Cellular Networks

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years

The boundaries between cellular networks and the Internet are blurring. Increasingly, and more so in the developing world, the "on ramp" to the Internet is a mobile device accessing the Internet via a cellular network that extends significantly beyond even the electric grid. The 3G cellular networks support broadband Internet, and with self-contained power, can be deployed in even the most remote locations. As the network expands, mobiles are increasingly the access point not only for common tools and communications, but also for information of all kinds, training materials, and more. Because they are always connected, many people are beginning to look to mobile computing platforms as their device of choice. For this group, mobile computing devices are more affordable, more accessible, and easier to use than desktop computers, and provide more than enough functionality to serve as their primary computing device. A major benefit for adoption in schools is that they do not need to build, pay for, or support cellular networks; the infrastructures already surround them.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • A history high school teacher has developed a system using cell phones as clickers to quickly poll students on questions and issues related to the content he teaches.
  • As faster 3G and eventually 4G networks come online, these will offer larger bandwidth to students for accessing the web. More complex applications and larger data sets and content can be accessed through these networks.
  • Campuses are starting to enable mobile browser friendly versions of their online holding catalogs giving students access to these resources through smartphones that depend on cellular connections to deliver the content.

In Practice

  • Greg Kulowiec uses cell phones as clickers in his high school class in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The system relies on cellular networks in order to deliver results that are then projected to a screen for the students to see: http://blip.tv/file/2088827
  • The Essa Academy for K-12 students in the UK has developed a full mobile computing learning environment that relies on a cellular network to deliver content and web access to the students: http://www.essaacademy.org
  • North Carolina State relies on cellular networks to provide access to the mobile library network it has established on the campus: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/m/about.html

For Further Reading

Cisco Visual Networking Index Forecast Projects 26-Fold Growth in Global Mobile Data Traffic From 2010 to 2015
(Cisco, Cisco.com, 1 February 2011.) Cisco has released a report that forecasts the growth of global mobile data traffic as more and more of the world adopts faster and more robust cellular networks.

Nine Things You Need to Know About 4G Networks
(Howard Wolinsky, //Appolicious.com//, 7 October 2010.) This post offers a primer on the pertinent aspects of 4G networks that consumers should be aware.

Technology Races to Meet Tide of Data
(Kevin J. O’Brien, //NYTimes.com//, 1 August 2010.) This article discusses how cellular networks are evolving into higher bandwidth networks to help meet the demand for delivery of higher bandwidth content to smartphones and other mobile devices.