, all of whom will be on campus at the same time. In other words, you have 1000 concurrent users. You will require the following amounts of bandwidth:

Bandwidth guidelines for schools

Not All Schools are the Same

Of course, the above are guidelines based on my experience, and may or may not apply to your school. Additionally, there may be budgetary constraints that prevent you from implementing the ideal speeds; or perhaps higher speeds are just not available in your area.

What I would recommend, is to start off with a low speed fibre line, perhaps 40 Meg, and see how it works out for you. If you need more, you can always increase the speed.

The great thing about fibre is that the speed can be changed within 24 hours. There is no need for any additional infrastructure upgrades.

How to save on internet costs

If you are based in South Africa, there is an e-rate legislation that entitles educational institutes to a 50% discount on bandwidth. The Icasa website defines it as follows:

“E-rate” means the discount of no less than 50% applicable to public schools or public further training colleges, or any other independent schools or private further education and training colleges, as may be declared, to be entitled to the discount for utilising internet services provided by a licensee.

Click here for more information on this.

Conclusion

Trying to figure out how fast internet your institution needs, is like asking the question:’how long is a piece of string’. It’s very difficult to answer up front. There are some guidelines to help you decide, such as the recommended 1Gig per second per 1000 students, as you saw in the diagram above.

Most importantly, you need to do what works for your school. You can do this by starting small, and then increasing the speed until you find the sweet spot between speed and affordability.