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When a new skyscraper is erected, no one ever looks at the finished product and says, “That’s a strong foundation.” What is ultimately supporting the skyscraper, and making its existence possible, is a silent factor next to the magnificent height it reaches and its beautiful external features.
Like the foundation of a skyscraper, the fiber backbone of a campus network also is a silent factor that makes the wired and wireless networks possible. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone outside the telecom industry say, “This place has great Wi-Fi. It must have a solid fiber backbone.”
Even though the fiber backbone is rarely given “props” by those who use the network, it plays an important role in the network’s quality. Well-placed Wi-Fi or cellular access points built on a solid fiber foundation in a campus environment can achieve faster speeds and reach longer distances. As you can imagine, an access point is only as good as the signal leading up to it. If the fiber network isn’t designed properly, lack of fiber or insertion loss within the network could lead to reduced network access or no access at all for Wi-Fi or cellular access points.
When designing a campus network for optimal wireless access, there are several points to consider:
- Planning the location of the access points for optimal wireless coverage and then planning the fiber network leading up to them.
- Select the right access points to meet your needs.
- Determine if you reach the access points with traditional power, or would powered fiber be a better option? What about the other edge devices?
- Look at the bandwidth needed, not only today, but in the future as well.
- Wi-Fi use and traffic from BYOD, open access, primary connectivity media, voice over IP, remote meeting causes strain on the network. You need to accommodate for several devices and the systems they use.
- Look at your need for both licensed and unlicensed wireless networks. We are seeing more convergence of these networks happening where shared infrastructure needs to support a cellular, WI-FI, IoT or private network (like CBRS). All this could affect your bandwidth needed.
- Is your fiber backhaul scalable and large enough?
- You need enough fibers to each telecom closet to support Wi-Fi and other equipment all the way back to the main telecom room.
- With the number of “smarter” edge devices ever increasing, we would need backhaul capacity that’s scalable to meet bandwidth demands. High-definition cameras, 5G radio points, Wi-Fi 6, etc. are bandwidth hungry devices and applications requiring large backhaul capacity.
Whether it is an educational institution, corporate environment, or an apartment complex, inhabitants are starting to view access to wireless as one of the deciding factors of where they learn, work and live. They may not be asking about the fiber backbone, but it is a silent factor in their decision making.
Creating a fiber backbone foundation able to provide the speed and bandwidth needed to support quality licensed and unlicensed wireless for today’s IoT devices is crucial to keep users happy. When planned correctly, you can also design your fiber network to easily meet future user demands as well. The next time you are on a campus network, think a little about the fiber backbone providing your wired and wireless experience and before you step into that new skyscraper, check out the foundation.