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Wireless Broadband and future education

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Posted on 17th October 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous, Mobile Learning and Wireless Broadband

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Today I received Chetan Sharma’s email announcing that the book he has co-written with Vern Fotheringham has been released. Its title is Wireless Broadband: Conflict and Convergence. Its foreword is by Mark Anderson, CEO of Strategic News Service, who is known for his ability to predict trends in to the future.

I downloaded the foreword and salute the following quotations from Anderson that move the education sector from the backwaters of the internet world right up front with the most important:

Wireless broadband is the point of a spear which, in every country in the world, will drive progress in education, economic development, health and medicine, agriculture, markets, family welfare, technological and scientific advances, and general communications. . . .

In fact, we seem, as a planet, to be on the verge of a mammoth deployment of bandwidth, and my guess is that the great preponderance of those cycles will be delivered wirelessly. . . .

Consider K12 education, which promises to become the largest market segment for computers sometime during this next decade. While everyone is wondering where the funds will come from for one computer for each student (and teacher), most planners are overlooking a more important question: bandwidth.

How much [bandwidth] does one student need? Do they want to watch movies? Of course! Well, that’s about 1.5 Mbps. Does the teacher want them to be able to watch the same movies as the other children in the class? Of course! How many kids in the room, maybe 30? All right, that’s 45 Mbps. And how many classrooms in the building? Perhaps 15 or more, plus a library, assembly room, etc.; perhaps the building needs 675 Mbps. Whoa! How do you get it, and who is going to pay for it? This may be the largest problem facing modern elementary education today.

It is this insatiability for cycles which puts wireless in the foreground: wires (and fiber) just can’t keep up. For the moment, and as long as fiber remains the fatter pipe, one can picture the globe as though two kinds of wildfire were consuming it: first comes the wireless provision, followed in the cities by the wired provision. If wireless becomes the fatter pipe—and there are reasons to think this could happen—all fiber bets are off.