When the University of Bath needed a future-proof solution to provide next generation connectivity to students both on and off campus, it turned to dark fibre for the answer.

Overview

The University of Bath is home to 13,000 students and more than 2,600 members of staff at its Claverton campus. As demand for student accommodation has grown over recent years, the university has sought to provide off-campus halls of residence for those students keen to make the most of living in a UNESCO World Heritage city

Challenge

Students are demanding internet users and require access to a growing number of web-based services for a range of educational, social and entertainment purposes. On campus, the University of Bath has always provided sufficient facilities including computer suites, libraries and halls of residence; however those students living off-campus were at a disadvantage, having to rely upon the restrictive speeds of traditional copper networks.

Determined not to let students suffer from a ‘digital divide’, Network Manager Kris Shah began the search for a solution. Mr Shah explained: “Seven years ago only one in ten students would ask about our internet connectivity – now it is the first question they ask. Connectivity has become an increasingly important consideration for students when choosing their university.

“We began to provide halls of residence with network access so students could do all they needed from their own bedrooms…but it was only available on campus.”

“We couldn’t sustain anything off-campus other than slow bandwidth. Simply looking up a web page could take a long time, so we could never have considered delivering next generation TV, telephony or learning tools. This very limited service created a digital divide between students depending on where they chose to live, which is something I am firmly against.”

Solution

A dedicated fibre optic network was the answer. With virtually unlimited bandwidth it connected the Claverton campus to six off-campus halls of residence, solving the connectivity problem at a stroke. It also offers a fixed term cost rather than bandwidth tariffs, so that when extra capacity is needed, it is immediately available and no further connection charges are incurred.

The fibre was installed with minimal disruption, where possible using the existing underground ducting and waste-water system. This had the additional benefit of avoiding the lengthy negotiations and permission seeking that road-digging programmes often involve.

Having to balance the best technological solution against cost efficiency, Mr Shah was delighted to discover our solution offered both without compromise.

“The innovative deployment method was also attractive because it is the green option. Bath is a World Heritage city, and considering that status, I was concerned about the prospect of a large-scale road dig and the length of time it would take to install but the disruption was kept to a minimum.”

Results

The network enabled the delivery of next generation e-learning strategies, IPTV, telephony and super fast broadband to over 1,100 students off campus.

“This network has enabled us to offer the students living off campus exactly the same level of service as those on campus. They can access a variety of research resources, 40+ TV and radio channels, use internet telephony services and robust super fast internet from their bedroom. Thanks to this solution, distance from campus is irrelevant.

“We can also rely on this communications network to support the expected developments in web-based learning in the future. I feel reassured that the network is resilient enough to cope with advancements in e-learning strategies, which will enable The University of Bath to remain ahead of the game academically” said Mr Shah.

In addition to the cost effectiveness of the deployment process, additional savings were made by avoiding the complex negotiations required by road digs which can add considerable time and costs to network provision.

Mr Shah added: “Financially, the private network model appealed to me as we face no recurrent costs and our fibre requires no maintenance. Compared to the traditional method we have already seen payback of the capital outlay in just two years.”

“We can rely on this communications network to support the expected developments in web-based learning in the future. I feel reassured that the network is resilient enough to cope with advancements in e-learning strategies, which will enable The University of Bath to remain ahead of the game academically” Kris Shah, Network Manager

Read the University of Bath case study here.

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