Fiber Optic Upgrade at USC Aiken
Cell phones, security cameras, elevator phones, smoke alarms, high definition TVs, office and lab computers, video gaming systems, digital displays and marquees, printers and copiers, wireless network antennas, office phones and cash registers. These items make up a long, but incomplete, list of digital devices that compete for bandwidth on USC Aiken’s local area network. A reliable and robust network is a fundamental part of any modern university, which is why the Computer Services Division recently completed one of its most ambitious projects in recent years, upgrading the University’s fiber optic backbone.
Our network started out as a small, local area network in the Business and Education building over 25 years ago. During that time, only computers and printers were networked, phones communicated over copper wire and security cameras and televisions did not need to be networked at all. We have seen our network grow over the years to include all the building on campus and even the press boxes at the Pacer athletic fields. In recent years, however, we have noticed the modern-day demands on our original network steadily increase; our new fiber backbone will help us meet that demand.
Computer Services hired local cabling contractors to pull the initial span of the fiber network from the data center in the Penland building to our residence halls. That first span addresses the growing demands of our residential students who expect to be able to stream their music, movies and TV shows 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The new fiber is now capable of transmitting data at a blazing 100 gigabytes per second (Gbps), up from 1 Gbps just a few months ago. With the new network speed, the addition of hospitality-grade wireless antennas in each apartment (instead of in the hallways) and another increase in bandwidth coming soon, our residential students will enjoy the most dynamic network experience in our University’s history.
What is Next
Our students are not the only members of the USC Aiken community who expect a fast and reliable network. The next span of our fiber optic project will extend West and incorporate the Convocation Center, the baseball complex and any future westward expansion. The project will eventually make its way back towards the Penland building, uprading the fiber in the Ruth Patrick Science and Education Center, the Business and Education building and the Student Activities Center along the way.
The remaining phases of the project will cause some network disruptions. For that reason, those projects will be strategically spread across summers over the next few years to cause the least amount of inconvenience for our faculty, staff and students working and learning in those areas.