What is Mobile Broadband?

With the advent of 4G networks, the boundaries between cellular networks and the Internet have completely blurred, to the point that for most of the world, there is no distinction made at all. Broadband is considered to be roughly the speed of Internet access one can typically get over a mobile network, and for most people, mobile broadband provides a sufficient level of access, coupled with unprecedented freedom of movement while connected. Because mobile broadband is supremely convenient, people in most of the world access the Internet from a mobile device as their first choice — and we are already at the point that for most people, broadband means 4G speeds, not the gigabit speeds to which research universities are accustomed. In 2012, the ITU estimated 1.1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide, with 45% annual growth over the past four years. As the increasing array of always-connected (via 4G) handheld devices — tablets, smartphones, e-readers, and more — become more pervasive, and as access to faster, more open, free networks via direct connection or 802.1x networks continues to fall off or becomes more tightly controlled, the demand for mobile broadband access will increase at the expense of demand for more capable networks. In much of the world, especially in developing countries, it is far easier and less expensive to install mobile broadband infrastructure than it is to provide the fiber needed to support gigabit networks. As a result, it is becoming commonplace in most of the world for learning institutions to rely on cellular networks for Internet access. In the developed world, one of the advantages of BYOD is that the infrastructure does not need to be built, managed, or supported by the institution, which adds another incentive for schools to move to mobile broadband.

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Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Feb 7, 2012

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - jackwest jackwest Mar 4, 2013 This is not taking off, and it is largely due to cost and lack of reliability from what I hear.
  • I feel like this is at best an enabling technology (facilitating some of the other trends) at most, nothing particularly disruptive or transformative here - jim.siegl jim.siegl Mar 5, 2013
  • - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Mar 5, 2013 Still a far cry from reality here in Brazil. I think we'll be very thankful if our 3G works! This still has not happened to content!
  • In the majority of the US I believe this is not going to experience an enormous impact, at least over the next 5 years. I'd agree with Jim that it truly is more of an enabling technology for other items on this list. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 5, 2013
  • This technology may not be where we need for it to be today but it is definitely needed in both urban, suburban and rural areas to assure every child has access to learning at home. The move to personalized and 1:1 to meet high stakes testing is going to drive adoption for this technology. - kecia.ray kecia.ray Mar 6, 2013

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - kathyschrock kathyschrock Mar 1, 2013With the requirement of content filtering in K-12, many schools do require students to attach to the local network via WiFi in order to push them through the filter, so the infrastructure still needs to be built-out.
  • Agreed - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 5, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • As a convenience factor in situations where students spend a long time on the bus (either to and from school or for activities/sports) - jim.siegl jim.siegl Mar 5, 2013
  • Having the ability to filter the device at the network level, does mean that it is possible to give a device to a student without having to lock down the device in such a way that it cripples the device (as you do with an iPad or Android device and parental controls) - jim.siegl jim.siegl Mar 5, 2013
  • Access for ALL - kecia.ray kecia.ray Mar 6, 2013

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Fairfax County Public Schools (VA), and Chicago Public Schools are working with Kajeet, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator(MVNO) on a research project to evaluate mobile broadband in schools. Project Tomorrow is acting as an external project evaluator http://www.edutone.com/project-to-evaluate-use-of-tablets-in-schools-from-eschool-news/ The advantage that Kajeet provides is that they route all of the Sprint wireless traffic through their own internet content filters, this addresses a gray area for schools as far as CIPPA and eRate requirements for network devices outside of school grounds - jim.siegl jim.siegl Mar 5, 2013
  • In Kings County, California, a rural, rugged area encompassing the Sierra's in central California, the County Office of Education runs a program to provide 4G access for students as they are unable to access anything greater than dial-up connectivity at home. Minaret's Charter School is one of the leaders in this program, equipping all students with iPads and 4G hotspots. The connectivity runs back through the COE for content filtering to comply with CIPPA and eRate. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 5, 2013
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