If you’ve ever spent time reading through release notes for software updates, then you know they can sometimes be vague and wonder if updating will really benefit you. When reading through the recently released iOS 8.3 update notes, one line item especially caught our eye, “Addresses an issue where some devices disconnect intermittently from Wi-Fi networks.”
Part of the iOS Support Team’s testing of iOS 8.3 was to challenge this known Wi-Fi issue as we have encountered it in schools across the district—iPads spuriously dropping off the network or the Wi-Fi speed reducing to a crawl. It appears the issue was a software bug in the iOS and how it communicates with wireless access points (WAPs).
Most WAPs, including the ones in our schools, have two radios. One radio broadcasts at 5GHz—this is the “fast lane”—and the other radio broadcasts at 2.4GHz—this is a “slower lane”. What was happening with the iPads, before this update, was that they were only choosing the fast lane and overwhelming the WAPs with the number of connected devices. Normally, if a device cannot connect to the WAP’s first radio (the fast lane), it would move over to the other radio (the slower lane). The iPads would not move over to the slower lane, causing them to either completely disconnect from the WAP, dropping off the network, or search for and attempt to connect to another WAP—even if it was almost out-of-range.
The iOS 8.3 update has resolved this “network lane switching” issue and iPads will move over to a WAP’s 2.4GHz radio thus alleviating traffic and reducing devices disconnecting intermittently from the Wi-Fi network!
So the big question, should I update? Short answer is maybe. This update would be immediately beneficial for schools with either a high density ratio of devices to WAPs or devices being used in wide open areas.
NOTE: This update can not fix any structural issues like bricks and concrete that affect Wi-Fi connectivity.
The two wild cards we have to consider are additional iOS updates from Apple and testing windows.
Apple is releasing new products next week which will probably prompt an increase in the frequency of iOS updates that ITS would have to test. PARCC testing starts back up again at the end of the month and NWEA is right around the corner. If you lift the Apple Block to update the iPads on a day while your school is testing, the school could experience Wi-Fi issues—disrupting testing.
Please consider scheduling any iPad iOS updating for a time that works best for your school’s environment and don’t forget to put in a ticket, 24 hours in advance, to have the Apple Block lifted during the update day.
If you have any specific questions about updating the iPad iOS, please feel free to send them to iPads@cps.edu
Written by Samantha Miller, iOS Device Management Administrator - Team Lead