How Schools are Shaping the Future of Connectivity

Today’s college students have never known a world without the Internet and expect connectivity wherever they go. In his latest blog, Jason Reasor discusses the standards covering the challenges of deploying communications networks in schools and the resources CommScope provides to better understand those standards.

Future of ConnectivityCan you guess what makes me feel old? Today’s college students have never known a world without the Internet. They’re always connected and have the ability to access data instantly, without having to go to the library. They communicate by texting, messaging and e-mailing, in addition to phone calls.

When I was in school and wanted to communicate with someone non-verbally, I had to use a hand-written note; and accessing data meant sifting through the card catalog while trying to remember the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System. Today, schools are coming up with unique ways to integrate Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, since these are the mediums students often use for communication. For today’s college students, the Internet has always been the communication backbone.

It’s no wonder that schools are leading the way in providing always-on connectivity. Some enterprises are still trying to figure out if they want to support a bring your own device (BYOD) policy or whether they really need to ensure they will have cellular coverage and capacity everywhere in the building. On the other hand, educational facilities confronted these problems several years ago. Their customers (students, faculty, and support staff) don’t care how they get connected – they just want a connection. It could be a cellular connection, a WiFi connection or a wired connection; it doesn’t matter. The expectation is that some sort of path to the Internet is readily available and in place when it is needed. In fact, these users often times don’t know how they are connected but most certainly know when they are not.

The organizations deploying the technology to support this requirement understand the inherent challenges. There are three disparate but complementary networks that have to be readily available: the wired network, the WiFi network and the cellular network. Some enterprises are still figuring out the best way to deploy two of the three (predominantly wired LAN and WiFi). Educational facilities know that all three must be in place to satisfy their customers’ needs.

The latest standard from TIA attempts to address the issues of deploying communications networks. The ANSI/TIA-4966 standard, “Telecommunications Infrastructure for Educational Buildings and Spaces,” is the first cabling standard to include information about WiFi networks and distributed antenna systems (DAS). All the guidelines you would expect from a cabling standard are there, including recommendations for Category 6A and OM4 cabling. Additionally, recommendations around density of wireless access points in various facilities found on campuses are also included. DAS cabling guidelines are included by reference to TIA-568-0.D - a generic telecommunications cabling standard. Security features, such as video surveillance, are an important aspect of educational facilities and is covered by the proposed TIA physical network security standard that is in development under TIA TR42.1.

To help navigate all the connectivity standards activities, CommScope has released an FAQ document to help understand the TIA-4966 standard. This abbreviated version provides highlights of the standard and might help readers recognize why the standard’s recommendations need to be taken into account when building or refurbishing facilities.

If you want to see the future of connectivity, look no further than our schools. Once again, they are leading the way in how our connectivity future is shaped.

How do you think schools are doing in providing Internet connectivity for their “customers?” What did you experience when you were still in school? Leave a comment below to let us know.