Advanced wireless technologies such as 4G and 5G LTE are force multipliers for other innovative technologies such as IoT, AI, and edge computing. These are the technologies on which future industrial transformations will be based, and they can create significant competitive advantages and boost the efficacy of other emerging technologies – as long as they are used and deployed correctly. In this post, we talk about 4G and 5G LTE in education and what the adoption of these technologies may look like in the education space over the years to come.

The introduction of 3G brought rapid growth and innovation in the smartphone and mobile device spaces. Growing data needs – combined with regular and robust network upgrades – were the impetus behind the creation of a 4G high-speed mobile broadband network that allowed consumers to enjoy gaming, video, and social media applications anytime, anywhere. 4G LTE was formally launched in 2010, and by 2012, it had reached roughly 90% coverage in the United States.

5G promises to bring low latency gigabit speeds that have the potential of driving a new wave of innovation, with early adopters being the biggest beneficiaries of this new technology.

Getting there will likely take several years, but 4G and 5G LTE are already laying the groundwork needed to run the interwoven fabric of people, devices, and machines that typify industry and technology in our hyperconnected era. 5G brings with it the promise of dramatic improvements in speeds, data capacity, device density, and precision, as well as lower latency – all of which make it an attractive alternative to wired networks for high-bandwidth, time-sensitive applications. 

Although the education space has traditionally lagged behind many other industries in the adoption of innovative technologies, we are potentially in the early days of a 5G revolution in education.

5G in Education

As next-gen systems built on fast, performant wireless capabilities become a reality, businesses and industries – including players in the education space – should think about what needs to be done and where to capture as much value as possible. 3G helped device-makers loosen carrier locks on consumers, and 4G enabled mobile apps and cloud applications to blossom, creating blue oceans of opportunity for everyone. 5G can potentially do the same, and it is up to schools and district-level decision-makers to determine what 4G and 5G can and should be used for. Taking action now is especially important since long lead times in upgrading network infrastructure and product development mean decisions taken today will have an impact for years to come.

Technology can help teachers explore complicated subjects, reduce the time spent on manual processes, and adapt instructional methods to individual students based on what works best. However, slow video buffering, unresponsive applications, and other IT and tech hurdles diminish the value of the technologies used precisely for those benefits, sometimes making it difficult to make a case for using more tech for teaching or having more tech in the classroom. IoT applications built using 4G and 5G networks can help teachers overcome these issues, thereby allowing them to concentrate more on teaching.

One 4G cell tower currently supports roughly 2,000 devices with minor traffic delays. A 5G tower can support over one million connected devices per square kilometer with insignificant delays.

5G will build off of the existing LTE structure, and  uses higher frequency bands than 4G. For example, Verizon’s 5G ultra-wideband uses 28 GHz and 39GHz, compared to the 700 MHz-2500 MHz band used by 4G. Also, 5G signals do not travel as far as 4G signals, thus requiring the installation of a higher density of smaller cells.  These cells, however, can power up to 100 times as many devices as the existing 4G LTE network. 5G also has the potential to deliver data speeds that are 10 times faster than 4G, empowering educators to reimagine what they can do inside and outside the classroom.

Here are a few innovative ways schools and teachers can do just that.

AR- and VR-Powered Immersive Learning

Effectively using HD video and mixed-reality content requires high bandwidth and low latency. Although 4G struggles to deliver this kind of traffic for AR and VR applications, 5G can run them seamlessly. From HD tours of archaeological sites to exploration of the solar system, students will be able to immerse themselves in learning apps like never before.

Time-Saving Smart Classroom IoT

Interconnected smart devices can help teachers gather feedback, automate administrative tasks, and interact with students digitally with minimal or zero bandwidth and signal loss issues.

Download Data in Seconds

From feature-length documentaries to instructional YouTube videos – which happen to be a preferred source of learning for many students today – HD video on 5G can take seconds to download, as opposed to the minutes or hours it may take on 4G.

Assisting Students with Special Needs

Children with special needs often require extra assistance from their teachers. Many AI-powered applications on the market are designed to help these students, but they are not as responsive as the children they are designed to assist. With 5G, these robots and AI applications can perform many of the duties of a full-time classroom assistant, supporting teachers by quickly responding to student needs as they arise.

Flexible Learning

Whether you are teaching in a classroom or online, 5G can help your students stay connected so that they can access the data and applications they need to succeed at school – whether from home, on the bus, or in classrooms or campus labs. Irrespective of distance or location, 5G can empower all students with access to the same information and applications as everyone else.

Outdoor Connectivity

5G can be used to provide Internet access to areas of your school or campus that lack coverage. Seamless handoffs between indoor WiFi connections and 5G for use outside school or university buildings can help users enjoy uninterrupted connectivity. 5G can also be useful when riding the bus to or from school.

Segmenting Your Networks

There are many situations in which you may want to segment your traffic and run certain applications on one network while keeping other applications or users on another network. This can be for price, security, or performance reasons. For example, your school or university may wish to allow WiFi access for gaming, entertainment, and video streaming while using 5G for academic traffic – including heavy audio and video applications such as lecture recordings or real-time, multi-user class discussions.

Extend the Useful Life of Existing Networks

If you cannot deploy a new network from the ground up but your wireless networks are almost out of capacity, you can use 5G to add extra bandwidth until a long-term solution can be put into place or the steps needed for a network upgrade – such as gathering funds or getting approvals – are completed.

The Long Road Ahead

When can we expect to see some of these innovations deployed in classrooms and on college campuses?

Carrier infrastructure investments are critical for the delivery of the disruptive, ground-breaking 5G high-speed wireless services we are moving toward. History has shown, though, that transformative change tends to come a few years after infrastructure readiness, withadoption hitting the scene even later.

We can break this process down into three distinct phases. The first is the deployment of new infrastructure that increases network capacity and reliability. During this time, excitement and interest are generated, and opportunities for innovation are also identified. Next, practical solutions to explore use cases are developed, and projects and trials are test-run. During this time, partnerships are forged, and ecosystems are built out. Finally comes the adoption and scaling stage, during which services are deployed across a wide range of industries and verticals and customer adoption is accelerated.

We are currently in the first stage of this process, in which new infrastructure is built and hype grows  around the potential of 5G. To make the most of new wireless technologies, however, schools and districts will need to make investments in learning about how and where they can best use these technologies. They may set up training and support programs to get stakeholders on board with future plans, as well as  work towards proving the potential and efficacy of 4G- and 5G-powered initiatives using data-driven analytics from pilot programs.

It is certain that new wireless technologies like 4G and 5G LTE will positively impact the education space, but there is a degree of uncertainty about when we will see significant change taking place. In preparation for that time,  and with school and student distance learning needs during the ongoing pandemic in mind, teachers and school decision-makers must proactively coordinate to build traction and accelerate deployment so that students, teachers, and district-level leaders are ready to hit the ground running once relevant 4G- and 5G-powered opportunities that can lead to better student outcomes are identified.

To learn more about the 4G and 5G LTE revolution, how Kajeet can help prepare your school or campus for a rollout of low latency, high-speed networking, or for a needs assessment of your school or district’s IT needs to identify the best place to start a pilot project, please reach out to one of our Education Solution Experts here.