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Higher Education Fertile Ground for 802.11n WiFi, ABI Reports

ABI Research has forecast that WiFi will be available in 99 percent of North American universities in 2013. Much of that penetration will be in the form of 802.11n equipment: Higher education is clearly the No. 1 market for early adopters of 802.11n.

"ABI Research expects 802.11n uptake--which is today fairly small in the education market--to ramp up steeply to quite a high rate of penetration," said research VP Stan Schatt.

According to the ABI report, "There's IEEE 802.11n Gold in Higher Education," several factors are driving WiFi adoption in higher ed. Many students now assume a campus WiFi network as a given, and many of their new laptops will be "n"-compatible. Universities have great bandwidth demands, as lecture halls may need to serve a large number of users with multimedia content at any given time. 802.11n's greater speed and capacity can address that need.

Moreover, said Schatt, "Universities are breaking new ground by using video over WiFi in a number of innovative ways. This is driving the adoption of high speed 802.11n. Students in the near future--at least the diligent ones--will be just as likely to watch their favorite professor's lectures on their laptops as they will be to view 'America's Next Top Model.'"

Even schools with limited funds are jumping to 802.11n to "future-proof" their networks, rather than purchasing an 802.11g WiFi network now and coming back in a year or two seeking funds for an upgrade to 802.11n.

However, a few barriers to adoption still exist. Some institutions are concerned about the impact of 802.11n's increased bandwidth on the wired side of their infrastructure. Some have limited budgets, and some--particularly those with less emphasis on research--may be conservatively inclined to wait for confirmation of the 802.11n standard before taking the plunge. Confirmation by the IEEE isn't expected to take place before December 2009.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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