3G mobile operators are experiencing boom time. Having spent billions on a network which was heavily under utilised they are finally witnessing strong growth in traffic. This growth is largely down to the emergence of the new mobile broadband market. Formerly the domain of the business exec and pro-user, mobile broadband is now being marketed to general consumers as an alternative to fixed line connections. This has been achieved by a big marketing push in USB dongles, a recent Ofcom report recording almost a doubling in sales. Up until now operators have tried to entice customers by bundling a ‘free’ laptop or netbook when they sign up for mobile broadband contracts. Its probably not surprising that with these synergistic relationships between operators and manufacturers that a consortium of companies have got together to promote and develop 3G technology integrated inside laptops and netbooks. This move is backed by a $1 billion war chest which will put a new Mobile Broadband logo on a range of devices appearing for Christmas.
The implications of this are that more students will not be reliant on the network provision provided by their university. They will not be limited by an institution’s Internet filtering, port blocking or other constraints imposed by the institution. It is inevitable that some may abuse this privilege exposing an institution to the risk of students accessing inappropriate material while on university premises but it is hard to see how an institution might prevent this, instead policy will have to robust enough to define acceptable behaviour and the processes for dealing with any abuses.
Scare stories aside it looks like more students will be bringing the Internet with them when they come to college or university, and sure if anything institutions will be embracing it. I’m just waiting for the first laptop purchasing programme offered to students by an institution in collaboration with a mobile operator and computer manufacturer.