LightPointe Offers Cost-Effective Optical Wireless Solution for K-12, Higher Ed

Lemon Grove School District and New School University implement high-bandwidth network connections for increased productivity and faster connectivity.

Whether you're a large urban university spread across a million square feet of space in New York's Greenwich Village or a small, cash-strapped suburban school district serving 4,600 students in Southern California, your needs might not always be the same; however, your solution just might be.

With a 2:1 student-to-computer ratio and a $1.1 million annual technology budget, the Lemon Grove School District in California needed to complete its hybrid network of microwave and fiber-optic cables to offer a communitywide network. Known as Project LemonLINK, which has become a model for school districts throughout the world, Lemon Grove chose LightPointe's optical wireless solution, based on free-space optics (FSO) technology, to reliably complete its high-speed network with gigabit capacity and provide flexibility for the district's network to scale as its bandwidth demands increase. Specifically, Lemon Grove installed a FlightSpectrum 1.25 Gbps system, FlightSpectrum 155 Mbps system and FlightLite 155 Mbps system to provide ultrahigh bandwidth. Installing these systems resulted in huge savings for Lemon Grove, considering that the cost for trenching fiber for just one link would have cost an estimated $100,000.

Aside from savings, Lemon Grove's network is so remarkable that it has been praised by Bill Gates, the Smithsonian Institution and Business Week. Most notable seems to be the fact that the new network is not used solely for connecting the schools within the district. These three new high-bandwidth optical wireless connections help the network link Lemon Grove's two elementary schools, two middle schools and one charter high school with the city hall, fire department, a youth center and a senior center.

"This is more than the school system, it's a community network," says Darryl LaGace, director of information technology for Lemon Grove. "Some universities are not wired this well."

However, one university that can undeniably say that it is wired better than most is New School University in New York. As its campus began to grow substantially in the 1990s, its four main buildings were connected with a combination of leased T1 lines and 10 Mbps radio frequency links. And as the campus grew, educating over 30,000 students, so did its need for rapid connectivity – with faculty and students demanding faster Internet communications and staff requiring connectivity to transmit payroll, budgets and other administrative data. In its search for a cost-effective network connection, including fiber-optic cable that was too expensive and impractical for downtown Manhattan, LightPointe's FSO-based optical wireless products were ultimately decided on to ensure secure, quick communication among campus buildings.

The results of the implementation of the LightPointe systems are faster connectivity and increased productivity. Computer users at New School University gained a dramatic increase in Internet-access speed, since LightPointe products provide up to 100 times more bandwidth than standard T1 lines. Students and faculty were impressed with the speed at which they could download files, and administrators found information transfer with government agencies was much quicker. "Files that had taken minutes to transfer were sending in seconds. People kept calling me and saying, 'Wow! What did you do to my computer?' " says Richard Burger, network project manager at New School University. "That made me [realize that implementing LightPointe's products was] the right thing."

For information about LightPointe and its optical wireless solutions for the education market, call (858) 643-5200 or visit www.lightpointe.com

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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