He noted that 5G can deliver streaming video to demon-

strate bus safety, record an incident, or document what happened during a crash. The technology allows school districts to reduce their liability and improve student safety. 5G can also provide telematics, such as vehicle oper-

ational status, mileage, fuel usage, and the scheduled time buses should be returning to the depot. “More- over, 5G can provide families with precise bus location so students don’t miss the bus, using a mobile app, for example,” Nedwich shared. “Lastly, parents can be no- tified when and where their students are picked up and dropped off, especially [beneficial] for younger students.”

A Life Well-Lived As 3G sunsets, 4G has become the prevalent network

with 5G not far behind. This highlights the value of in- formation transfer in a connected world. “3G has already provided massive innovations for the industry, to include technologies like school bus tracking solutions and student ridership systems, too,” commented Bill Westerman, vice president of product management for CalAmp/Synovia, a provider of IoT software applications, cloud services, data intelligence and telematics products and services. The transition will affect districts using communica-

tions equipment including radio systems, tablets and even video surveillance that uses cellular data. “Fleet administrators should think about the move to

4G like the next round of smartphone device upgrades that will unleash a new wave of innovation,” he added. “With greater computing power and the ability to move more data at greater speeds, innovators will be able to dream up new technologies that were not possible with less capable hardware. With each new round of smart- phone or hardware innovations, mobile app creators innovate new solutions that perform tasks, think ride- share or ride-hailing, that were unimaginable just a few years ago. It’s not about smarter or more capable pre-trip inspections or even rolling Wi-Fi on the bus, it’s about the next wave of opportunities that today are just a glim- mer in someone’s imagination.” A more robust network will allow a greater volume of

data transfer, Westerman added, able to accommodate many users, able to upload and download dense data, and of course, fast as lightning. But will it take forever to get there for a typical school

district? Probably not, as school districts are increasingly understanding the value of fast and connective Wi-Fi in the wake of the pandemic. Whatever infrastructure upgrades might be required, and however much it may cost, better Wi-Fi and the advent of 5G is becoming a much easier and convinc- ing sell, supported by public policy and leadership who know its direct benefit to pupils and all stakeholders in educating them. The Federal Communication Commis-

40 School Transportation News • JUNE 2021

School districts nationwide, like South Bend Community Schools in Indiana, used COVID-19 to double-down on its installation of school bus Wi-Fi hotspots.

sion (FCC) last month approved the use of funds to outfit school buses with Wi-Fi hotspots, part of a one-time, $7.171 billion emergency connectivity program to ad- dress the student learning gap exacerbated by COVID-19. But school buses must compete with traditional E-Rate recipients, such as school buildings and libraries as well as online learning, private networks and cybersecurity. The FCC has so far declined to permanently add school buses to the E-Rate program, but legislation in Washing- ton, D.C., seeks to change that. Still, cities and school districts have already created mo-

bile hotspots to serve their student communities. “For example, the City of Tucson is rolling out a city-wide

private LTE/5G network now to support five school districts and tens of thousands of students across the city,” said James Jacobellis, vice president of technology solutions at Geoverse, a licensed mobile network operator focused on LTE and 5G solutions and applications for various indus- tries. “The city is including this mobile hotspot option as part of their program. This is being driven by the pandemic and the need for interactive synchronous learning to help build a classroom type environment online, and the need to extend quality broadband connectivity to underserved communities so that they are not falling behind.” Jacobellis added that Tucson is equipping all school buses and public buses with on-board Wi-Fi capability enabled by LTE/5G Network. “The number of use cases that can be supported by such a private network is long, so not only can riders have high-speed connectivity but the ability to support real-time, on-board video moni- toring of the bus’ condition, location tracking, vehicle status, are all also possible,” he suggested. Luke Normington, the managing director of Neology, a technology provider focused on connecting mobility devices with networks based in the UK, shared a futuristic vision of how a new generation of connectivity will allow artificial intelligence to perform and enhance solutions such as stop-arms and traffic monitoring already in place.

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