Intel has begun a push to 'unwire' Australia's education sector, creating a wireless environment for 25 local universities and earmarking a further 270 in the Asia-Pacific region.
Dubbed Intel Mobile Learning in Education (Mile), the aim is to accelerate the adoption of mobile computing and wireless technologies by taking the traditional classroom out of the education equation.
Universities are first off the rank because of their extreme Internet demands but a model for kindergarten right through to year 12 is under consideration.
Intel general manager ANZ, Phillip Cronin, launching the initiative in Sydney yesterday, said it is not about providing technology for the sake of it. "We seek to move to an environment where everyone is sharing between teachers and students to access technology; driving technology through the curriculum."
The Mile will include various wireless connectivity programs, engineering and deployment support, blueprint development for large deployments and a verification of interoperability.
According to sales and marketing vice president Gerry Greeve, the effective integration of mobile technology in education is critical for the development of skills in a knowledge economy.
Queensland's Griffith University recently rolled out a campus-wide wireless project as part of the Mile following rigorous bouts of testing various equipment and frequencies (a, b, g).
While they found initial problems due to weather and nearby bushland, the university has been able to wirelessly bridge six different campus locations, each about 100 kilometres distant.
Director of information services, Con Graves, said he saw the user base go from just eight in February to just under 800 in August as a result of students making the most of the 300-plus, university-wide access points.
Graves said he initially had to follow students around the campus to see what users expected from a wireless connection, and even drew up chalk outlines to indicate potential weak spots.
"For us the wireless process is about ensuring access to information for staff and students when they need it; security is an issue no matter what, but the priority is about giving students access," Graves said.
"In order to take advantage of broadband we need them [staff and students] to have complete access, and then we can work with suppliers for reduced-rate broadband.
"To me, what we are doing is about using business technology as a back-end enabler."