In theory, the aggressive rollout of fourth-generation (4G) cellular should lighten the load for overburdened campus Wi-Fi networks. After all, Long Term Evolution (LTE) — the most widely used 4G technology — delivers average speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 35 Mbps, which makes a congested Wi-Fi network feel pokey by comparison.
In practice, however, college students and other consumers continue to flock to Wi-Fi. For higher ed technology managers, that’s actually good news, judging from Deloitte's "Global Mobile Consumer Survey." It found that 41 percent of respondents are willing to pay more to get access to a wireless network – LTE or Wi-Fi – that provides three to five times the speeds they currently get. Ten percent of that group are willing to pay up to $30 more than their current rate plan.
Colleges and universities shouldn’t be afraid to capitalize on that willingness to pay. Despite all of the hand-wringing about student debt and the cost of education, parents and students continue to shell out for amenities such as swanky student rec centers and luxury apartments. Would students agree to pay an extra $10 or $20 each semester to upgrade the campus Wi-Fi network? Deloitte’s survey strongly suggests they would.
That appeal could include educating students about how they could save money by voting for a Wi-Fi improvement fee. Nearly all mobile operators have phased out flat-rate, unlimited-use data plans, so consumers are turning to Wi-Fi as a way to avoid exceeding their monthly cellular bucket. Deloitte’s survey found that people who have a 4G smartphone or tablet are more likely to seek out Wi-Fi as a way to save money. So the pitch to students could center around how they’re better off paying their school an extra $20 per semester than paying their mobile operator an extra $20 per month.
Deloitte’s survey isn’t the only research that shows why colleges and universities shouldn’t shortchange their Wi-Fi networks. Earlier this year, Georgetown University surveyed high-school recruits about what they want technology-wise when comparing schools. Wireless Internet ranked No. 1.