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Posts Tagged ‘ ACUTA Journal ’

Emerging Wireless Technology Trends on Campus – Part 5

By Mike Collado
November 1st, 2013

In the final post in our series that has explored wireless technology trends on college and university campuses, we examine the strategies and technologies that will emerge both near-term and further out to address the “data tsunami“.

Higher Education represents what we believe to be one of the most challenging wireless environments.

In our first post, we introduced what is currently the most prolific wireless user: students who’ve grown up in the connected world; who possess multiple wireless devices; and don’t consider bandwidth limitations an option.

The next post focused on university IT Departments that have the unenviable challenge of meeting the wireless expectations of students while operating within shrinking budgets.

Our third post reintroduced Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) which have been deployed on campuses for over 10 years but have become pivotal in recent years to provide capacity for overburdened macro networks as well as coverage for public-safety services. We also identified a funding conundrum which often leaves student dormitories and other buildings unfunded in favor of stadiums and hospitals.

Then in our fourth post, we explored the role of Wi-Fi in the “toolkit” approach to enabling the heterogeneous network (Het-Net).

Convergence and Fiber Networks

Networks are evolving to handle more data; faster, and more perfectly. They will continue to change rapidly – demand on the infrastructure depends on it.

Two key trends in campus technology include convergence and fiber networks.

Increasingly DAS networks will be called upon to support both cellular and public-safety services. The fledgling in-building public-safety market of today is similar to the early days of neutral-host cellular DAS, when building owners insisted on a single platform, as opposed to having three systems installed by three different shareholders.

Meanwhile, Gigabit Ethernet fiber multiplexing solutions will increasingly be deployed to solve fiber exhaustion.

Demand for throughput is being driven by the explosion in Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices, and the emergence of bandwidth-intensive cloud-based services, social networking, advanced collaboration and medical applications. Data throughput and speed are typically constrained by the point-to-point fiber optic links that connect campus buildings.

Fiber multiplexing solutions use wavelength divisional technologies to channelize fiber strands – increasing the capacity of existing fiber deployments without the need to install or lease costly new fiber strands.

As an example, a single strand of fiber can deliver multiple wavelength channels each running symmetrically at 1Gbps up and down stream. This represents significant CAPEX and OPEX savings.

Shift to Fiber and Digital DAS

Although copper cabling (CAT 5 & 6) has long been the standard, over time, the industry will shift to a fiber infrastructure to meet throughput requirements.

Put simply, today’s copper may not be high enough quality to support 1GE speeds. Further, the physical medium of copper is unable to support higher data rates of 10 GE.

Fiber infrastructure is physically smaller and lighter than copper, and is easily installed by technicians. Most importantly, fiber delivers almost unlimited room for future bandwidth expansion.

As a result, DAS will go digital.

Following the trends of convergence of services and the continued emergence of fiber, Radio Frequency (RF) and Internet Protocol (IP) will converge onto a single, digital architecture.

The platform will enable plug-in and support for cellular and public-safety communications, Wi-Fi services and other applications such as RFID, building automation, security and more.

We predict this infrastructure to similarly enable fiber-to-the-desktop.

Ultimately, these next-generation networks will be smarter and more flexible. They’ll handle increased data, enable better use of network resources, and scale capacity – up or down based upon use and need during peak and off-peak times.

At the core will be intelligent backhaul to centralize network management and lower operational expenditures.

This will be essential for higher education campuses.

How Long Will This Take?

Some of these trends may reach fruition by year’s end; others, currently under development, will be several years in the making.

No one fully knows what a good balanced network looks like.

We expect to see new technology trends develop at a rate of at least one new trend every two years, as demand – and solutions to meet demand – continue to grow and evolve.

The problems facing higher education campuses will only grow as they continue to struggle with disparate networks they don’t control, and unlicensed frequencies they cannot maximize or that do not have a clear ROI.

The urgent need to provide clear communication for public safety (hear from public safety experts here, here, here and here) and the exponential growth of the demand for capacity means that technology solutions will need to be consolidated offerings bringing multiple networks together.

They can be monetized and must provide unfettered access for students, employees, safety personnel, and the general public.

To be sure, the years ahead are certainly going to be interesting.

Your Turn

What are the key challenges and trends you are observing?

Note: A version of this article was originally published in 2013 Fall ACUTA Journal.

Emerging Wireless Technology Trends on Campus – Part 4

By Mike Collado
October 31st, 2013

In the preceding posts, we discussed the imbalance between students who consume more wireless capacity than any other demographic and college IT Departments who in spite of shrinking and highly-scrutinized budgets own the challenge of addressing this “data tsunami”.

We then explored how Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) are being deployed to solve for network densification and  increasingly enable coverage for indoor and campus-wide public-safety communications.

However, there often remains a funding disparity. There’s a business use case for wireless operators to fund a stadium or the university to fund a hospital but it’s more difficult to build a funding model that includes deploying DAS in dormitories and other campus buildings.

Today we examine where Wi-Fi fits in to the campus wireless toolkit.

DAS Alone May Not Be Sufficient

DAS may not be enough – nor appropriate – to satisfy the capacity requirements.

For example, on game day, the University of Tennessee attracts more than 100,000 fans to Neyland Stadium (a SOLiD DAS Deployment). Demand for capacity for that number of people can strain carriers’ RAN (radio access network), which manifests itself on the user’s handset as showing full-bar signal strength but being unable to upload a photo to, say, Facebook.

That’s where an important campus asset can come into play: unlicensed spectrum on the university’s Wi-Fi network.

Like DAS, Wi-Fi helps augment the macro network. Wi-Fi is attractive because these bands are free and wide -offering big channels to stream data.

And also like DAS, Wi-Fi technology is not new.

But unlike DAS, Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum.

Recent protocols enable wireless data networks to be more robust.

Still, Wi-Fi does not possess the bandwidth and throughput of wired networks.

Campus IT departments must move Access Point (AP) locations, or add additional APs, to deliver services as capacity requirements continually change and increase. And physically shifting infrastructure adds to costs.

There Are No Silver Bullet Solutions

The reality is that there are no silver bullet solutions to wireless communications challenges.

Today’s “toolkit” includes DAS and Wi-Fi and will soon be joined by small cell technology.

Small cells, akin to Wi-Fi AP, are a local base station but differ by using cellular standards.

User requirements vis-à-vis capacity throughput are driving changes that will occur to technology infrastructure, and this will have a profound impact on funding, tracking and monetizing such investments.

Next Post: Near-term and next-generation technology solutions

Note: A version of this article was originally published in 2013 Fall ACUTA Journal.

Emerging Wireless Technology Trends on Campus – Part 3

By Mike Collado
October 30th, 2013

SOLiD DAS Deployment at Neyland Stadium - University of Tennessee

We started this series of posts by examining the campus “data tsunami” contributed by the most bleeding edge wireless users – college students who possess multiple wireless devices and have grown up in a connected world with access to unlimited data.

Next, we looked at the dilemma university IT departments face in responding to “hockey-stick” bandwidth growth demands while operating under strict budget constraints and mandates to create revenue streams to recoup investments in telecommunications systems.

Today we examine Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), a technology that has been widely deployed on campuses over the past 10 years. DAS has evolved to also handle the increasing need to support public-safety communications including private and public 2-way radios. And innovations in the technology enable DAS to be highly efficient in fiber use.

But the challenges of funding a DAS remain. University IT departments encounter a greater willingness from wireless operators to fund coverage in, say, a stadium but struggle to secure funding for coverage inside dorms and classrooms.

Solution: Distributed Antenna System (DAS)

DAS solves the problems of over-burdened cellular networks by addressing two critical issues:

  1. DAS brings coverage indoors where the outdoor macro, traditionally cell sites, cannot reach or penetrate.
  2. More importantly, DAS addresses capacity.

DAS brings capacity relief to the macro network to allow more users in the macro environment to enjoy all the social networking, video streaming, and access to cloud-based storage that anyone could want.

Indoor users benefit from having dedicated capacity and quality service throughout the indoor space.

Although DAS is not a new technology, some of the trends affecting it, like enabling both public-safety and cellular services with the same infrastructure, are new.

Communication During Public Emergencies is Essential

The need for effective cellular and public-safety communications during emergencies on campus is absolutely critical as evidenced by recent events:

  • In 2012 , there were ten school shootings that left a total of  41 people dead and thirteen wounded.
  • 2013 has been even more deadly. In the month of January alone, 8 school shootings took place.
  • In March 2013, a suicide on an Orlando, Florida campus uncovered a massive plot to massacre students.
  • Campus shootings were reported in Christiansburg, Virginia and Houston, Texas in April of 2013
  • Explosions were reported on 5 college campuses in the first half of 2013.

Funding Presents A Key Challenge

Funding DAS implementations, often multi-million dollar projects, is a key challenge for colleges and universities.

Campus IT departments hope to be able to shift the burden of cost to wireless operators, which allows them to fund other critical improvements to infrastructure.

Operators tend to be more focused on servicing the high traffic places on campus where capacity is a problem, like the stadiums and arenas, rather than with dorm or library access.

Additionally, hospitals are more likely to receive funding for DAS deployments – either though the carriers or university – as physicians and clinicians now rely upon smartphones and tablets to deliver patient care, in addition to pagers and security and ground staff communicate using private 2-way radios.

Finding funding for dorms, classrooms, and offices remains problematic.

Next Post: The benefits and challenges of Wi-Fi 

Note: A version of this article was originally published in 2013 Fall ACUTA Journal.

Emerging Wireless Technology Trends on Campus – Part 2

By Mike Collado
October 29th, 2013

University of Virginia - Photo Courtesy of afagen

In our previous post, we suggested that there is no environment more challenging than the college campus for wireless communications because the two key stakeholders appear to have diverging interests.

You’ve got students who, as the first generation of smartphone and table users, consume enormous amounts of bandwidth.

Today, we examine the other stakeholder – the college or university – that is, in all likelihood, contending with shrinking budgets and a loss of revenue from landlines and computer labs that were once a profit center not long ago.

Spikes In Demand As Traditional Funding Decreases

As schools experience this rapid increase in demand, funding for necessary improvements and updates decreases.

Historically, technology infrastructure on campuses has been partially funded through student landline use and/or dorm room cable service. Students have all but migrated toward mobile smart phones and tablets, and away from landline and cable services.

As a result, funding from those sources, used in the past to pay for much-needed technological improvements, is drying up.

Therefore, the challenges schools face today are not just based in technology; they are financial, tied to the search for funding sources to cover upgrades and transformations.

To address these challenges colleges and universities must install multipurpose networks that are easy to deploy and manage.

These multipurpose networks must be flexible and scalable to accommodate growth and change.

And, they must lower costs, through CAPEX or OPEX efficiencies, or through the creation of new revenue stream opportunities.

In the past, one way to solve cellular communications problems has been to employ a “spray and pray” approach — put up an antenna at the highest point, and hope for the best.

However, today customers upload more content than they download, and the bulk of cellular traffic occurs indoors, so macro networks cannot efficiently service users in high density areas.

Given the tremendous increase in usage, it is necessary to build networks from the “inside-out” to compliment the macro network approach of “outside-in.”

Next Post: Distributed Antenna Systems & Funding Scenarios

Note: A version of this article was originally published in 2013 Fall ACUTA Journal.