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Making higher education campuses smarter

Making higher education campuses smarter

Higher education institutions are working to digitalize the tools and services they provide on their campuses. To make a fast and successful digital transformation, they need to evolve their wireless communications infrastructures by deploying solutions that can meet the diverse connectivity requirements of current and future applications.

Many institutions have attempted to support their digital aspirations by installing, upgrading or extending their campus Wi-Fi networks. But Wi-Fi has limitations in key areas such as reliability, security, performance, coverage, capacity and mobility. These limitations could keep institutions from realizing the full benefits of broadband and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Private 4.9G/LTE and 5G networks address this challenge by enabling higher education institutions to use 3GPP technologies and new spectrum options to meet the demands of digital and Industry 4.0 applications. By complementing their existing hardwired and Wi-Fi deployments with private wireless, higher education institutions can support compelling new campus services while powering research, education and collaboration.

Taking campus wireless communication to the next level

Higher education institutions have diverse and changing needs that require campus-wide communications. The applications that are driving demand for better and more reliable wireless connectivity include:

  • Classroom technologies and digital productivity tools such as smart boards, smart podiums and smart lighting
  • Industry 4.0 labs that can enable faculty, staff and students to study the use of communication technology to support industrial IoT applications
  • Campus security systems, including cameras, smoke detectors, emergency call buttons and drone-based surveillance
  • On-campus communications, including VoIP/PBX systems and group communication applications such as push-to-talk and push-to-video
  • Digital billboards that can display general information, provide emergency announcements or help with wayfinding
  • Remote learning applications such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) classrooms that can be accessed from anywhere in the world
  • Enhanced connectivity for student residences, including affordable high-speed internet, facility management, emergency calling and smart home services
  • Mobile e-commerce and delivery services that can support ticket sales for concerts and events and food and beverage services – with delivery by drones or autonomous vehicles

Benefits of private wireless technology

Private 4.9G/LTE networks are the right choice for these new applications because they can match the reliability, predictability and security of hardwired solutions while supporting wireless and mobile communications. LTE is based on global standards and proven in public networks everywhere. And they provide a direct upgrade path to 5G.

Networks based on private cellular wireless also offer significant advantages over Wi-Fi when it comes to critical communications. For example, 4.9G/LTE and 5G deliver much more predictable latency and data rate performance. They can also connect hundreds of devices, machines, sensors or workers with a single small cell. These capabilities can support a high density of devices in a given area. As such, they are a perfect fit for a campus network.

A closer look at the key demands of business-critical digital and IoT services highlights the advantages of choosing industrial-grade private wireless over Wi-Fi:


Wi-Fi lacks strong cybersecurity and is vulnerable to hackers. In contrast, the 3GPP standard prescribes end-to-end encryption, strong ciphering, IPSec for network communication and secure authentication for all users and devices. LTE security has never been compromised, and 5G will bring even stronger security capabilities.

High reliability

Interference has a significant impact on wireless network reliability. LTE handles interference with advanced schedulers that adapt radio efficiency, device encoding and resource use in real time. A private wireless network can deliver 99.99 percent reliability, and up to 99.999 percent reliability for high-priority users. Wi-Fi handles interference in a way that makes frequency available only when other devices are done using it. And while Wi-Fi 6 introduces a basic scheduler, it is for uplink transmission only.

Pervasive indoor and outdoor coverage

Unlike Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G have a variety of capabilities for overcoming obstructions. They can provide reliable coverage for people, sensors, machines and vehicles throughout the campus. LTE also supports spectrum options that can increase coverage and support higher frequencies. This means that it takes a much smaller number of antennas than Wi-Fi access points to provide pervasive indoor and outdoor coverage.

Predictable performance

A private 4.9G/LTE network can maintain end-to-end latency of 9–15 ms. The next standard releases of LTE will eventually reduce latency to 2 ms, and 5G will take it to 1 ms.  A Wi-Fi network can have a higher peak performance than LTE if it has few users and no interference. But Wi-Fi performance degrades rapidly as more users connect and transmit data, or in interference-prone environments. With private wireless, throughput remains stable and predictable everywhere, even when loads are heavy.

High multi-user capacity

Thanks to its scheduler, private wireless can provide enough capacity to support several hundred active users and thousands of connected devices per small cell. The round-robin allocations used by Wi-Fi lead to rapid performance drops when more than 30-50 devices connect to a given access point.

Full mobility

LTE and 5G come from 3GPP standards that treat full, seamless mobility as an essential feature for a variety of use cases, including those involving fast-moving vehicles. Wi-Fi is designed to connect computers in homes and offices with a limited need for mobility. The long reconnection times associated with Wi-Fi can cause devices and vehicles to fail as they need to hand over from one access point to another.

One network for all applications

Higher education institutions can simplify their operations and reduce cost by consolidating their applications on one network. A private wireless network has the advanced capabilities and high performance required to support all types of traffic and a nearly unlimited number of use cases, as illustrated above.

Find out more

Read our white paper to learn more about how higher education institutions can use private wireless networks to power a new generation of campus services that address the changing needs of higher education institutions’ faculty, staff and students while reducing network total cost of ownership.

Ray Sabourin

About Ray Sabourin

Ray Sabourin is a senior enterprise global business development executive at Nokia with more than 30 years of experience in diverse roles across the wireless industry. He has a passionate interest in applying leading edge technology to all aspects of business and everyday life.

In his current role, Ray works with Nokia customers, partners and resellers to develop enterprise use cases and business models based on private wireless networks and Industry 4.0.

Ray is the youngest of a family of twelve and has five kids himself.


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