Expanding a Wireless Network Across a Growing College Campus
Wi-Fi access has been a priority for college campuses for quite a few years: It began as a way to attract new students but quickly turned into something that faculty, staff and students now expect: the ability to connect anywhere on campus.
Over the past year, the pandemic helped shine an even bigger spotlight on the importance of Wi-Fi across college campuses. As higher-education institutions shifted to online learning—even if the majority of their students were on campus—reliable and accessible wireless access took on more significance as students joined remotely from their dorm rooms, libraries, coffee shops or even outside.
To broaden wireless access through COVID-19, Washington State University decided to extend its Wi-Fi to campus parking lots to give students and faculty access to high-speed internet without having to enter a building. Many other schools did the same, offering drive-up and outdoor connectivity. The University of Alabama at Birmingham even offered its parking lot hot spots to nearby K-12 schools for their students’ use, too.
Like many colleges in the last decade, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) was experiencing quickly growing numbers of wireless connections across its campus as it supported tens of thousands of daily users. To keep up with demand, they invested in a full-coverage wireless network that included 3,000+ wireless access points.
But rarely is a wireless network actually “wireless.” Wi-Fi relies on a robust, high-performance cabling system that works behind the scenes to keep wireless access points connected to the enterprise network. To offer increased wireless bandwidth, UQAM also needed a cabling system to support user and device connectivity.
The institution’s 40 departments and schools are spread across 30 buildings—many of which are at least five decades old, were built with asbestos insulation and feature combinations of solid and suspended ceilings and conduit zones. A few buildings even lacked plenum space altogether. Combined with 300+ telecommunications closets scattered throughout campus, these obstacles were going to make installation and cable runs a challenge—but not impossible.
As a certified, end-to-end Belden site, UQAM wanted to build on the Belden systems it had in place to maintain consistency, ensure compatibility and minimize space requirements.
Despite the ceiling and conduit variations across campus, REVConnect® Couplers and FlexPlugs were deployed to offer flexibility and performance. REVConnect’s fast and simple termination process applies to any Category 5e, 6 or 6A component. Its components also limit rework and re-testing, which kept the project on track to avoid interruption or downtime while still being able to maintain the best performance possible.
REVConnect Couplers were also used, which allowed installers to customize REVConnect FlexPlugs for deployments that called for lengths longer than 18 inches.
Combined with Category 5e 1213 Cables and BIX Connectors, this end-to-end Belden solution supports up to 1 Gb/s of data and extended reach beyond 100 m when necessary.
In most cases, to eliminate extra connection points, installers used modular plug terminated link (MPTL) topology to connect wireless access points to the network. This approach allows horizontal cable to connect directly to a device, such as a wireless access point. It not only simplifies installation, but also supports above-ceiling applications and creates a cleaner, neater appearance.
Since deployment, UQAM hasn’t experienced any issues with terminations. In fact, the institution plans to continue with these types of cable installations across campus, upgrading buildings to Belden’s Category 6 cable and server rooms to Category 6A and singlemode fiber cable.
Want to learn more about UQAM’s wireless project? Read the full story and see more photos here!