The New Dawn of Connectivity VS.

3G communications will soon be phased out and replaced with 4G and, eventually, 5G connectivity. What will this mean for schools and student transportation?

Written by Jim Romeo P

upil transportation utilizes many services and devices that hinge on wireless connectivity. For instance, buses may have tablets used for GPS, routing, monitoring, driver checklists, and

other features. Wireless connectivity may connect to re- mote platforms that allow fleet managers to track driver behavior, bus maintenance factors, fuel consumption, speed, and more. Wireless communication also drives bus arrivals in real time, alerting parents via smartphone apps when the bus is about to turn the corner and arrive at their bus stop for pick up and drop off. What’s more, during a worldwide pandemic, some dis-

tricts used its school buses as Wi-Fi hotspots to provide internet access for virtual learning. In addition, Wi-Fi onboard the bus brings it one step closer to a rolling classroom or an extension of the school, allowing stu- dents to use their transit time to do homework or watch videos required of their instructional curriculum. It also helps ease the transfer of data to and from school buses. But the 3G cellular networks some of this equipment uses will soon become obsolete. AT&T plans to sunset 3G by February of 2022. Others, like Verizon and T-Mo- bile, will follow in-suit. Many communications now already operate on 4G and eventually 5G will arrive as a robust means of wireless connectivity that will enable

16 School Transportation News • JULY 2021

lickety-split fast service and a more voluminous pipe- line for high-density data. What effect will these wireless connectivity changes have on schools and school transportation managers?

Forging a New Wi-Fi Hotspot Many schools do not have Wi-Fi communications on buses, though some do and have been using 4G. For others, these latest changes in available wireless plans pose a new opportunity to implement wireless technolo- gy and its many functions for the classroom and the bus. “My current GPS is 3G,” said Teri Brady, director of stu-

dent transportation for Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon. “We’re running a pilot right now on a couple of different companies to determine if we need to move away from our current vendor or stick with them and just pay for the upgrade of their equipment. I’m not real keen on stick- ing with the current company, but if we’re going to get the same quality and same customer service from the other vendors, then we might as well stick with what we have.” Brady added that her district is looking closely at the new capabilities that wireless may provide, now and into the future. “Wi-Fi is really coming into it in the last month or two,” she said. “We’ve been looking at what’s out there. We want more than just a vehicle location. We want mon-

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