opinion


‘At-Home’ wireless expectations: how does this impact higher education?

College Students At Computers In Technology Class

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to discuss the most pressing issues facing the industry today. In this post, Richard Nedwich, Global Director of Education at Ruckus Wireless, discusses five ways educational institutions can be impacted by at-home wireless expectations 

We can all see how prolific wireless communications are across the globe. Not only is mobile data traffic in 2020 expected to be six times higher than in 2015 (source: European Commission), but at-home wireless connectivity has become a utility, like switching the lights on.

In fact, mobile internet access has increased significantly since 2014. 69% of households in EU Member States now claim to have at least one family member with mobile internet access, according to the European Commission’s Digital Progress Report, released in May.

Expectations are set high for wireless connectivity, everywhere, and this filters into every corner of our lifestyles, including into higher education. When the lights go out and there’s “nobody home”, educational institutions can be facing unforgiving students and parents who expect the best from the system they’re paying for.

How does this at-home wireless expectation truly impact our schools, colleges, and Universities? What should heads of IT purposefully look to address?

  1. The true cost of connectivity

According to the Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University Rankings, Britain is one of the most expensive places to get an education, with an annual cost of £21,000 – ranking in 25th position out of 29 nations, behind only the US, Singapore, South Korea and Australia. Meanwhile, studying in China or France for a year would cost three times less at around £7,000. These headline grabbing stats mean there’s more expectation to get your money’s worth and competition to attract students is higher than ever before. One way institutions can step up in the rankings versus costs state of affairs is to deliver state-of-the-art facilities. This means offering seamless Wi-Fi on campuses, in halls of residence and in lecture theatres to keep the digitally savvy generation (and their guardians) happy.

  1. Bad connection to the student body

The European Commission’s study found that in the age group of 15 to 24 year olds – the demographic attending higher education – mobile internet is the second highest ranked important communications service after standard mobile telephony (62%). On top of this, quality of service (at 70% of respondents) is a top need when using such a service.

As these expectations rise for high performance connectivity in the classroom, it’s not just a slap on the wrist the technical teams are facing from their bosses. When the wireless doesn’t work under high capacity on a school, college or University’s grounds it’s the outcry from the students themselves that will make an IT department stand up and listen. A bad reputation amongst the Wi-Fi users that matter the most can spread like wildfire on social media like never before. And not having the state-of-the-art offerings that other schools in this highly competitive marketplace have is ultimately bad news for attracting students with tuition fees in their pockets.

  1. User experience and certificate-based connections

On top of general capacity and connectivity drop out issues, a focus on the user experience is essential in terms of addressing quality of service expectations effectively. Students expect to connect on any device and open any application at any time. This goes for certifications accessing the wireless network through any device a student may bring onto the premises. Password-based networks experience high rates of user disruption so you simply can’t afford to have that. Disconnected devices try to connect back to the network as many as 30,000 authentication requests per day per student. Using a certificate-based Wi-Fi system works best and will improve the user experience significantly. Certificates mean that passwords are not cached or transmitted every connection attempt. In essence, a device registered once should continue to work without disruption. This means happier users and fewer support tickets for IT teams.

  1. Wimpy wireless fights new capacity intensive trends

Many of the world’s institutions have been around for innumerable years and understandably most will be dealing with legacy IT systems and old network infrastructure which simply hasn’t stood the test of time in terms of the increase in mobile internet traffic. Not only is sheer numbers of users an issue, but, students have embarked on new digital trends like live streaming, accessing social networks and connecting with their fellow students on instant messenger groups. All of this activity is data download intensive and can lead to major downtime and buffering which impedes the students’ experience of accessing the wireless network. And the vicious cycle of the bad wireless reputation can begin again since they can do all of this at home really easily.

  1. Back to the future

In addition to the technical innovation gap expectation, educational institutions have to face a mental disconnect hump some students may have to get over. Some primary school experiences bring with them, higher expectations of tech in the classroom when students move to higher education facilities. They may well be used to using interactive whiteboards, smart phones, tablets and assessment apps in the classroom at their primary schools and can often be faced with a bit of a shock when a University lecturer gets their chalk out in the lecture theatre.

High performance wireless network connectivity addresses all of these expectations and speaks volumes about how well an institution can address its student population’s educational needs. IT professionals need to future-proof their network to ‘switch the light on’ for the next generation of students, proving them with instant, seamless access that’s in line with at-home utilities.

Richard Nedwich_High Res_Ruckus WirelessRichard has 16 years of vertical marketing and wireless experience. As Ruckus’ Product Marketing Director for Education, he is responsible for sales enablement and marketing programs to help achieve Ruckus’ global revenue goals in the Primary Education/K-12 and Higher Education markets. 


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