The new normal in higher ed – Wi-Fi here, there, and everywhere

June 25, 2019 | ACUHO-I

There’s a new “normal” on college campuses today—it’s Wi-Fi here, there and everywhere—with nearly three in four schools offering Wi-Fi throughout 81-100% of the campus, finds the ACUHO-I 2019 State of ResNet Report. What’s more, not only are bandwidths of 1GB or more becoming pervasive, but one in three schools now offer 7GB or more. In response to rising student expectations, almost three out of four schools now allow students to connect an unlimited number of devices to their network. As bandwidth demand and coverage reach unprecedented levels, college and university campuses are among the most demanding wireless environments in existence today.

The report, published by the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I), is the eighth installment of a study to measure the pulse of ResNet practices and policies in higher education. A total of 351 respondents representing 200 institutions participated in the 2019 survey, a 38% increase in completion rates since its inaugural 2012 study.

“The swarm of everyday devices that connect to the web is changing everything. With student expectations for ‘always on’ Wi-Fi for any device anywhere, campus networks have become one of the most challenging initiatives for universities today,” said Mary DeNiro, CEO of ACUHO-I. “Our eighth annual ResNet study shows more schools rising to meet these expectations—providing students high-quality and reliable Wi-Fi not only in the classroom but also for online learning, entertainment, and in their living spaces. We believe this study will better prepare administrators to meet the connectivity needs of prospective and current students who judge the quality of their campus experience by its Wi-Fi.”

Key insights from the 2019 ACUHO-I State of ResNet Report include:

  • Higher Ed’s New Normal — Wi-Fi Here, There, Everywhere
    There’s a new normal on campus today and it’s called “Wi-Fi” everywhere. Wi-Fi is now pervasive throughout campuses—what a change from just three years ago. Nearly three out of four schools now offer comprehensive Wi-Fi throughout 81-100% of the whole campus, a 17% jump over the past three years. To meet the demand for bandwidth, caused by the explosion of student devices on campus, nearly one-third of schools provide 7GB or more dedicated to ResNet and 74% offer 1GB or more—a near three-fold increase since the start of the study in 2012. Today, 98% of business officers believe that superior Wi-Fi connectivity is critical to upholding university mission, while 95% of housing and technology officers believe it’s critical to attracting and retaining students.
  • The Greediest Bandwidth Hogs…
    Devices and applications are more bandwidth greedy than ever before. For the second year in a row, smartphones top the list for the greediest bandwidth-consuming device at 72.8% of schools, a slight increase over the past year. Desktops and laptops are #2 as they support rich video, audio, and rich media applications. And gaming devices move into #3, taking over from Smart TVs. When it comes to applications, Netflix is seen as biggest content threat to bandwidth capacity by 89% of schools. This is followed closely by web-based rich content, i.e. videos.
  • Annual Budgets Nearly Triple
    Budgets are being stretched to expand Wi-Fi coverage to meet student expectations. Annual IT budgets exceeding $2.5M nearly tripled in the past year, rising from 12.7% to 32.5%. Last year, the majority of budgets were between $750K to $2.5M.
  • Outsourcing Rises
    There’s more outsourcing, and not just for ResNet, but for IPTV, academic/admin networks and help desk. This year, 16% of schools outsource their ResNet services, a 6% increase from 2016. And 30 percent are outsourcing IPTV, a 22% increase since 2016. In addition, 7% of schools outsource internet for academic, administrative and non-residential parts of campus while 10% do so for help desk services. Schools cite keeping up with technology, improving ResNet services and student satisfaction/retention as their top three reasons for outsourcing ResNet.
  • More—and Better–Strategic Planning
    Keeping up with connectivity and bandwidth demands has prompted better ResNet strategic planning. In the past four years, the number of institutions updating their strategic plans annually has risen to 21% , that’s an increase of 8 percent. What’s more, 7% now update their plans biannually.
  • Support Services Still in the “Dark Ages”
    Old school help desk support methods still prevail. On-site/walk-in, phone, and email support are the norm, rather than newer methods, like social media or text. If you’re a student on deadline at 2am, you have only 1 in 4 chances of reaching tech support live.

The full report, and its accompanying infographic, are available free at www.acuho-i.org/resnet

About the 2019 State of ResNet Report

ACUHO-I, the professional organization representing college and university housing officers, has conducted the eighth annual study of ResNet practices. ResNets provide wired Internet, Wi-Fi, cable TV services and more to students living in residence halls. The survey was conducted from February 2019 through April 2019. A combined total of 351 respondents representing 200 unique colleges and universities completed the survey. Of the total respondents, 17% indicated their primary job was related to business and 38% to housing, while 45% of respondents were from IT.

About ACUHO-I

ACUHO-I is the leading organization of choice for campus housing and residence life professionals and home to more than 17,000 professionals representing 1.2 million on-campus students from around the globe. The organization works to continuously optimize on-campus student living environments. With credible benchmarking data, research, and talking points, ACUHO-I demonstrates the positive impact that campus housing and residence life has on student recruitment, retention, growth, and achievement – helping to further elevate the profile of university housing departments, prioritize their needs, and inform decisions that boost the reputation of entire institutions. ACUHO-I invests significant resources in the development of research products, leadership tools, and training programs that housing departments can use to persuade influencers, perform better, and produce exceptional campus housing and residence life solutions. ACUHO-I members enjoy access – making it easy for them to create their own experiences and take advantage of valuable offerings delivered through an array of digital channels, live events, and publications. www.acuho-i.org