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Viodi View Newsletter - August 17th, 2005

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Fiber to the Dorm

by Ken Pyle, Viodi, LLC

It somehow seems appropriate that San Jose State University, which, according to the San Jose State web site, graduates more Silicon Valley Engineers than any other university, is the home of to one of the most advanced implementations of fiber to the premise in the United States. The first phase of what SJSU calls Campus Village welcomed its first residences on August 6th, 2005. Competition from off-campus housing was the motivation for the construction of Campus Village.

Long before any construction began on what would become a several hundred million dollar project, a market survey was conducted. Smartly, this survey included existing SJSU dormitory tenants, as well as students living in off-campus housing and, even, neighbors who could represent potential hurdles. The market survey was taken in the late 1990s; at the heart of the Silicon Valley dot com boom when rents were sky high. The housing officials adjusted for the realities of the rental market collapse and designed a three phase project, whereby new phases will be launched based on market demand.

Even though, the topic of this survey was dorm living, it still should be of interest to telecom providers as it points to some of the things that these next generation customers will demand. The study found that as students got older, they wanted more privacy. The survey results also suggested that students wanted more convenience. They wanted one bill for that included rent, as well as all of their telecommunication services.

From the in-building convenience store to the underground parking to how location of the buildings, the Campus Village was designed to meet the students’ desire for convenience. Technology played a big role in the design of the campus. The network consists of an active fiber, point to point network which terminates on an Allied Telesyn Gateway within each dormitory. Telephony, high-speed Internet and cable television services are provided over a single fiber. There is a copper pair that serves as a back-up in case of a power outage. The Campus Village’s network configuration appears to be very similar to that of SureWest Communications.

The impressive thing is what can be done with the network. As part of the registration process, a student is given an Amino set-top box and a phone number. The student doesn’t have to wait for the telephone company to connect their phone or for the cable guy to install their cable. Service is provisioned and ready to go in one simple step. It is a true IPTV system, using middleware from Minerva Networks.

Some of the features, this network enables are on-demand functionality. This will be especially useful, as SJSU finds creative ways to add both student-created content as well as academic content. Of course, it will also be useful for entertainment content. With communications everywhere, each room is accessible via a proximity card (i.e. the electronic cards used in hotel rooms). A video gaming room is in the works, which will allow students to whittle away the hours playing video games, when they are not hard at work studying. The most impressive feature, however, is the email that is sent to the student when their laundry is done. Is this worthy of a new acronym FTWM - Fiber to the Washing Machine?

Will the Campus Village be a success? My bet is yes. With a waiting list of 450 freshman students even prior to its opening, there is clearly a demand. More importantly, the students are realizing the value in having all of their services provided on one bill. Martin Castillo, Associate Director of Administrative and Financial Operations for the University Housing Services at SJSU, indicated that he is, “excited about how happy they [the students] are with the Campus Village.”

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