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Educational Institutions Are Enhancing and Even Replacing Wi-Fi for Good

By Matthew Vulpis

The arrival of the fifth generation of wireless networking technology, more commonly known as 5G, has helped spur another wave of technological innovation amidst the current digital revolution. From artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, these new devices and applications are only now, truly made possible by 5G’s high-speed, always-on internet connections. 5G is already spreading rapidly thanks to the multitude of benefits the technology offers, and the swift deployment has already led to the advent of private 5G networks.

Private 5G networks are simply networks that don't share traffic with other cellular networks in the vicinity. The adoption of private 5G networks is gaining traction around the world as regulators allocate more spectrum to enterprises so they can build and maintain their own private 5G networks. The global private 5G network market size is estimated to reach USD 14.28 billion by 2028, registering a CAGR of 39.7 percent between now and then.

The rapid growth isn’t much of a surprise, as private networks, in general, are a priority for many enterprises today. Tens of thousands of private cellular networks will be deployed over the next few years. According to a new forecast from IDC, the global market for private LTE and 5G wireless infrastructure is tipped to grow almost fourfold during the next five years and be worth a whopping USD 8.3 billion in 2026.

Enhanced coverage, in both range and connectivity, as well as full control of the wireless networks, are among the benefits of private networks,” said Roy Timor Rousso, CMO, Pente. “This shift in enterprise priority is happening across a variety of industries, with the education sector being one that can truly benefit greatly from private networks. We’ve implemented several private 4G/LTE networks on campuses across the U.S., including several where WiFi was proven inadequate, including vulnerability to cyberattacks. Working with our ecosystem partners, we were able to help one large university jump-shift from aging WiFi directly to spectrum, and today the performance is faster and the network is more secure.”

Private 5G networks can aid the education industry during the current trend of digitalization happening at schools and universities of all levels. Digital transformation in education is happening for many reasons. Innovations in education technology in both K-12 and higher education are empowering educators to deliver a more enriched, personalized learning experience, increase operational efficiency and reduce the cost of IT.

“The biggest impact private networks can have in education comes not only from campus connectivity, but community connectivity,” Timor Rousso said. “This is especially important at the K-12 level, from elementary to high schools, where the adoption of private 5G and other networks can assist in closing the homework gap, and preparing for future events, like the global pandemic, so teachers, staff, parents, and students don’t lose valuable learning time just because connectivity is not available or is spotty.”

A recent report from Common Sense and the Boston Consulting Group found that an estimated 15 million to 16 million K-12 public school students, or about 30 percent of all public-school students, still live in households that either lack connection to the internet or lack a device that’s adequate for distance learning from home. Private 5G based not only on the school grounds but in their communities would decrease the number of students without internet connection, while also helping the surrounding area in general.

“At all education levels, 5G is positioned to improve daily interactions between teachers and students, while also enhancing network coverage throughout the school's neighborhood,” Timor Rousso said. “This is a very exciting and important moment. Students who live in rural areas can finally gain the same digital tools and resources that some of their classmates have access to.

Apart from closing the homework gap, and offering university students more freedom, private 5G networks can also help bolster the security capabilities of education institutions. Educational institutions are entrusted to safeguard their students, many of whom are minors, but a weak cybersecurity infrastructure can put them at risk.

“Unlike public 5G, which includes several different parts of the wireless spectrum, private 5G networks inhabit a relatively narrow band, making it considerably easier to manage,” Timor Rousso explained. “Private enterprise networks are inherently more secure because data remains on the enterprise’s own network instead of being transmitted over public networks. This means private 5G networks can aid education institutions significantly in protecting their students from harm, while also preventing financial loss and disruptions.”

Many education organizations today are looking for ways to add their own private networks, and for many, the solution lies in the form of Citizens Broadband Radio Spectrum (CBRS). CBRS refers to 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz range, 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz. The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently decided to auction off the spectrum, meaning for the first time the availability of low-cost, shared wireless spectrum using the CBRS in the 3.5-3.7 GHz band allowed enterprises to truly own and operate their own private networks, which is exactly what the education industry needs.

Colleges and universities are expected to be particularly good candidates for private CBRS networks because of the fact that they can offer a way to improve secure wireless service in dormitories and academic buildings. According to the CBRS Alliance, these networks could be “a differentiator to help keep and attract the best faculty and students.”

With technological innovation only set to continue, new uses for technology in education are sure to be found as well. Universities would be hard pressed not to start investing in the right network technology, to keep students connected to the internet and each other, regardless of location.

“Now is the time for universities to make their move, as with CBRS availability, the educational institutions can skip the traditional route and design, build, monitor, maintain and manage their own secure, exclusive private high-speed network, Timor Rousso said.

Edited by Erik Linask

Content Contributor

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