Network upgrade for the Fermilab Village

Timothy Niemiec
Andrew Rader

Timothy Niemic, telecommunication specialist, and Andrew Rader, network architect, wrote this column.

Since scientists rarely keep a 9-to-5 work schedule, it is important for them to have network access around the clock. This is also true for our visitors staying in the dorms and residences in the Fermilab Village.

Unfortunately, lack of high-speed fiber connections and aging infrastructure made the Village network inadequate and unreliable. Village guests sent a clear message that they wanted the situation improved. As a result, a project was undertaken to provide the Village with networking service comparable to the standard service we have in our homes. The new Village network service is based on the modern VDSL2+ standard and runs over repaired copper phone lines. This is the same technology that is used by many network service providers for residential areas.

Much of the copper cable in the Village dates back to the ’80s, which is beyond the expected service lifetime. Many locations had cables that served multiple locations, degrading the quality of service due to excessive lineal footage. There were also many spliced sections of buried cable that had become waterlogged and needed to be repaired. Although the telephones in the Village still worked fine, the cables could not support adequate data transfer rates needed for Internet access. The Telecommunications Group upgraded and repaired the copper infrastructure so the facilities could support the new networking service.

The new networking VDSL2+ service is based on equipment that can support fiber for future infrastructure upgrades. We can therefore leverage the equipment to incrementally upgrade to fiber optic connections to each house as it becomes financially feasible.

The old Village networking service was limited to a maximum of 5 Mbps of data transfer and was only available in a limited number of locations. Many areas had poor or no network service. The new service has rates of up to 90 Mbps; the typical user will see actual rates of 10 to 60 Mbps depending upon the distance from the central service point. These rates, coupled with a reliable network connection, allow for most day-to-day work to be performed.

If you are not getting reliable networking service in the Village, please open a Service Desk ticket, and our staff will investigate and remedy the situation.