As coronavirus has forced closures for virtually all of the nation’s K-12 schools, the ability to connect to online education at home has become critical to maintaining a continuity of learning during the crisis. Furthermore, the CDC and FEMA have recommended that high-speed Internet access for every family with students enrolled in K-12 public schools is a prerequisite for reopening the country.
However, 9.7 million students lack the connectivity necessary to continue their coursework at home during the pandemic. To effectively address the needs of these unconnected home learners as quickly as possible, both mobile and wireline solutions need to be deployed.
THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH PERSONAL HOTSPOTS IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN TO MEET CURRENT DEMAND
The most immediate shortcoming of a personal hotspot-only solution is that inventory does not currently exist in the supply chain to serve even a fraction of the students who lack home Internet access. On April 9th, 2020, 5 of the 6 major mobile carriers were showing personal hotspots as unavailable or back-ordered on their websites. With only two months left in the academic year, school districts do not have the ability to wait for the personal hotspot supply chain to catch up with the spike in demand.
WIRELINE SOLUTIONS CAN MEET NEARLY 77% OF THE DEMAND IMMEDIATELY
Existing wireline solutions such as cable and DSL currently serve the vast majority of homes with school-aged children. These technologies are well-placed to serve 7.5 million of the total 9.7 million unconnected students. In most cases, there is no additional network buildout required: families can activate these wireline services with a self-install kit that can be mailed to their home.
An estimated 17.6% of America’s unconnected students will need to rely on cellular data solutions, namely those students living in homes and buildings without existing wireline infrastructure but within the range of mobile network coverage. Unfortunately, 5.6% of students living in areas with no wireline or wireless service options will have to rely on partial solutions, such as traveling to the nearest community location where Wi-Fi is available, while waiting for more robust long term solutions that require network build-out.
AVAILABILITY OF HOTSPOTS AS OF APRIL 9, 2020
|MOBILE CARRIER||HOTSPOT INVENTORY STATUS ON 4-9-2020|
|Sprint||Out of Stock|
|Boost Mobile||Out of Stock|
|US Cellular||Back ordered|
|EXAMPLES||Cable, DSL||LTE, 3G|
|TYPICAL DOWNLOAD SPEED||10-25 Mbps||5-30 Mbps|
|LEARNING ACTIVITIES SUPPORTED||Live video, interactive lessons||Asynchronous learning (Downloading/uploading assignments)|
**for an “unlimited” data plan. Most mobile carriers will throttle users to slower speeds after reaching a monthly data threshold of around 20 GB per month
– “Framework for Reopening America” from CDC and FEMA, released 4-14-2020
– EducationSuperHighway’s Notice of Ex Parte Presentation, March 21, 2020.
– Based on S&P Global Market Intelligence and EducationSuperHighway analysis