Better Together: Solving Connectivity Indoors

Darren S. Schmidt, Director Information Technology, Corning optical communications
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Darren S. Schmidt, Director Information Technology, Corning optical communications

Whether you are in business active on social media or simply trying to keep up with the Millennials in your life, you know that we live in a connected world. Today, there are more than 7 billion people talking, texting, streaming, and sharing content around the clock – each one of them expecting the ability to make calls, send texts, and upload selfies, in buildings and on the street, seamlessly.

According to Cisco’s latest Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecast, 2018, mobile device traffic will exceed wired traffic.  If you’re running a busy airport, small office building,  packed stadium or a fleet of carousing cruise ships, this poses two challenges for delivering seamless connectivity: coverage and capacity.

Imagine a mixed-use facility with shops and restaurants using multiple internet-enabled point-of-sales systems; offices hosting hundreds of connected laptops and  smartphones; and residents downloading hours of movies. Add to that, thousands of visitors coming and going, nearly every one of them with at least one mobile device –   talking, texting, tweeting, and internet-ing. It’s a cyber-traffic jam waiting to happen. 

First, it can be difficult to deliver “high-quality” cellular coverage inside buildings. From an outside-in perspective, the materials used in construction, like rebar, concrete and  low-energy glass, can block service from penetrating the building’s facade.

Second, bandwidth demand is growing faster than network operators’ ability to deliver it. We’ve all been at a sporting event where our phones register five bars of service and  still there is no capacity to send a picture of the winning play to friends and family. For consumers, limited capacity means dropping connections and buffering videos, which are  rustrating. It can also delay the transmission of vital information, like public safety messages dispatched to digital screens stadium-wide by security.

Continuous Cycle of Silos
Before today’s ubiquitous use of telecommunications, most buildings were outfitted with copper-based local area networks (LAN) designed to simply interconnect computers.  Now there’s cellular, Wi-Fi, and voice- and video-over-IP (VoIP), as well as internet enabled security, building automation and access control. To keep pace, copper networks  have been upgraded to accommodate new applications, new devices, and more bandwidth – and supplemented with distributed antenna systems (DAS) to bring outdoor  quality cellular signal indoors. But technology is rapidly evolving. So while the benefits of ripping and replacing to keep up is broadly accepted, it’s an expensive and losing  battle.

Look inside a wiring closet and you will likely find disparate networks supporting multiple services and applications – each with its own separate power, cabling and hardware.  This growing  tack of equipment is causing the size of the average closet to increase by a factor of three, meaning three times the space, energy use, and cooling costs. And  with the coverage of copper requiring switches every 100 meters, these closets are needed on every floor of a multi-story building – holding valuable real estate hostage.

To satisfy this all-you-can-eat appetite for bandwidth, copper-only networks are being eschewed in favor of solutions that harness the virtually unlimited bandwidth of optical  fiber to converge nearly every connectivity need into a single, unified  infrastructure.

Here’s why

Inclusive infrastructure
While copper networks need a variety of cables to support multiple services, a converged network uses dedicated fiber for voice, dedicated fiber for video and, you guessed it,  dedicated fiber for data – all in one composite cable that supports all of your connectivity needs. There is even room in there for extra fiber to support future needs, like 4K  display. This means the LAN that delivers internet, Wi-Fi, security, building automation and access control lives on the same network as the DAS that delivers cellular, sharing  the same power, power backup, fiber infrastructure and fiber management for one-stop-shop convenience.

Converged networks also maximize every inch of real estate with optical cables so light and compact that just one cable can replace as many as 72 copper cables.

What’s more, converged solutions are scalable and customizable, giving you the freedom to add and modify applications as needed – without re-cabling – saving money every  time a space is repurposed. And, with intelligent bandwidth allocation, bandwidth can be divided between different sections of a building for better coverage and capacity,  especially in hightraffic areas, and during special events.

Finally, because converged solutions are built on an all-fiber backbone, they have virtually unlimited bandwidth capacity. A faster, more reliable and future-ready infrastructure   means never ripping and replacing again, saving on upgrades over time.

Plus, fiber is green! Optical solutions consume about one fourth the power of copper – saving as much as 60 percent over copper-based networks and reducing heat – while  contributing to the reduction of overall carbon emissions for a smaller impact on  he environment. Developers interested in Leadership in Energy  and Environmental Design   (LEED) certification are choosing optical fiber cabling systems to create more cost-efficient, environmentally-friendly buildings.

Seamlessly in Sync
We live in a connected world. Rapidly changing technology is affecting the way we live, work and manage our lives – and this is causing demand for data to grow. Traditional  LANs are challenged to deliver the capacity required for a truly internet-ed life – and building managers are desperately trying to keep pace, ripping and replacing legacy networks and adding supplemental  Wi-Fi and/or DAS networks. To help meet the bandwidth demands of today, and the emerging technology of tomorrow, a converged all-fiber  network is the key to delivering seamless connectivity. A converged network offers one complete system to connect more applications; one optical cable for virtually unlimited  bandwidth; one easy path for more upgrades. And one huge feeling of liberation through a solution that is future-ready, versatile, economical and green.

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