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Wireless tops campus technology trends


November 10, 2008
By Alyssa Dalton

Wireless networking on college and university campuses is not only the biggest communications trend in the last three to five years, but a trend that’s continuing, as nearly three out of four schools say they plan to expand their networks over the next two years.

This
is one of the key findings in the latest member survey by ACUTA, the
Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in
Higher Education, which surveyed members in connection with its Fall
Seminar.




The
survey asked members to identify the most significant change in their
cabling and wiring infrastructure over the last several years. 60% said
that change was deployment of wireless networks, compared with 13%
pointing to installation of fiber optic cable and another 13% citing
rewiring projects for technology upgrades.




Two out
of three survey respondents said it was the demand for “connectivity
anywhere” that drove their key networking change, while 40% said the
evolution of communication styles was a major factor, both of which
underlie the move to wireless. Meeting growing capacity needs and
migration to VoIP and Unified Communications were other drivers cited,
at 33% and 23%, respectively.




The
single greatest benefit of their change, the responding ACUTA members
said, was: network access anywhere and anytime, at 42% of respondents;
user convenience (23%); network efficiencies (17%); and greater
bandwidth (10%). On the downside, 56% of respondents said the cost of
their change was their greatest challenge, while another 21% said
locating and installing the many wireless access points needed for
coverage was their biggest hurdle.




Asked
about the next significant step in their campus networking, 71% said
expansion of their wireless network—or installation of one if they
haven’t done so already—is in their plans. Another 19% pointed to
additional rewiring projects as information communications technology
evolves. As far as the timeframe for their next big steps, 73% of
respondents expect to take those steps within a year.




Finally,
asked to identify how their ongoing changes affect themselves and their
departments, the professionals said the highest-impact issues are
ever-tightening budgets, a greater need for long-range planning, the
need to learn new technology skills, the fact that growing campuses
mean more responsibility for their departments, and the challenge of
finding employees with the right mix of skills.