Optical LAN proves best for White Plains City Schools’ network, staff and students

by | Sep 24, 2019 | Case Study

Tellabs Optical LAN saves WPCSD 30% at the initial network build and continues to save the district 25% in on-going operational efficiencies due to network simplification and automation.

After months of extensive research, White Plains City School District (WPCSD) chose a Passive Optical LAN (Optical LAN) design as their network of choice in 2015.  The decision was easy as Optical LAN was and continues to be the best option for the district to migrate to an advanced, high-speed, stable, scalable, and secure network, in support of their growing connectivity needs. These network demands have grown over many years and include support of Wi-Fi, IoT (Internet of Things), building management systems and importantly, security. WPCSD recognized close to 30% reduction in initial capital costs with the Optical LAN solution compared to a copper-based switch design.

education_k-12_rectangle_11The Optical LAN solution’s day one advantages have been well-documented through the years. In 2018, WPCSD was recognized by The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York with an Engineering Excellence Award for their district-wide gigabit Passive Optical and Wireless Network infrastructure upgrades. The initial design advantages are impressive, however even more interesting is the on-going operational advantages that have been realized over the past five years – delivering year-over-year savings to WPCSD.

The intent of this case study is to review the initial design benefits of Optical LAN and then proceed with greater details to showcase the additional on-going operational advantages of Optical LAN.


OLAN Initial Design Advantages

Optical LAN is installed at nine (9) WPCSD schools serving 7000+ students and 1500+ staff. This fiber-based network now supports connectivity for over 4000 desktops, laptops, iPads, voice, data, Wi-Fi, security, AV, Apple TV, projectors, lighting and HVAC. Some of the top benefits of the OLAN architecture for K-12 schools are:

  • Convergence
  • Space Savings
  • Scalability
  • Better Security

education_k-12_rectangle_12Convergence – WPCSD first began its study of Optical LAN as they responded to a strategic initiative to add Wi-Fi access to all their schools. Therefore, the convergence of both wireline and wireless connectivity over a fiber-based network was the first practical application of network convergence. Since then, they have converged voice, internet access, Wi-Fi, security (including video surveillance and door locks), AV (including digital audio and digital speakers), Apple TV, projectors, lighting and HVAC. This network convergence is possible due to the superior bandwidth capacity of fiber cabling. Today, the OLAN infrastructure supports bandwidth speed measured in gigabits, and in the future, this same infrastructure can support bandwidth speeds measured in terabits and beyond.

Our goal was to build a network that could handle everything, without having to constantly add equipment, wiring, and optics.  We started with our traditional connections of desktops, laptops and iPads over wired and Wi-Fi network.  The Wi-Fi network on top of the Optical LAN has been so successful, we have been able to expand our iPad program to one-to-one device per student in our grades 6-12, and over the next few years as we had plenty of bandwidth to support the initiative.  We expanded the use of the Optical LAN to additionally include VoIP, HVAC, video security, IP door locks, IP clock and IP speakers.  As the IoT becomes more pervasive in our district, we plan on adding whatever device or systems that may come at us and place them onto the Optical LAN.” claimed Ron Velez, WPCSD Director of Management and Information Systems.

education_k-12_rectangle_13Space Savings – Optical LAN can extend Ethernet connectivity 300 times further than traditional copper-based network over a passive network that requires no power, maintenance, HVAC nor management. Because of this, WPCSD was able to reduce and eliminate the impact of network equipment going into their telecommunication closets. In fact, WPCSD particularly had limited space available in the telecom closets for network expansion and it was just another benefit that the district was able to allocate this space to educational purposes.  Furthermore, by keeping OLAN out of telecom closets, WPCSD enjoyed a reduction in energy consumption, power backup and HVAC requirements.

Giving back space to the schools to be repurposed for educational uses, is a tremendous benefit. And because of the rippling-effect of less UPS, HVAC, and electrical needs, we were also being greener at the same time, which is good too,” commented Velez.

Scalability – Planning for growth was built into the network design from the beginning. First, since the fiber cabling installation cost less than copper cabling (e.g. less cabling, drilling, and pulling, smaller runs and fewer conduits), WPCSD ran two (2) fiber cables to every classroom as the additional costs were nominal. Second, the Optical Network Terminals (ONT) have many flexible mounting options including in-wall, ceiling (plenum space or ceiling box), floor, rack and desktop. The ONTs also come in different form-factors that provide a variety of Ethernet connectivity density, such as 24-port (future 48-port), 8-port and 4-port versions. This allows WPCSD to right-size their Ethernet connectivity today, while being ready to economically increase port density in the future. This planned capacity growth was very important as WPCSD constantly adds new services and responds to growing connectivity demands of wireless, IoT, smart building, and new security additions.

Over the years we’ve been adding more Wi-Fi and security service over the Optical LAN, including IP security cameras, access badge coding and the door locks. Because of the abundance of available bandwidth, we’ve also converged the digital IP audio and connected the digital IP speakers too,” stated Velez.

education_k-12_rectangle_15Better Security – The security of the students, staff and administration is of the utmost importance to WPCSD. Optical LAN the fiber cabling is inherently more secure than copper cabling, and the Optical LAN architecture has reduced points of network vulnerability and requires less human touch to manage. All these factors directly improve WPCSD security posture and creates a highly defensible school network. These are among the reasons why the US Government, and Department of Defense, including Homeland Security are early adopters of OLAN technology. Thus, planning and building this ultra-secure network in K-12 environment is very important and has become incredibly special to WPCSD.

With less physical closets, pre-terminated fiber cabling, centralization of the command structure of the OLT and Tellabs Panorama PON Manager system, we can ensure standards are being followed, secure the equipment in less locations, and provide fewer opportunities for cabling to be cut or patched incorrectly, and not allowing rogue devices on our network,” said Velez.


On-going Operational Advantages

Optical LAN systems have been running in the nine (9) WPCSD schools for five years. Over this time many tangible operational advantages have been observed and their benefits quantified such as:

  • Simplified Management
  • Agilities through Automation
  • Reduced Training and Support.

education_k-12_rectangle_14Simplified Management – Optical LAN is based on centralized intelligence and management and allows for network resources to be defined in software via global profiles and be dynamically allocated based on real-time requirements. The word “resources” is meant to capture all LAN services, bandwidth, traffic management, Quality of Service (QoS), authentication, authorization and powered device management. The management software (Tellabs® Panorama™ PON Manager) speeds discovery and end-to-end network views for quick actions. It enables automation for fast provisioning and quick moves, adds and changes. The global profiles ensure consistency that eliminates human errors resulting in less network downtime and offers portability across school, and district.

From a single pane of glass, we can see everything. We can make global changes that flow across all the ONTs right from our district office. Everything is under one umbrella,” said Velez.

education_k-12_rectangle_16Agilities through Automation – The school district’s constant network expansion challenge is being driven by the need to connect the growing number of schools’ wireless, IoT, smart building and security devices. By leveraging the global profiles within Tellabs Panorama PON Manager, WPCSD implements consistent IT policies and procedures district-wide across multiple schools. Again, the reduced human touch directly results in increased network availability and allows junior technicians to effectively manage the simplicity of the Optical LAN. Establishing profiles for ONTs, WAPs, VoIP handsets, etc., network managers benefit from plug-and-play functionality when adding new network devices. Furthermore, OLAN’s Network Access Control (NAC) and IEEE 802.1x implementation dynamically unifies endpoint security technology, authentication, authorization and network security enforcement for students, staff, admin and all the connected devices.

There’s just a lot less getting-up and running around for me and my staff. And, there is less of a need to bring in skilled labor. Even better yet, my technicians are freed-up to focus their time on more strategic tasks,” commented Velez, “It’s a big-time saver that helps us minimize any impact on the classroom, students and teachers.”

education_k-12_rectangle_17Reduced Training and Support – Optical LAN training is far less expensive and time-intensive than a traditional copper-based network relative to training and support. Reduced training is possible due to the its inherent central intelligence, combined with the central management. For example, an OLAN deployment training class is typically only 4½ days long, compared to the several weeks of training that is often required for a legacy switch network manufacturer. WPCSD lowered year-over-year annual support costs by 25%, helping the district minimize ongoing cost of software support and maintenance.

We spent hours on the phone with their support staff trying to isolate problems with the traditional copper-based network. Optical LAN did not disappoint.  The management system allows you to see everything in one global view, which makes trouble isolation real quick,” stated Velez, “We are saving as much as 25% on annual support costs, and again, that is mainly due to less moving parts and less items that need to be covered under an annual support contract.”


WPCSD gains year-over-year saving and the kids get a better digital learning experience!

WPCSD’s mission is to educate and inspire students and to accomplish this, they needed a high-speed, reliable, scalable, and secure network to support student learning and collaboration. Tellabs Optical LAN is the fast, stable, future-proof and highly defensible network solution poised to support WPCSD’s planned capacity growth for Wi-Fi, IoT, smart building and security system connectivity. Optical LAN simplifies network design so that school staff gains operational efficiencies that directly result in year-over-year monetary savings which will be reallocated back to accelerating WPCSD’s core mission.


About White Plains City School District

The mission of the White Plains City School District is to educate and inspire all students, while nurturing their dreams so they learn continually, think critically, pursue their aspirations and contribute to a diverse and dynamic world. The City of White Plains is a thriving suburban city of about 57,000 people located approximately 25 miles northeast of New York City. Our excellent public schools are a strong attraction for young families and for those relocating to the New York metro area. Our tree-lined neighborhoods retain a small-town feel, yet our town is the economic and political center of Westchester County.

About Tellabs

Tellabs is leading network innovations with access technologies built to exceed today’s demands while delivering modern high-performance solutions for the future. Fast and secure access has never been in more demand for enterprise and government connectivity. Tellabs’ sole focus is to deliver simple, secure, scalable, stable access to optimize network performance. Tellabs has delivered carrier-class access solutions to service providers for more than two decades. We are now expanding that leadership by defining the future of enterprise networking that connects the campus, buildings and inspires people.

John Hoover, Tellabs Marketing Director
John Hoover
Director of Marketing
John Hoover is a Marketing Director at Tellabs and 2024 Board Chair of the Association for Promoting Optical LAN (APOLAN). Over the past 20 years, John has influenced industry milestones such as early passive optical network deployments, video implementations, wireless and more recently enterprise Passive Optical LAN adoption.