Why Next Gen Wireless Networks Will Dramatically Improve In-Person and Virtual Education

By Matthew Vulpis July 07, 2022

Currently, the “democratization” of private LTE (News - Alert) and 5G, enabled by local spectrum allocations, cloud-based core networks, and a rapidly-growing ecosystem of vendors and integrators are happening quite swiftly. 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 $ 8.3 billion in 2026.

What truly started this rapid rise in demand for private networks, was the FCC (News - Alert) auction that took place roughly two years ago now, in which the Citizens Broadband Radio Spectrum (CBRS) was auctioned off. CBRS refers to 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz range, 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz. The decision to auction off the CBRS meant that for the first time, the availability of a low-cost, shared wireless spectrum using the CBRS in the 3.5-3.7 GHz band now allowed enterprises to own and operate private LTE and 5G networks.

CBRS helps enable enterprise apps that require real-time decision-making at the edge and demand AI-based learning models in the cloud. Such apps automate traditionally manual tasks at work and enable workers and employees to immediately get access to useful insights. Yet, while CBRS can play a critical role in improving and optimizing any vertical in any industry, one sector where the technology can make a dramatic difference is in education, at all levels.

CBRS for Education

Colleges and universities are expected to be particularly good candidates for private CBRS networks because 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,” according to Roy Timor-Rousso, CMO, Pente Networks, a provider of private 4G/5G/LTE networks to schools, universities and other organizations.

Private CBRS 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.

“Private wireless networks are inherently more secure because data remains on the enterprise’s own network instead of being transmitted over public networks,” Timor-Rousso explained. “This means private networks can aid education institutions significantly in protecting their students from harm, while also preventing financial loss and disruptions.:

Spectrum (News - Alert) technology can help schools and universities not only on their campuses but in their surrounding communities as well, Timor-Rousso explained. “The significance of this spectrum is that it allows schools to transmit a radio signal to a larger diameter, extending to a larger area than other radio signals, while allowing for high-speed interactivity that users are more accustomed to experiencing with Wi-Fi. This means services can be extended to off-campus housing, as well as other organizations and local businesses.”

For Communities, not just Campuses

The biggest impact private networks can have in education comes not on the campuses, but in the surrounding communities where their students reside. At the K-12 level, from elementary to high schools, the adoption of private 5G and other networks can assist in closing the homework gap, also known as the digital divide, more generally.

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.

“CBRS-based solutions address the amount of students without high-speed broadband services, including ensuring applications, like virtual learning platforms, are not bogged down by high traffic numbers,” Timor-Rousso said.

At the university level, the same homework gap doesn’t exist as drastically, but the need for adequate, high-speed private networks is just as critical for college communities. CBRS networks would allow students to work on projects and homework, as well as attend classes, from their dorm rooms, or even apartments for students who commute, or live off-campus in the surrounding area.

“This need to provide students with better internet capabilities both on and off campus means the use of CBRS can offer schools guaranteed latency and bandwidth for staff, students and logistics, and can eliminate fiber and LAN dependency within campuses,” Timor-Rousso said. “The cost savings are substantial, and the quality of experience measurably improved.”

At Pente, we see that innovations in education technology in both K-12 and higher education are empowering educators to deliver a more enriched, personalized learning experience,” Timor-Rousso explained. “We also understand that schools must provide quality of service connectivity to students, teachers, and staff to support remote learning, administration, and logistics and that this is not possible without the use of private networks, whether it be through CBRS, LTE, or 5G.”

Pente’s solution supports 5G broadband connectivity for many school districts and universities, making sure that all participants in the education system can experience broadband via a fully-managed, fully controlled, secure independent e-learning experience.

“Our philosophy is to provide simplified, scalable, and secure enterprise 5G solutions which do not force IT and OT teams to make expensive decisions,” Timor-Rousso said.

Edited by Erik Linask
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