Universities are hotbeds of ideas and innovation, and also have an almost insatiable need for connectivity. From laboratories to audio-visual equipment in classrooms, from student cell phone coverage to sports arenas, the demands on the networks of these facilities are growing.

Universities have many different computing needs and need to take a holistic view of connectivity to deliver seamless performance across public and private networks. Fixed connections and Wi-Fi alone will not be enough to meet demand. The latest generation of 5G mobile wireless, with its fast speeds, low latency and superior security, may be the missing piece.

Connectivity will be in high demand on campus

Sprawling college campuses can be a challenging environment to achieve reliable and secure connectivity. A private 5G network can serve as an extension of a school’s IP network, separating apps from wired connections and students from Wi-Fi signals that fluctuate in strength depending on which corner of the quad they are in.

College IT administrators also need to stay ahead of the coming wave of connected devices. To a large extent, they are already here – a 2018 Center for Digital Education (CDE) survey showed that more than three-quarters of college campuses at the time were either “smart” campuses or on the way to becoming so. . Internet of Things (IoT) applications on campus can include everything from emergency notification systems to building HVAC control to smart ID badges for students and faculty. The COVID-19 pandemic has also rapidly accelerated the use of online portals connecting students both on and off campus.

To power all of these devices, a school needs a wide-coverage network that delivers reliable connections every inch of the campus. Especially in outdoor environments, 5G networks powering a “fixed wireless broadband” solution can provide robust and secure coverage with far fewer access points than a traditional Wi-Fi setup. For example, indoors the ratio is typically 5 Wi-Fi APs to 1 LTE/5G AP and for outdoor locations it is 7 to 1. This is due to established power regulations by the FCC as well as the technological advantage of cellular equipment over Wi. -Fi.

Mobile broadband can power use cases ranging from the everyday to the cutting edge

An example of how private 5G networks can help college campuses meet their needs is a sports venue, such as a football stadium. 5G equipment enables network slicing, i.e. the various functions (arena security, point of sale for food vendors, sideline tablets, etc.) all have their own dedicated network resources . A single Wi-Fi network may be too congested or too weak in places to meet all of these needs.

And that can also apply inside the building, for things like smart whiteboards or A/V equipment broadcasting an expert in a classroom. A mobile broadband connection offers the security and speed of fixed Ethernet while allowing equipment to be moved from room to room. This can also apply to public safety technology, such as wireless cameras that can be redeployed at an event, or drones for autonomous patrols in outdoor areas.

Private networks are not a replacement for Wi-Fi, but a complement and extension of the school’s existing IP network. A 5G-powered private network can be an important complement to public mobile broadband, and as IT departments seek to “cut the cord” on things like security cameras and A/V equipment, it can provide a connectivity as strong and secure as a wired connection.

Scalable university networks with 5G

Private 5G networks are only part of the overall connectivity solutions for a college campus. But there are indirect cost savings in looking at such a model – for example, public LTE is needed for connectivity outside of school, but costs could be reduced if 80% of the data plan is used on the campus. (Studies have shown that most wireless subscribers use their phones indoors, which means they would therefore save on data plans if they used their private wireless networks instead of the public network when they go were on a college campus.)

The use cases detailed here are just those that are prolific today. We know that driverless vehicles, delivery robots and other advanced technologies are on the horizon. In the years to come, universities will want to demonstrate their mastery of technology to attract the best students and talented professors to campus. Things like AR/VR, smart classrooms, and virtual teaching will become the norm. Institutions will also turn to things like drones for safety and security. A private 5G network can help lay a powerful and secure foundation for these technologies.

Each university is at a different stage of returning students, as higher education determines what life will look like after the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether students are fully returned to the classroom or on a permanent hybrid model, one thing will be constant: everyone, from students to professors, will expect good connectivity. If a university wants to stay competitive and attract the best students and staff, it must provide robust, secure, and high-speed connectivity to every square inch of campus. A 5G private network is a key part of this solution.

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