What is Mobile Broadband?

With the advent of 4G networks, the boundaries between cellular networks and the Internet have completely blurred, to the point that for most of the world, there is no distinction made at all. Broadband is considered to be roughly the speed of Internet access one can typically get over a mobile network, and for most people, mobile broadband provides a sufficient level of access, coupled with unprecedented freedom of movement while connected. Because mobile broadband is supremely convenient, people in most of the world access the Internet from a mobile device as their first choice — and we are already at the point that for most people, broadband means 4G speeds, not the gigabit speeds to which research universities are accustomed. In 2012, the ITU estimated 1.1 billion mobile broadband subscriptions worldwide, with 45% annual growth over the past four years. As the increasing array of always-connected (via 4G) handheld devices — tablets, smartphones, e-readers, and more — become more pervasive, and as access to faster, more open, free networks via direct connection or 802.1x networks continues to fall off or becomes more tightly controlled, the demand for mobile broadband access will increase at the expense of demand for more capable networks. In much of the world, especially in developing countries, it is far easier and less expensive to install mobile broadband infrastructure than it is to provide the fiber needed to support gigabit networks. As a result, it is becoming commonplace in most of the world for learning institutions to rely on cellular networks for Internet access. In the developed world, one of the advantages of BYOD is that the infrastructure does not need to be built, managed, or supported by the institution, which adds another incentive for schools to move to mobile broadband.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • In many developing countries that face major infrastructure issues, such as Brazil and India, wired internet can be an expensive commodity. Yet, 3G and 4G connections are gradually becoming widely available through most providers at a reasonable cost and it is the prime gateway to internet (it is responsible for over 80% of the internet access in the North of Brazil). The fact that internet is now affordable and technically accessible throughout the country has been reshaping education and we are likely to see that online learning, both formal and informal, will experience an exponential growth within the next few years. - paulo.dantas paulo.dantas Sep 16, 2016
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The cost of 4G, especially with unlimited data, is prohibitive for most users. Perhaps we need a government sponsored network for all - with collective bargaining power we should be ale to bring access to the masses at an ultra low cost. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Sep 22, 2016
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Both formal and informal learning will grow in developing countries and institutions will have the challenge of dealing with learners with little educational background. Also, in more developed areas, the concept of being offline no longer exists. - paulo.dantas paulo.dantas Sep 16, 2016 - helga helga Sep 19, 2016
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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