17 Apr 2019

What do today’s students use the internet for?

The internet as we know it is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. Back then no one could have predicted the seismic shift it would have on our everyday lives. Developed initially as a research and communications tool, it was adopted by students from the outset but what exactly are today’s students using the internet for?

At PCCW Global, we’ve been working with universities and private accommodation providers to deliver student connectivity since 2000 and we’ve witnessed a huge change in the demands and expectations of students in that time.

10 years ago, most, but not all students would get a basic internet connection in their room. It would probably consist of a wall socket and allow only one device such as a laptop to be connected. However, since the widespread uptake of smartphones and other portable devices, students now expect to connect multiple devices to the internet. Amongst our own customers, we find they have an average of 3.23 Wi-Fi connected devices, up from 2.8 devices less than 12 months ago.

This growth in wireless devices has led to changes in the way most networks are designed. Moving away from wall sockets to wireless overlays which provide extensive coverage and supports multiple devices. Sodexo recently rated Wi-Fi as the most important service by 64% of students when choosing where to live. By comparison ensuite facilities was just 27%. Clearly connectivity is more important than a private bathroom.

When it comes to spending their time online, our own research shows research/study is the most common use for the internet, very closely followed by use for video, music and gaming. Today’s students also consume a large portion of their news online, spending around 10% of their time reading news stories. 100% of our students asked by UCAS researchers said they used some form of social media, with the average student spending 4h39m on it each day, far more than time than the 3h52m watching TV.

This research shows how critical it is that accommodation providers continue to invest in their infrastructure. Data usage continues to grow, doubling every few years and more devices are being used by students than ever before. These trends prove it makes sense to build infrastructure that is future proofed. Today, speeds of up to 1Gbps are available to students which may sound like a lot but fast forward 5-10 years and that may not be enough. The consumption of media and the growth of UHD video will put a strain even on these networks.

Adopting a future proofed full fibre network has significant advantages for both students and providers. Able to deliver the fastest speeds today and well into the future, only fibre can deliver the speeds of 10Gbps and beyond that will be required by the students of tomorrow. In a highly competitive market, providers who don’t invest, could find themselves with empty rooms that fail to meet the needs of the students of 2030.

This article originally appeared in the April edition of University Business

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