Higher education may be the number one customer for fast Wi-Fi networks in the coming decade, according to a new business analysis. The company Allied Business Intelligence says in the new report that colleges will be early adaptors of a wireless network standard called 802.11n, which speeds data several times faster than do many networks today. It also allows for more access points while reducing the chances of interference.
Universities have great demands for bandwidth, as professors put more material on video and students expect to be able to download it easily and quickly to their laptops. A commonly-used current wireless standard, 802.11g, doesn’t have enough capacity to allow students to do what they want—stream lots of video, for instance—as fast as they want it. So anticipating future demand, many institutions are building networks to the “n” standard. It’s expensive, the company says, but not as expensive as building a slower network now and then upgrading in two or three years. The company forecasts that 99 percent of universities in North America will have such fast networks by 2013.
Before then, however, there may be a lot of frustrated users because current chips in laptops don’t always support the “n” standard. The tech blogs are filled with complaints from users who have access to 802.11n wireless networks but can only connect at slower speeds. Chip makers like Intel reportedly will update their products to support the faster standard by the end of this year.—Josh Fischman