WiMAX: The Educational Broadband Services Solution

Published: Jan 2009
Frank Ohrtman
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Company Wide: 
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The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) calls for broadband networks to support education. How does your BTOP project support education? What applications does your project offer for education? How will you support local schools? Can you provide internet access to low-income households through local schools? The BTOP program coincides with Federal Communications Commission regulations which will seize school WiMAX (2.5 GHz Educational Broadband Services) licenses where school districts do not comply with build out requirements for their licenses.

This paper will make the case for WiMAX as the most effective wireless broadband technology for educational services enabling school districts to keep their 2.5 GHz licenses. In a time of economic downturn in the private sector, industry players would be well advised to "follow the money" into major public sector initiatives related to broadband internet services in education.

Key Points in Publication

Educational Broadband Services licenses (2.5 GHz) will be forfeited by school districts and other license holders that do not build out networks by May 01, 2011
School districts holding those licenses are not protected by subletting to large commercial operators (Sprint, Clear, etc)
Understanding the education technology market (its not the same as enterprise or mobile)
Why WiMAX is the best technology for this application
Why WiMAX is the best complement to a one-to-one computing program
The "3 A's: Access, Applications and Affordability" of WiMAX in Education
Breakthroughs in video over WiMAX: HDTV on 1 Mbps WiMAX
"The 5% Solution": one-to-one computing and WiMAX for 5% of a school district's annual per-student allocation

Target Audience: 
  • BTOP grant applicants from the public or private sector
  • WiMAX vendors: this will prove to be a very lucrative niche market for those willing to focus on it and adjust their sales and marketing strategy accordingly
  • Laptop vendors: They will sell many more laptops more quickly if the laptops can be networked to the school intranet or Internet via a low-cost WiMAX network.
  • Computer chip vendors: 45 million public school students using WiMAX-enabled laptops will sell a lot of chips.
  • Network devices vendors: WiMAX deployments to schools will sell a lot of routers, servers and other devices.
  • Carriers: new technologies such as WiMAX may disrupt their traditional business and how to "turn the retreat into a parade"
  • Educators: How can the instructional yield from one-to-one computing be multiplied using WiMAX?
  • School administrators: What is WiMAX and why is it so important to instruction?
  • State/Federal/School finance professionals: provides strategies in paying for multi-million dollar WiMAX deployments
Report Benefits: 
  • Enables grant writers to succinctly explain how their application will support broadband in education and the potential impact of specific technological applications such as 1:1 computing and the long term "affordability" or sustainability of the project. When comparing WiMAX or other broadband services as substitutes for existing telecommunications services, the case can be made for the sustainability of the project.
  • Building a broadband network and handing out laptops to students will not in and of itself improve student achievement scores. The paper provides a deeper explanation of methods to support education through broadband awareness and adoption
Table of Contents: 

WiMAX: The Educational Broadband Services Solution
Introduction: Technology to the Kid via WiMAX
Technology to the kid AND the classroom
One-to-One Computing and Federally-mandated Technology Literacy
The School Intranet: The Value Statement for Networked One-to-One Computing
Converging One-to-One Computing and School Networks
Extending the School Network via Wireless
Technology to the Kid: At school or at home
Market Drivers for the WiMAX-enabled One-to-One Laptop
Government mandates
Private vs. public networks
The 3 A's of WiMAX-enabled One-to-One Computing
Why WiMAX?
Objections to WiMAX
WiMAX is not Wi-Fi
WiMAX Components
Relationship of WiMAX Range and Throughput for School Applications
Base Station and Student Density
Fixed vs. Mobile WiMAX
Why backhaul is important
Wireless Backhaul Considerations
Comparisons with Fiber
Spectrum Considerations
Access Conclusion
WiMAX is inexpensive relative to other technologies
What does a one-to-one WiMAX-enabled laptop program cost?
Case Study: School District of Palm Beach County, Florida
Savings on Existing Expenditures
Telecom and Textbooks (or is that "flexbooks"?
Other Instruction-Related Expenses
School assets
Government mandates-can a school district afford to NOT comply?
Who benefits?
Hall Monitors and Deans of Students
Technical Applications
Distance Learning via Video Conferencing
HD at 1 Mbps?: HD recording and streaming live anywhere, any time
Figure 21 Field-testing for WiMAX and HD camera with laptop-sized encoder
Audio Factors
Echo Cancellation
The Audio Secret Sauce: Compression Algorithms and "wideband"
Selling to school districts
Gauging the market
Revenue Potential
Extrapolating by student head count
Estimates based on Cahners Report
Who should do this?
Schools "roll your own"
Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs)
WiMAX Service Providers
How to sell to schools
Long sales cycles
Facilitate across departments
Need to compete in RFI/RFQ/RFP processes
Need to partner with other vendors
Establish marketing intelligence database
Aggregate, aggregate, aggregate
Find the money: grants, etc
Get a success story, even if you have to give it away!
Conclusion and Recommendations
Schools and Instructional Institutions
Network Operators and Service Providers
Equipment Suppliers and Systems Integrators

List of Figures

Figure 1 Are networked student laptops inevitable?
Figure 2 Most US schools have computer labs with desktop computers networked to the school's intranet content and applications
Figure 3 Access to a school computer lab is limited geographically
Figure 4 School connectivity for a majority of schools. For many kids, technology ends at the school house
Figure 5 Campus-wide wireless network access with one-to-one laptop programs extends network access campus-wide
Figure 6 WiMAX extends the school intranet content and applications to the student home
Figure 7 A school district-wide WiMAX network connects the student to the school's intranet content and applications
Figure 8 The 3 elements that comprise a telecommunications network: Access, switching and transport (backhaul)
Figure 9 Wi-Fi serves a coffee shop or home. WiMAX serves a city
Figure 10 WiMAX nomenclature: base station and subscriber station
Figure 11 WiMAX base station and antenna combinations
Figure 12 WiMAX access or subscriber devices
Figure 13 Line of sight offers better range and throughput than non line of sight
Figure 14 Link budget illustrated
Figure 15 On campus WiMAX delivers a throughput of multiple megabits per second..
Figure 16 A WiMAX-enabled laptop can enjoy a range of one mile with throughput equal to DSL. WiMAX extends student access to the school's intranet content and applications to the student's home
Figure 17 Note populated areas of Palm Beach County, Florida (where the students live) are concentrated on the coast. Compare with figure below for school locations and WiMAX coverage
Figure 18 Placing a WiMAX base station ate each of Palm Beach County Schools 172 schools covers a majority of the populated area of Palm Beach County
Figure 19 Backhaul supports WiMAX base stations, which in turn support student at home internet access
Figure 20 Cover Palm Beach County, Florida at a cost of $7 million for 170,000 students = $41 per student in one-time CAPEX or lease for $1/month/student on a 48 month lease or 5% of school district's per student annual allocation
Figure 21 Field-testing for WiMAX and HD camera with laptop-sized encoder
Figure 22 Satellite imagery of the US at night reveals concentration of population more easily served by WiMAX

List of Tables

Table 1 The progression to "one-to-one" computing
Table 2 Comparison of Wi-Fi and WiMAX for school district use
Table 3 Comparison of Wi-Fi and WiMAX
Table 4 Comparison fixed vs. mobile WiMAX
Table 5 Comparisons of wireless backhaul with other options
Table 6 Comparison of wireless vs. fiber optic cable as backhaul solution
Table 7 School WiMAX-related spectrum
Table 8 Comparisons of the costs for technologies for residential internet access
Table 9 Comparisons for monthly internet/intranet access accounts for public school students plus laptop lease as a percentage of annual allocation per student
Table 10 School district operations savings on telecommunications, textbooks, manpower and insurance for WiMAX network
Table 11 Cost savings related to instruction using WiMAX networks
Table 12 Assets a school district may have that a telephone company would have to buy
Table 13 Federal mandates on education where WiMAX-enabled laptops provide a solution