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Powering learning at Ryerson University’s largest residences

May 8, 2020  

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The ONT was installed inside walls rather than on desktops, so there is no cabling clutter in dorms.

May 8, 2020 – Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. Located in downtown Toronto, Ryerson is a distinctly urban university with a mission to serve societal needs and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community.

Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 38,950 students, including 2,300 Masters and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 140,000 alumni worldwide.

Ryerson is making its mark by building for the future, with an exciting array of projects either under construction or in development. Each project meets a unique set of needs, while all reflect the university’s commitment to providing distinctive spaces where students, faculty and staff can learn, teach, work and conduct research, scholarship and creative activity.

The existing communications infrastructure at Pitman Hall

Pitman Hall was built in 1991 and is Ryerson’s largest residence, with 14 floors and 565 rooms. The original cabling infrastructure, which was over 25 years old, utilized Category 3 cabling (IBM type 3), which was only able to support 10Mbps connectivity, and there was limited deployment of wireless in the residence. The existing conduits were completely full and there was no extra space to install new Ethernet switches. Upgrading the copper-based LAN serving the residence would have required four new communications closets, difficult to achieve in a residence.

Compared to a copper-based LAN, an Optical LAN solution is a simpler, more streamlined and more cost-effective network. It collapses the traditional LAN architecture and converges voice, data and video services onto a single optical fiber. An Optical LAN solution also requires less equipment and cabling than a copper-based LAN, so it saves even more money. Plus, because it centralizes all management functions for the entire network in one location, the Passive Optical Network (PON) Manager allows IT staff members to configure and reconfigure connectivity much faster and more easily than they could with a traditional LAN.

Ryerson was able to install 28 fiber risers in an existing HVAC space. Four cables of 12 fibers each serviced 24 rooms. Two fibers were deployed to each Optical Network Terminal (ONT), as per BICSI’s Educational Standard, even though it requires only one fiber. The one advantage of the fiber over copper was the ability to reduce the conduit sizes. A total of 660 ONTs were installed in the dorm rooms, common space, kitchens and lounges. Three 24-port ONTs were installed to power the wireless access points in the hallways and cafeteria. Co-located with each ONT was a hospitality wireless access point. The team was even able to install an outdoor wireless access point in the residence courtyard.

Since the existing communications infrastructure was unusable, building a new one for the Optical LAN solution was much cheaper than building one for a traditional Ethernet solution. The team was able to collapse all the floor Telecom Rooms into a centralized equipment room (ER) where the Optical Line Terminal (OLT) resides. This simplifies the network, saves money and speeds up service delivery.

By reducing cabling, floor, rack and communications closet requirements, an Optical LAN solution saves a great deal of physical space. For example, a typical copper-based LAN serving up to 2,000 users requires 90 rack units of space. The active Ethernet LAN switches take up one full rack, while two additional racks are necessary to terminate the large bundles of copper cables associated with the switches — for a total of 18 seven-foot-tall equipment racks.

Further, an Optical LAN solution not only needs less physical space but also requires fewer power, fire suppression and HVAC requirements, which helps reduce overhead costs. The PON splitters, rather than going into a communications closet, reside in the central equipment room rack, thus reducing the required floor space even more.

The Optical LAN solution did not require use of a telecom room. For new construction, this is a benefit to architects, as valuable floor space need not be used to house telecom equipment.

Connected to fiber that runs down the building risers, the 1150 OLT delivers a 2.4-Gbps connection to the ONTs located throughout the residence. The OLT also aggregates all user traffic and feeds it, via four 10Gbps Ethernet connections, to the transport network router.

Providing the same wall-outlet connectivity with which active Ethernet users are familiar, the ONT offers GPON connectivity, including Power over Ethernet (PoE), and integrates high-speed data, voice and video within a single fiber. By simplifying and streamlining installation procedures, the ONT helps reduce both Cap-Ex and Op-Ex costs and, compared to active Ethernet and fiber-to-the-desktop (FTTD) architectures, it reduces Optical LAN deployment costs even further.

All the new pathway construction needed to take place during the 16-week summer break. This construction took almost 13 weeks. Since the Optical LAN equipment deployment is streamlined, the team was able to accomplish it in 3 weeks.

Optical Local Area Network (LAN) gives the students high-speed, high-performance access to digital learning tools, including Wi-Fi and cloud-based networking, via their desktop computers, laptops and smartphones.

A new build: Daphne Cockwell Complex Residence

Construction on the new Daphne Cockwell Complex Residence started in November 2015, and was open for students in August 2019. The 18-floor residence of 100 units spans 122,450 square feet, with a capacity of 332 residents.

Because this was a new construction and the student rooms were part of a suite, the ONTs were installed in communications enclosures in the common areas. The fiber architecture was more of a traditional layout as the team was able to establish small telecom rooms on each floor.

Typical telecom room

The fiber splitters are located in telecom rooms with a few ONTs for the hallway wireless access points, Building Automation Systems (BAS) and Electronic Safety and Security (ESS). There is one splitter per floor, providing connections for up to 32 ONTs over a single fiber.

A centralized 48-volt power plant with battery backup powers the ONTs and delivers PoE to the end devices. An eLimiter ensures 100 VA compliance with NEC Class 2 power cabling. Each ONT can provide 60 Watts of PoE power to the end devices (Figure 1). The team was able to significantly reduce the size of the telecom rooms, allowing the architect to use this valuable space for student needs.

The main equipment room contains a 24-port ONT, the OLT and the main fiber cross connect to the floors and the Campus Area Network Connection in the podium equipment room in the basement (Figures 2 and 3).

The Optical LAN solution is scalable and both environmentally and financially sustainable. Compared to copper-based active Ethernet LANs, an Optical LAN solution offers practically limitless bandwidth while using up to 90 per cent less space and consuming up to 30 to 65 per cent less power. It also incurs day-one capital costs that are 30 to 50 per cent lower than traditional LAN solutions and saves 50 to 70 per cent in annual costs, for a significantly lower total cost of ownership.

The Optical LAN solution allows Ryerson University not only to be sustainable, but also cost-effective. It allows the institution to reduce its costs and then apply those savings to investments in other areas of education.

About the author…

David Lester is manager of Communication Infrastructure Services and Computing and Communications Services at Ryerson University. All photos provided by Ryerson University.

This article—along with other great content—appears in the April 2020 edition of Buildings IoT Canada Magazine.