To collect federal E-rate telecommunications subsidies, school districts are required to elicit bids via RFPs (requests for proposals). There’s just one problem: Most wireless network redesign RFPs leave network design up to bidders, often resulting in under-designed proposals all clamoring to come in at the lowest price.
Looking for a more airtight approach, one of Pennsylvania’s largest K-12 school districts reached out to Velaspan. Together, we embarked on a modified version of this age-old process. The results? Wireless that’s head of the class.
When we first met, school district leadership assumed that only some of their 22 schools and adjacent facilities needed wireless network overhauls. Beyond that, they sought to understand and seek fixes for what they believed were smaller connectivity problems within the remainder of the district’s structures.
They asked Velaspan to assess the most problematic structures, then update RFP language accordingly in the quest for customized bids. We were thrilled to oblige. You see, three of Velaspan’s five partners graduated from this school district. The chance to lend our expertise to an alma mater was a meaningful one.
What We Discovered
Our evaluation identified a sobering reality: As it turned out, the school district’s wireless network as a whole was not built to meet the needs of its 15,000+ students, faculty, and staff. This explained the uptick in subpar user experiences and high-stakes problems – the most critical being the inability to connect large numbers of students in concentrated spaces to essential online activities such as state mandated standardized testing.
A wholesale network redesign was the only solution.
Pleased with our interactions to that point and realizing their wider scope of needs, the school district asked Velaspan to stay on and design an entire district-wide wireless network that would satisfy their connectivity needs for the foreseeable future – then put those designs out for bids. Vendors would no longer propose their own designs; instead, they’d bid on the opportunity to implement ours.
We said yes and got started, meeting with personnel at all levels (teachers, principals, administrators) across every building and school to gain a thorough understanding of wireless wants and needs. With discovery complete, we designed a comprehensive wireless network that met all stated business, technical, and system requirements.
Before putting the district-wide design out for bids, we suggested one more critical step: A complete site survey, also for inclusion in the RFP as an added line of defense against ambiguity in RF design interpretations. Site surveys (which are traditionally handled by the winning vendor) forecast the exact number of wireless access points, their ideal locations, and precise cabling requirements a network will need.
The district said yes. We implemented the site survey then used its results to create a comprehensive master plan leaving nothing open to interpretation among bidders. Beyond positioning the district to receive more accurate price quotes, this confirmed that all equipment, installation, and design requirements would and could be met by interested vendors.
With the RFP updated and deployed, the district asked Velaspan to stay on for yet another phase of their network upgrade: System deployment.
Once a right-fit installation vendor was chosen from the bidders, we oversaw their execution of the network we had designed. This involved spot-checking installation and heading off problems before they could arise. As each building’s network installation was complete, Velaspan got it online, completing basic configuration and validation. In short, we were the final word on wireless network deployment in each school district building, signing off only after expectations were met.
Thanks to Velaspan’s evaluation and design, the district’s choice to undergo a site survey, and our role in implementation, today the school district’s 15,000+ students, faculty, and staff enjoy the robust wireless network they have long wanted and needed – at the best possible price.
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