The pandemic accelerated shipments of mobile PCs into the K-12 sector, with the market peaking in 2021 at 53 million units worldwide. Yet hardware is only part of the story. A new report from Futuresource Consulting shows that there’s a widening connectivity divide, made worse by the after effects of COVID-19.
“In education, the connectivity gap is nothing new,” says Michael Boreham, Senior Consultant, Futuresource Consulting. “But the rapid rise of virtual learning and hybrid classrooms has pulled back the curtain on internet connectivity in the EdTech industry. Even the most developed markets are ravaged by inequality.
“Take the USA, for example. Despite achieving 95% penetration of mobile PCs at K-12 last year, there are still extensive student poverty issues in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles. In addition, huge swathes of rural America are also affected. These populations are often too small and too widely scattered to present viable investment opportunities for telcos. This combination of prohibitive broadband costs and lack of broadband infrastructure is providing an opportunity for LTE-capable device deployments to really make a difference.”
Futuresource expects the US K-12 market to pioneer the adoption of LTE devices, though the consulting firm’s figures show that Wi-Fi enabled devices and networks will remain dominant throughout the forecasting period. In many other world regions, LTE will continue to face resistance.
On the whole, European markets have strong residential broadband coverage, and dongles and hotspots are still seen as the optimum solution for poorer students. Futuresource sees a similar trend playing out in more advanced APAC countries, where LTE demand is expected to remain a low-level niche segment during the review period.
“Beyond the US, interest in LTE is strongest in emerging markets,” says Boreham, “though this is rarely matched by investment. Peru has been an exception, with an emergency deployment of LTE tablets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If emerging markets do adopt LTE technology, then we expect them to follow the Peruvian example, taking a low-cost android route rather than opting for more sophisticated productivity devices.”
With the USA leading the LTE charge, it’s the only major world market that Futuresource expects to achieve significant uptake. LTE-capable Chromebook deployments in New York and LA drive adoption in other urban centres, ushering in a gradual transition from Wi-Fi only devices coupled with dongles and mobile hotspots, to a more robust and secure solution built around eSIM or removable SIM technologies.
“LTE has a lot going for it,” says Boreham. “LTE-enabled devices are less prone to cyberattacks. Devices with eSIM capability are quicker to deploy and less vulnerable to theft and misuse when compared to a removable SIM. Plus, they are far less energy-hungry than using a combination of hotspots and dongles.
“However, there are still some questions to be asked over the long-term impact of COVID-19 and whether remote learning is here to stay. And will countries try to futureproof their educational offering even if it’s not? Regardless of the long-term picture, LTE is making an impact on K-12. It’s not an area of hyper growth, but it does present some solid opportunities for savvy vendors.”
For further information on Futuresource Consulting’s Opportunity for LTE and Mobile Connectivity in K-12 report, or to make a purchase, please contact email@example.com
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