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New Waves of Wireless

Essentials on education data and analysis from research authority AEL

Wireless technologies have quickly moved from pilot programs to the mainstream in K-12 education. While overall education spending is likely to be flat this year, projections indicate that school districts will significantly up their spending on wireless technologies.

In school year 2001-02, about $495 million was spent in this category; for this school year, educators estimate spending to be $776 million. About two-thirds of that money will go to hardware and 13 percent to networking. Total wireless expenditures will account for about 14 percent of districts' tech budgets.

Although enthusiasm for wireless and mobile computing is high and the technology is improving rapidly, there remain some important concerns, including cost.

Total cost of ownership is a particularly visible issue in technology purchase and integration. Forty-two percent of respondents listed cost as their top obstacle to purchasing wireless technologies. However, in many instances where traditional networks are not feasible or are prohibitively expensive (e.g., over large campuses

or in buildings where cinderblock walls or asbestos make traditional wiring impossible), wireless networks provide a cost-effective alternative.

As expected, the districts with the highest number of wireless networks are those whose students are stretched across hard-to-reach areas. Hawaii has almost 30 percent of its schools with wireless networks, while Alaska (26.7 percent) and Iowa (22.7 percent) are second and third on the list.

The report, Wireless Technologies in Education: Moving from Pilots to Mainstream, 2002, can be ordered online for $79 at