Isn’t it wonderful when we take-it-all-too-seriously grown-ups get wowed by something (or someone) totally unexpected?
Meet my new wow-inspiring hero, Ayan Sharma, a senior at Plano West Senior High School. Ayan is passionate about ICT network technologies. Ayan is also persistent. He recently sent the ISE Team several requests to publish his article about how 5G-CBRS private networks can help students who don’t have decent broadband access at their schools.
Our team couldn’t help but print Ayan’s article hoping one of you shares it with the powers-that-be in your company. Shouldn’t this 18-year-old be considered for an internship or corner office or CTO or something?
Kudos to Ayan’s family, his educators, and the Plano West Senior High School staff for inspiring him to be bold enough to get his work published at 18 years old and shared with 23K ICT network transformation professionals? Our industry sorely needs more young leaders who blow our collective socks off.
To pay it forward, let’s be passionate like Ayan. Share this story and the link at the end of it with your community schools. Together, we can help more students get inspired to explore careers in fixed and mobile network evolution.
Editor-in-Chief, ISE Magazine
5G technology with CBRS – A Novel Method to Improve Broadband Access for Education
5G can and should be used to enhance education and communication services in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
This can be done by leveraging Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) with 150 MHz (planned for an additional 100 MHz) of spectrum, ranging from 3550 MHz – 3700 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band. In the past, CBRS has been used by the U.S. government and Air Force but is now classified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as an “unlicensed spectrum” for shared wireless private broadband.
Educational Broadband Service (EBS) is another frequency band of spectrum, ranging from 2502 MHz – 2690 MHz, that the FCC assigned for educational institutions and public communities. However, after 1985, 95% of the EBS spectrum was permitted to be utilized in non-educational settings. Unfortunately, only 5% remains allocated to EBS.
The FCC has initiated numerous programs to connect all U.S. schools to high-speed broadband, including those in rural areas. They plan to provide plentiful funding for school building connectivity, but the logistics surrounding that goal are still problematic. A report from the United Nations Children’s Fund, in December 2020, quantifies that up to 1.3 billion students aged 3-17 years old reside in households with no Internet connection or any available devices. The report also corroborates that approximately 600,000 teachers lack adequate connectivity or devices to support remote teaching from their homes.1
Given that data, it is reasonable to conclude that students and school geography directly impact the availability of home-Internet access and broadband connectivity. Students or schools that reside in remote and rural areas often have limited broadband access. Furthermore, even urban areas high demand of data usage in school buildings limits constant data speed and results in deficient video and audio quality. Additional limitations occur if they are using EBS including power transmission restrictions which limits the coverage range. For many, the EBS spectrum that is deployed today results in low Internet speeds at school that are only slightly better than at home.
There are two key challenges with Wi-Fi in EBS:
- Increasing Congestion – Some channels are heavily utilized by small wireless providers, cable operators, and other national carriers in 2.4Ghz, which is primarily used for home/business Wi-Fi. Thus, Wi-Fi lacks in performance when traffic loads and interference are their peak.
- Regulatory Limits – There can be country specific regulatory limits that impact antenna transmit power. Special antennas must be used to boost the coverage range and data speed.
There is a viable solution for the challenges listed above by replacing the existing EBS spectrum with 5G-CBRS to extend both the coverage and the capacity.
5G has strong software management and control during its peak load and has an antenna beamforming technique that can create the narrow beam which further reduces the interference. 5G has radio frequency (RF) parameters which can be optimized to address the traffic and services, providing enough flexibility so a singular 5G network can address numerous services (audio/video, multi-connections, etc.) through multiple slices. CBRS is a lightly licensed spectrum (GAA’s 80 MHz) and when combined with 5G, it can significantly boost RF coverage. With 5G-CBRS, a school district can manage the load-based capacity and bandwidth allocations. It can act as a complimentary layer to existing Wi-Fi mechanisms or replace the Wi-Fi, depending on the business cases.
Many school districts are now considering the feasibility of installing “off-campus Wi-Fi like networks” as a long-term sustainable solution to address the challenge of acquiring affordable, high-speed Internet access for all needs: home schooling, remote learning, school security, testing modernization, and on-campus coverage. Definitionally, an “off-campus Wi-Fi like network” is a school-owned wireless network that provides free, basic wireless Internet access to the homes of students or other community sites in neighborhoods who need it the most.
One of the most difficult challenges for district and state governments is identifying and adopting a “unified solution with one-size-fits all”. But this solution could help the entire school district to manage the cost for a sponsored service model that can temporarily cover the cost of monthly home Internet subscriptions for students. In current urban school models, numerous school and universities have implemented some variant of a low-cost wireless network for campus activities, but the issue persists in rural communities.
A proposed design for a typical section of a school building could be a mix of several radio access points as illustrated below:
Figure 1 depicts a proposed 5G deployment model for a school or university campus and its ability to support wide area coverage. Of course, the improved RF coverage needs to be cost optimized with a mix of indoor and outdoor cells and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE). Still, this general concept would provide for a diverse range of speed, bandwidth, and quality of experience for students and staff alike. Multiple 5G slices could deliver bandwidth use cases such as asset tracking, cameras and sensors, data-centric devices such as laptops, tablets, remote monitoring, vehicle tracking systems, and more.
An important expectation from students and families is that school broadband allows open access to a wider range of students for interactive learning, experimental designs, etc. CBRS in 5G has proven to be an efficient substitute with its economic benefits, speed, and consistency.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
1. Office of Educational Technology: Keeping Students Connected & Learning, https://tech.ed.gov/wireless-brief/
Want to help educators across the country find ways to inspire students to join the ICT and Telecom industry in the future? Check out NTCA’s Broadband Opportunities and Leadership Development (BOLD) K-12 Career Awareness Toolkit.