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Telecom System Links University Campuses.

Telecom System Links University Campuses

It is late at night, final exam time. Lights are burning in dormitory windows all over the quiet campus. In one room, a student suddenly realizes that he can't finish a paper due the next morning without crucial statistics. And the only place he can find that is the library--which is closed.

Panic would set in at that point on almost any campus in the US. But not at 100-year-old, 300,000-student Temple University in Philadelphia. As a part of an ambitious seven-year project, Bell Atlanticom Systems (Princeton, New Jersey) is installing a sophisticated voice, data and video system for Temple University based on InteCom Integrated Business Exchange S/80 voice/data switching equipment.

The system will connect phones and computers in virtually every room all over the university's five locations. So, our hapless student can confidently access a data base in the library at 3 am without leaving his room.

In fact, the system as envisioned by Temple is expected to completely automate university operations (including student registration and records), computerize the library system, and permit students and faculty with microcomputers and minicomputers to interact with one another as well as with remote data bases.

"This is a quantum leap for the university,' said Temple President Peter Liacouras. "When the total telecommunications and computer network is completed, Temple will truly be the "University of the Future'--at the national forefront of colleges and universities with advanced technology.'

Dr. Robert Scanlon, the assistant to the president who headed the project's development committee, said the fundamental concept underlying the plan for bringing Temple into the 21st century developed by that committee is to provide computer access to anyone associated with the university. For example, one aspect of the plan calls for total automation of the library's cataloging functions. Since every element of the university relies to some extent on the library, computer access to the cataloging system must be provided to students, faculty and administration.

To that end, the system will link some 1,000 faculty microcomputers, up to 750 microcomputers for students (located in 25 microcomputer "laboratories'), 195 minicomputers, 110 standalone word processors, as well as three mainframe computers with up to 625 terminals. Additionally, students owning personal computers can link themselves into the system by plugging into the phone jack in their dormitory rooms. And that's just on the data side.

For telecommunications, Temple has some 9100 telephone instruments, not including the service in dormitories. At some point in the near future, Temple expects to begin renting telephone instruments to students. Temple expects to realize savings of better than $9 million in maintenance, installation and equipment costs over the next 10 years as a result of installing this system.

As for video, the possibilities haven't even been fully explored as yet. Robert House, branch manager for Bell Atlanticom's Norristown, Pennsylvania office, spearheaded the design and installation of the system for Temple. In his words, "It makes no difference to the system what sort of digital signal goes over it. They can use video from anywhere to anywhere within Temple without having to lay down more cable.'

That means, for example, that video teleconferencing between various classrooms could take place. Or, several classrooms could simultaneously watch a live open-heart surgery operation.

Microwave and Fiber-Optic Electronic Highway

The system itself, which Temple has labeled an "electronic highway,' is connected by some nine miles of fiber optics and eight microwave transceiver stations that will link the 104 buildings spread over Temple's main urban campus, the nearby Health Sciences and Medical School, the Temple University Center City campus (TUCC), a few miles away, as well as two other campuses in the Philadelphia suburbs.

At the system's heart are two of Intecom's Integrated Business Exchange (IBX) S/80 switches. Each IBX is a non-blocking packet-switched system based on a star-topology, and contains 8,192 voice and data ports. The non-blocking aspect of the IBX means that all ports can be simultaneously involved in voice and data transmission without blocking calls or degrading service. What's more, IBX performs protocol and format conversions internally.

Asynchronous transmissions, at speeds from 50 bits per second (b/s) to 19.2 kb/s, are accomplished by connecting the RS-3232-C port on a student's computing device, for example, to an ITE-type (for Integrated Terminal Equipment) telephone. The ITE is then connected to an IBX voice/data port over standard two-pair telephone wire.

In synchronous transmissions, a controller is linked to a voice/ data port and transmission speeds run from 1200 b/s to 57.6 kb/s. Local-area network functions are handled at up to 10 Mb/s in burst-mode packet switching.

Each IBX consists of one Central Control Unit (MCU) made up of dual 32-bit processors and dual disks. Up to four megabytes of directly addressable memory reside in each processor. The MCU connects to as many 32 switching networks (SN), which are responsible for the switching functions. Each SN in turn connects to a dedicated Interface Multiplexer (IM). Individual ITE's are connected to one of the 256 voice/data ports on each IM.

According to the design developed by Bell Atlanticom, an IBX Interface Multiplexer and its host SN can be geographically removed up to 25,000 feet from its host MCU. Each IM, in turn, must be within 2,000 feet of its 256 ITEs. That is indeed the case in the Temple installation.

One MCU resides at Temple's main campus. It is linked by 45-Mb/s fiber to 12 IMs in various locations within the 25,000-foot limit. Up to 256 ITEs, in turn, are linked by copper to each IM. Additionally, the main campus MCU supports an IM located at the university's Health and Science Center, about two miles from the main campus. The second MCU is situated at the Health and Science Center, as well, and supports 10 IMs at the center. The two MCUs are linked by 45-Mb/s fiber.

The four IMs at Temple's three other campuses, however, are linked by microwave to their host MCU at the main campus. The TUCC campus, located a few miles from the main campus, and the two suburban campuses each have one standard DS1, 1.5-Mb/s connection to a microwave station at Temple Stadium, located quite near the main campus. The microwave facility at Temple Stadium is in turn connected to the main campus by three DS1, 1.5-Mb/s microwave channels.

According to Dr. Scanlon of Temple, one of the objectives of the project was make the whole system completely transparent to the users. Any user should be able to communicate with any other user anywhere within the university without delay or limitations that could be imposed by the computers themselves. That objective has been met by the system, according to personnel of Bell Atlanticom.

Delays are virtually non-existant, despite the fact that the link between a microcomputer at one suburban campus and a microcomputer at another is formed through four microwave hops. In effect, then, the service between the two suburban campuses is virtually the same as if the two suburban campuses were hard-wired together.

"This "electronic highway' Bell Atlanticom is installing for us is the avenue by which we can move massive amounts of information, at the rate of some 30,000 simultaneous transactions [15,000 voice and 15,000 data],' said Dr. Scanlon. "And the impact of the electronic highway hasn't really set in. We will find ways to use it that we haven't even thought of yet.'

Photo: Figure 1--Individual entities, such as terminals or personal computers, are linked via an Integrated Terminal Equipment (ITE) unit to the Integrated Business Exchange's Interface Multiplexer (IM) over standard two-pair wire. The ITEs are located within 2,000 feet of their respective host IM. The IM is in turn linked via either fiber-optic or coaxial cable to a dedicated Switching Network (SN) at a maximum distance of 25,000 feet. Each SN is eitherhard-wired to its Central Control Unit or connected to an MCU 4800-b/s data channel in the case of a remote switching partition. Each Central Control Unit can support up to 32 SNs, and thus 32 IMs, thereby providing 8,192 voice/data ports.

Photo: Figure 2--In the Temple University configuration, two Central Control Units (MCUs) are located within about two miles of each other. The main campus MCU supports 20 Interface Multiplexers (IM) at that site, as well as one IM located at the Health Sciences Center, which has its own MCU and 10 IMs. Those units are connected by a 45-Mb/s fiber-optic link (represented by the arrow within the circle). IMs located at the three other campuses are supported by the main campus MCU, and are linked by DS1, 1.5-Mb/s microwave channels. The microwave relay station is located at the university's stadium. It provides three DS1 channels between the main campus and the stadium, and one DS1 channel between the stadium and each of the three remote campuses.
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1985
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