How powered fiber is powering your family’s education

If you have a son or daughter in college, then you can probably relate to this. Even though you take great care in your research into choosing the perfect college or university for them—reviewing everything from class sizes to online reviews and rankings—the decision is often based on the instinctive feel for the place when you visit. You’re not even out of the car before they announce, “Wow, this is it.”

Connecting with your children

They say they’ll know as soon as they step onto the campus. First impressions—created largely by campus aesthetics and the general vibe—matter. As they settle in, those same variables can affect everything from attitude to academic performance. That brings us to the “form follows function” discussion and how good campus technology design can make a huge difference.

The concept of the connected (smart) campus has grown tremendously over the past several years—evolving far beyond connecting the individual buildings and ensuring high-speed wired or wireless connectivity inside the dorms. Today, the connected campus features a ubiquitous hybrid network that blankets the campus—connecting students and staff inside and out to the resources, applications and systems for life, work and learning.

Going beyond Wi-Fi

Yet the campus network extends beyond the traditional IT network, and does so much more than provide Wi-Fi. It powers outdoor lighting, on-campus security, Wi-Fi, cell-based broadband for collaborative learning that happens anywhere, and facility access control to protect those living on campus.

This kind of functionality is seen as a basic expectation by prospective students, their families, and the university staff. At the same time, environmental aesthetics play a huge role in terms of integrating technology into the campus. Across Europe and the United States, many schools are considered historic landmarks where any design modifications, inside or out, must conform to strict guidelines to protect their aesthetic and/or cultural integrity. Whether you’re talking about the IT infrastructure or a new dining facility, form is every bit as important as function.

Rising to the invisible challenge

For some IT applications, the requirement of demanding performance powered by an infrastructure that is virtually invisible poses unique challenges. The networks of campus-wide surveillance cameras, Wi-Fi hotspots and outdoor safety lighting that keep students and staff connected and protected are good examples.

These systems require low-voltage power along with reliable high-speed data connections. Indoors, this is easily accomplished using a power-over-Ethernet (PoE) network that combines power and data transmission onto a single cable. But PoE is distance limited to 100 meters. In an outdoor environment the distance from the power source to the farthest node could be a mile or more. Using a conventional PoE infrastructure to cover hundreds of acres would leave the campus littered with hundreds of pole-mounted access boxes housing the PoE extenders necessary to traverse the long distances.

Yet, given enough time, form always finds a way to follow function. In this case, the long-distance power/data network solution takes the form of powered fiber, which can reliably power and connect devices up to 2.6 kilometers (1.56 miles) away.

To get a sense of how the powered fiber system is being used to satisfy the on-campus requirements of form and function, take a look at this interactive case study from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

A solution that feels right

If you are facing some of these challenges, you will no doubt already be looking into the various solutions, including PoE or other methods. But the experience of Knoxville and many other institutions—not to mention many airports, hospitality venues and other distributed campus-type situations—suggests that powered fiber is going to be an increasingly popular option. When you see how well it works, you may well say to yourself: “Wow, this is it.”


“We view CommScope as a trusted partner, capable of helping us tackle the unique challenges and ever-changing needs associated with connecting a higher education campus environment—like the University of Tennessee, Knoxville—to the future.”

— Ben Rayfield
    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Powered Fiber: the Fact File

Understand how Powered Fiber has become a key technology in the deployment of enterprise and campus networks around the world.


Stay informed

Subscribe to The Enterprise Source and get updates when new articles are posted.