Magazine article University Business

4G: Is It Time for an Upgrade? Why Institutions Are Making the Switch to 4G

Magazine article University Business

4G: Is It Time for an Upgrade? Why Institutions Are Making the Switch to 4G

Article excerpt

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Faster than 3G and not range limited like Wi-Fi, 4G is very attractive to campus administrators and technology users alike. "Students, faculty, and staff expect quick communication wherever they go," says David Morton, director of mobile communications at the University of Washington. Upgrading to 4G is about participating in the expansion of faster broadband mobile coverage and reaping the benefits. Early adopters and experts reveal the benefits campuses with 4G are realizing today and how they are achieving them.

From a Distance: Video

The range, bandwidth, and mobility of 4G enable more applications in more places, even on tablets and smartphones. "We see faculty and students increasingly using video and lecture capture," says Morton. "Students are always on their devices, streaming music in the background while looking at captured lectures to get their assignments."

California State University, Fullerton uses 4G modems to videoconference between its campus, CSU Irvine, and the Garden Grove Learning Center, which the school has dedicated to Extended Education programs. The set-up allows an instructor and group of students at one campus to connect with students at other campuses. "All groups interact with each other in real-time using the videoconferencing technology," explains Dennis Robinson, director of distance education and the OASIS Center for Online Learning.

"Instructors get a lot of information from the facial expressions of students as to whether they understand the material," points out Walt Magnussen, director-at-large of ACUTA (the Association for Information Communication Technology Professionals in Higher Education). In areas with limited population growth, colleges and universities are using video-based instruction for distance education so they won't lose enrollment, he says, adding that 4G is the most cost-effective way to get that instruction to rural areas. "With over 50-percent of the U.S. population in rural areas, 4G may be the only way schools serve these people with continuing education."

For example, California State University's 4G coverage at its Garden Grove Learning Center is faster and less expensive than its T1 line. "Whereas the T1 offers about 1 to 1.5Mbps, 4G offers 3Mbps to 6Mbps and is basically free for the university," says Robinson. (The university receives a certain number of 4G devices free as perks from a carrier there.)

At Lebanon Valley College (Pa.), students organically use multiparticipant video calls for remote study groups over applications like Skype or Google+, explains David Shapiro, director of IT services.

And at Eckerd College (Fla.), reports CIO John Duff, "Our students use Skype for presentations as part of their international study experiences."

As for non-academic applications, Eytan Wiener, COO of Quantum Networks, says colleges can place security cameras with SIM cards or 4G modules on baseball fields or set them up temporarily in remote areas where students will be.

"We install 4G IP [web] cameras on buildings that connect back to video screens and monitors on campus," shares Andy Hulsey, director of telecommunications at the University of Central Florida. The benefit here is in not having to install additional expensive hardwired circuits to reach these locations with a signal. "We save adding a wide area connection and the monthly cost of $800 for about 5MB per second in service," he explains.

Mobile Office and Study Areas

Campus constituents are increasingly carrying multiple devices that together require more wireless bandwidth. "Fully half the devices on our network connect to the Wi-Fi network, or 3G/4G, and half of those are handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones," says Morton. "It is no longer the case where we see one device per individual as the norm."

Carriers are addressing this phenomenon with small, portable 4G hotspot devices that connect up to five devices to the 4G network via Wi-Fi. …

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