Both will be equipped with fibre backbones and copper cabling capable of carrying traffic at 10 Gigabits per second to the desktop.That doesn’t mean traffic will actually flow at 10 Gbps the day the buildings open. The university already has high-speed CopperTen cabling from Minneapolis-based ADC Telecommunications Inc. in a handful of computing labs, says Ernie Squire, a network analyst with the university, but is only running Gigabit Ethernet over it today.

“What we’re trying to do in all these cases is to avoid having to rewire it right away,” Squire says.

That’s why the new buildings, likely to begin construction next year, will be getting Category 6a cable to the desktop. “I would not actually put up a building today without putting in the highest-speed media possible,” Squire says.

So why not fibre to the desktop? Because the electronics are expensive, Squire explains. The university can install twisted-pair cable rated for 10 gigabits but still use today’s standard electronics for copper cabling, but going to fibre would require more expensive gear at both ends of the connection.

CAD, X-rays will eat up bandwidth

While the cable will be installed with an eye to the future, Squire thinks it won’t be too long before it is used to its maximum capacity. The new medical building will be linked with the University of Western Ontario in London, and its network will be used for distance education, which means they will share bandwidth-hungry graphics such as X-rays. In the engineering building, computer-aided design and analysis applications will drive the demand for bandwidth.

And, Squire predicts, “by the time we get these buildings up, the cost of the 10-gigabit hardware will be there that we can afford.”

Squire reports the university’s high-speed copper installations haven’t presented problems. There has been no trouble finding qualified installers, he says, adding installers don’t necessarily need to be certified for each particular manufacturer’s products.

“Once these people are trained properly, a piece of copper is a piece of copper. You should know how to install it with almost anybody’s equipment.”

The university wants new cabling to be tested to the official specifications or better, Squire says, and to date its high-speed copper installations have passed those tests easily. Finding test equipment is still a bit tricky, he notes, but the selection is improving.

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