For many US school districts, distance learning has become a must-have service in the wake of the 2020-21 pandemic. While providing computing devices like PC’s, Chromebooks and tablets is a priority for students that need them, the bigger issue resides in connectivity to online educational tools and services when students are not on campus.
For some student households, the fact is that broadband services may not be available – or are too expensive to purchase. This leaves the school district with the task of delivering broadband connectivity over the airwaves and throughout the neighborhood where students reside.
Campbell school district in Northern California recently found itself in this exact situation. The school system was struggling to find the best wireless networking technology to expand their education options outside the physical classroom. While the school district resides in tech-heavy Bay Area region, school administrators found that many student households still lacked affordable access to broadband services.
For the district to realize their distance learning vision that was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, additional steps had to be made to not only place computers into students’ hands – but also eliminate the unsustainable spend on Wi-Fi hotspots at student's homes that utilized public mobile network connectivity. Full story behind the deployment goals are highlighted in this whitepaper published Joint Venture of Silicon Valley.
Choosing the Right Technology Solution
Access to recently opened wireless frequencies in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum in the United States allows businesses and public organizations of all sizes to deploy private LTE/5G networks that offer carrier-grade coverage and performance. For the school district, a private mobile network running in the CBRS spectrum and deployed on campus property proved to be an excellent and cost effective match for their needs to bridge the digital divide.
Using self-installed, indoor customer premise equipment (CPE) deployed in student households, the district can reach student homes just beyond the half-mile mark. For students that live further away, a professionally-installed outdoor CPE is deployed in households to gain connectivity to the school private mobile network up to 2 miles away while maintaining the appropriate levels of connection reliability and performance.
K-12 school districts clearly see the benefits of remote learning technologies. But too often, their budgets, technical expertise and lack of time significantly hinder what can realistically be accomplished on their own. Campbell SD chose Celona as a strategic partner because district administrators felt the company provided an easy to scale solution and expertise to overcome these common deficiencies. Celona's solution has been confirmed to be an order of magnitude more cost effective when compared to traditional alternatives.
Compared to alternative options and vendors, Celona delivered a right-sized, custom “kit” for the school district that provides all the hardware, software and licensing that is required to design, deploy and manage a private LTE/5G network.
Celona and affiliated partners then worked with the school district along each step of the network delivery process. This included:
- Planning for the utilization of the CBRS spectrum with outdoor wireless design and site surveys,
- Physical deployment and testing of Celona access points and student household CPEs, and
- Setting up health/performance monitoring and on-boarding / off-boarding processes through Celona’s cloud-managed orchestration platform.
Additionally, the platform offered advanced features including the ability to apply strict QoS policy on aper-application basis using Celona’s patent-pending MicroSlicing™technology. This helps to guarantee performance for real-time streaming applications such as live video conferencing sessions between teachers and students. Ultimately, the Celona-powered LTE or 5G network has proven to be the perfect foundation to close the homework gap for students, teachers and families.
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