Founded in 1794, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is older than its state. The university has since grown to 27,845 students enrolled for fall 2015 and houses the country’s fifth-largest stadium with seats for 102,455 fans.
Despite the academic institution’s rich historical roots, the university is connected for the modern age. UT has indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi access points, operates three data centers, and maintains 220 miles of single-mode fiber-optic cable and hundreds of security cameras across its 580 acres. With such a complex infrastructure, UT constantly looks for ways to update its networking power to provide staff and students the fastest and most secure wireless experience possible. As part of a $1.2 billion renovation and expansion project in pursuit of that goal, UT turned to CommScope to deploy more outdoor wireless access points and security cameras throughout its campus.
Expansive Outdoor Network
Deploying an outdoor wireless network with secure, seamless performance across a large university campus presents a unique set of challenges. For example, gaining access to the necessary electrical power for an effective network can be difficult and expensive. Safety is a consideration when this much power is in play. And a jumble of cables and visible big boxes for wireless access would mar visual aesthetics, particularly at a campus as beautiful as UT.
Finding a Partner
The university’s IT department chose to test the CommScope powered fiber cable system before committing to a full partnership that would keep the university’s staff and students constantly connected.
“We completed a joint trial of the powered fiber cable system with CommScope to validate its ability to deliver data and power of Ethernet across long distances,” said Ben Rayfield, an IT technical specialist at the university.
The powered fiber cable system consists of hybrid copper and fiber-optic cable as well as power over Ethernet (PoE) extenders. The system also comes with cable and fiber management, power transmission management, safety and overload protection, and a universal power supply. The system is built to withstand the elements of an outdoor setting.
The powered fiber cable system helps its users to increase their productivity by combining power and communications into one sheath for improved camera and wireless device placement and maximum coverage. Instead of deploying expensive electrical power, the system uses Safety Extra Low Voltage (SELV) and National Electrical Code (NEC) Class 2 cables, cutting conduit costs in half and eliminating any need for electricians. Additionally, the system is able to deliver PoE over distances 30 times longer than traditional PoE systems, eliminating remote PoE switch installation costs. The system has three stages of electrical protection, and it has low-voltage electrical codes designed specifically for human safety. The centralized architecture can be hidden easily in outdoor lampposts and street works.
As a result, the powered fiber cable system delivers faster, more reliable outdoor Wi-Fi access and increased security with a quicker, less-costly deployment — all without an obvious footprint.
Bringing Campus Up to Speed
The CommScope trial run at UT aimed to demonstrate the PoE extender’s power delivery and network performance over 1 kilometer of the powered fiber cable.
“Delivering power is one of the big roadblocks for any technology deployment outdoors and can add significant time and costs to projects,” said David Redfern, senior vice president, CommScope Connectivity Solutions. “Our powered fiber cable system is ideally suited to campus environments and uses technology very familiar to IT professionals.”
During the trial, the PoE extender was placed at a campus location with an Aruba AP-275 outdoor wireless access point and Avigilon pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera. The copper and fiber were connected at this same spot. Once the Cat6 cable was connected to the Aruba Wi-Fi unit, the university’s IT staff verified successful Wi-Fi access via laptop computers. The Avigilon camera also passed its performance test. UT security system experts were pleased with the camera’s response speed over the 1-kilometer cable length.
The trial run demonstrated faster, more reliable Wi-Fi access with strong security benefits and competitive pricing, but CommScope still had one more hurdle to clear. The university’s beautification committee had to sign off on the project. The company was able to show how its PoE extenders could be mounted on discrete brackets or neatly tucked away inside lampposts. Connecting cables could run inside the posts to the Wi-Fi access points and security cameras.
After seeing how the powered fiber cable system could blend into its surroundings and leave an uninterrupted view of the university’s pristine campus, the committee gave its stamp of approval.
Fast and Secure Wireless Future
CommScope and UT are now in the process of analyzing and planning the first deployment phase that will be a part of the university’s streetscape project along Volunteer Blvd., an initiative to reimagine the street as a pedestrian-friendly avenue.
“After the trial, we felt comfortable in using the CommScope cabling solution to upgrade our outdoor network for the needs of our students today and in the future,” Rayfield said.
Kati Clark is a marketing specialist at CommScope. For more information, visit www.commscope.com/product-catalog/new-to-commscope/product/powered-fiber-cable-systems.