Meru Gets Class

Just last week, Meru Networks of Sunnyvale, California, announced that its equipment was being used in the School of the Future project in Philadelphia (a joint effort with Microsoft). It was just a drop in the educational bucket, as the company today noted that it has won contracts with 70 educational institutions — both K-12 schools and school systems, as well as colleges and universities — over the last year.

“Some are complete, some are in process, some just made the selection and are about to deploy,” says Meru president and CEO Ihab Abu-Hakima. “This is a definite trend we’re picking up on.”

Wireless is certainly no stranger to schools, especially colleges, but Meru’s growth — starting from two schools in early 2005, such as SUNY Stony Brook, now with 100 buildings of wireless coverage — is clearly a happy trend for the company, if not the industry.

Okay, maybe it’s just happy for Meru. Almost 100% of the schools they’re contracted with are replacing existing Wi-Fi infrastructure equipment, mostly existing hardware from industry giant Cisco, according to Abu-Hakima. “We come in with a single channel architecture, the ability to support 11b and g clients without compromise to b or g, and seamless roaming,” he says.

Installations range from single schools to entire citywide school systems. Among the wins Meru announced today:

  • Nine schools in the Rush-Henrietta Central School District near Rochester, New York, serving 6,000 students. It will be used for videoconferencing and streaming as well as data.  

  • Hilton Central School District of Hilton, New York (also near Rochester, along Lake Ontario), will use the equipment district-wide, supporting 4,600 students. Wireless VoIP phones could be also used there.

  • Mona Shores K-12 district in Muskegon, Michigan is deploying a network for 4,300 students across the entire seven-building school system that will be completed this fall. 650 laptops are being distributed to classrooms to take advantage of the network.

  • Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio has deployed a Meru LAN — CedarNET — for use by 3,100 students across the 400-acre campus. 1,500 Wi-Fi devices owned by students are already registered for use.

Other recently announced deployments include the private Presentation School for grades K-8 in Sonoma, California; the Victor NY Central School District; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Northern Michigan University (which Meru says has the highest user density of any WLAN, with 100 users per access point); the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine; and the University of Texas at Dallas, to name a few.

Philadelphia’s School of the Future project created a 750-student facility that will “infuse technology into every aspect of the educational environment,” according to a company statement. Avaya is the system integrator on the School of the Future, and indeed, all the Meru deployments mentioned above are handled by partners or VARs.

“The goal [in Philadelphia] was an environment that was one hundred percent mobile, where students use laptops in labs and classrooms,” says Abu-Hakima. “It’s secure, supports multimedia and data, and provides a high level of performance and support as the school continues to grow.”

Most, but not all, of the networks are using Meru’s RS4000 Radio Switches, which don’t require pulling extra cable to install (unlike the access points Meru also provides). Schools can easily expand capacity by dropping the $2,995 units into the network where needed without Ethernet drops. “We have the advantage of the coordinated architecture — where the access points and controller [and radio switch] coordinate themselves,” says Abu-Hakima.

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