Survey: wireless is hottest thing on campus

A recent survey indicates that nearly three out of four colleges and universities plan to expand their wireless networks over the next two years.

A recent survey indicates that nearly three out of four colleges and universities plan to expand their wireless networks over the next two years. That is one of the key findings in the latest member survey by ACUTA (wwwacuta.org), the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, which surveyed members at its 2008 Fall Seminar in Boston.

The survey asked members to identify the most significant change in their cabling and wiring infrastructure over the last several years. Sixty percent 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. Meeting growing capacity needs and migration to Voice over IP and Unified Communications were other drivers cited, at 33% and 23%respectively.

The single greatest benefit of their change, said responding ACUTA members, was network access anywhere and anytime (42%); 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 one year.

Finally, asked to identify how their ongoing changes affect both them and their departments, respondents 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.

"The fact that wireless networking is the biggest change for our members and their schools isn't surprising initself," says Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. "But this survey shows the impact that wireless networks, as well as other forms of technology evolution, are having on information communications technology departments."

Semer adds, "While wireless networks do make communications and computing far more convenient on campuses, they do have their challenges in terms of cost and management. The same is true for other advancing technologies as well."


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