As 5G is being deployed nationwide, colleges and universities represent a category of “use place” (as opposed to “use case”), a physical location where we can expect 5G to gain early traction. The promise of 5G and what it enables is real, and institutions of higher education are key to driving innovative concepts and solutions to fulfill them.
Why 5G needs universities
To usher in the potential that 5G offers, we need to test, experiment, and push the boundaries of what these networks can do. And to do that, there needs to be a fertile ground for innovation with a critical mass of first adopters and a willingness to lead the way.
As 5G rolls out on campuses, students, faculty and the university will become interconnected and act as a testbed for innovative 5G solutions.
Students specifically will play a dual role in fostering 5G technology. First, they are eager to adopt “the new” – new applications, new solutions, new ways to work, live and play. With 4,298 universities and colleges across the US (317 of which are research institutions), that’s a substantial base of first adopters eager for 5G applications. The ability to lean on a centralized user group that will experiment, and voice opinions is attractive to developers. Second, they not only adopt “the new,” but drive vast amounts of data from their mobile device as they walk throughout campus. This gives developers immense insight into how 5G solutions are affecting their user group and how an interconnected location can open up new possibilities across its platform.
It’s not just the students, however. Universities are under pressure to execute their digital transformation and can leverage 5G to revolutionize not only their IT infrastructure and cost associated, but also to bring new educational tools to the classroom. For example, augmented reality (AR) will soon be a platform for education, but driving AR for potentially tens-of-thousands of students on one campus will only work if 5G is deployed. Innovative colleges and universities can turn their whole campus into a platform for commercial 5G use case innovations if they are first adopters. And with 48 of the world’s Top-100 most innovative universities in the US, according to Reuters, that’s an attractive critical mass for operators.
How higher ed can lead the way
Higher ed institutions wanting to play a key role in shaping the global 5G agenda need campus-wide 5G – a powerful 5G network that covers campuses and nearby dorms.
To serve a college or university’s needs, 5G networks in the millimeter-wave spectrum need to be built, and creating the right incentive plan between a university and an operator will benefit both parties. For example, universities want to leverage the highest level of creativity possible with their networks to drive new innovations and bring in new students and corporate partnerships, which a campus-wide 5G network can enable. Operators can drive new revenue across its 5G network with new student and higher education customers while also proving 5G network strength and reliability.
Building this kind of a network might seem like a massive undertaking in an environment when most schools are under pressure to reduce costs. But a state-of-the-art 5G network on campus would be a wise investment, and will bring benefits to the school through better delivery of educational opportunities, the students through a better mobile Internet experience and new technologies, and as a testing ground for partnerships with businesses all helping drive additional revenue and opportunities. As the first 5G networks on campus launch at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, the first schools out of the gate will have a competitive advantage.
The bottom line
What this all means for 5G is that there is a golden opportunity here for higher education institutions to be a vanguard for the development of 5G-driven technologies. Network operators and businesses have realized there is little room for 5G fast-followers. The 5G revolution can only be sparked by striking out early and fostering innovation – and colleges and universities are the perfect place to do that.
— Peter Linder, 5G Evangelist for North America, Ericsson
This content is sponsored by Ericsson.