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Making a Connection: Wirelss and VoIP Campus Trends

VoIP on Campus

DATA FROM Campus Computing 2004, Casey Green’s 15th national survey of computing and IT in higher education, depict continuing gains in the deployment of wireless networks (Wi-Fi) on campuses. The annual report for 2004 summarizes data collected from 516 two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities across the US:

  • More than four-fifths (81.1 percent) of the campuses surveyed reported wireless LANs.
  • A fifth (19.8 percent) of campus respondents reported that they have full-campus coverage.
  • Nearly one-third (31.0 percent) of higher ed classrooms now have wireless connectivity.
  • On average, across all institutions, wireless networks now cover more than one-third (35.5 percent) of the campus service area.

Wireless has made huge leaps since 2000, when just 29.6 percent of campuses surveyed reported wireless LANs and only 3.8 percent had full-campus coverage. What’s next? Even more growth, most likely. Institutions ranked wireless among their “Top 5 Issues” in the 2004 survey, and 55.3 percent reported that they had strategic plans for wireless networking. The 18.9 percent gap of institutions not possessing wireless LANs may narrow, especially in the private four-year and community colleges, where, though the gap is larger, 10 percent and 15.1 percent of institutions, respectively, are scheduled to initiate wireless services in academic year (A/Y) 2005-2006. But a more dramatic bump may occur in institutions deploying full-campus wireless access: More than a third (35.7 percent) of all institutions surveyed expect to begin to provide full-campus coverage in A/Y 2005-2006; added to existing full-campus deployments, this opens up the possibility for more than half of institutions to have ubiquitous coverage by 2006.

Wireless LANS

The question of whether campus IT will meet expectations for wireless services is still open, but where wireless is in short supply, demand is clear. Says Green: “Students and faculty come to campus wondering about the absence of wireless services in dorms, offices, classrooms, and the campus quad, when they may already have wireless at home.” Inexpensive wireless components are widely available to consumers, and increasingly, students will arrive on campus habituated to wireless mobile computing. “The survey data suggest that many campuses are playing catch-up against the growing consumer proliferation of wireless,” Green adds.

Picking Up the Signal: VoIP on Campus
Campus Computing 2004 has also tracked VoIP deployment since 2001, and reports that 26.8 percent of surveyed institutions have VoIP installations in place (publics report 43.1 percent). With easy access to cellular service and cell phones ubiquitous among student populations, there may be less pressure, at least from students, to advance campus-provided telephony than there is to expand wireless access. Still, 20.5 percent of surveyed schools indicated that they would introduce VoIP service in A/Y 2005-2006.

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