Bandwidth case study: Nevada Power chooses Belden

Rod Sampson
Belden Electronics Division

It’s not often you hear of a company contemplating the switch to an all-copper system from its half-fiber/half-copper communications network. But that’s exactly what Nevada Power Company did recently–and they have already gained tremendously from that decision.

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Two factors spurred Nevada Power’s recent re-evaluation of their Enhanced Category 5e DataTwist 350 unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable and multimode fiber infrastructure:

“-a major remodeling project at the corporate office that encompassed a reconfiguration of the workstations, and

“-the company’s ongoing need for employee mobility: All work areas are modular as employees are frequently relocated to satisfy business or facility needs. This necessitates frequent reconfiguration of the cables.

Nevada Power was also on an extremely tight timeline, and they agreed upfront that the new system would need to support their requirements for a minimum of 15 years. So, it was time to make a choice: Would they “light” the fibers or go to an all-copper system?

According to Chuck Benton, one of Nevada Power’s network analysts, once they performed a cost, needs and time analysis–and factored in that a customer service-oriented company like theirs could not afford any downtime–the decision was obvious.

Their calculations showed that a Belden all-copper DataTwist network (Enhanced Cat 5e and Enhanced Cat 6) would provide the company with a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than a fiber/copper network, while providing the same “future proofing” insurance. Implementing the all DataTwist network would also mean that the network could remain up and running during the installation of the new system.

The lighting of the dark fiber channels would have meant dismantling a large part of the network, including changing from NICs and switches that accept copper cable to those that accept fiber cable–a costly and time-consuming proposition. In addition, if the choice had been to combine fiber and copper in the network infrastructure,the network would need to be shut down as they reconfigured the existing termination cabinet, (as there was not sufficient room to install an additional termination cabinet). All told, the estimated cost of switching to an all-fiber network would have been over $300,000.

Old friends, new copper

Chuck Benton also notes that the decision was eased by their confidence in Belden products. Nevada Power had been relying on Belden cabling and service for more than 22 years.

Fortunately, Nevada Power’s present day needs coincided with the recent launch of Belden DataTwist 600e, a Bonded-Pair UTP cable especially engineered to perform well beyond Category 6 standards. We believe that it is, in fact, the only UTP cable in the industry to guarantee performance to 600 MHz.

In switched Ethernet networks, such as Nevada Power Company’s, Belden DataTwist 600e cables deliver electrical performance characteristics far above Cat 6. Two major benefits result: The additional headroom compensates for unforeseen factors such as substandard patch cords, flawed NICs, and even such environmental noise factors as EMI and RFI. Second, the end-user’s technology investment is ensured against future industry advances in data communications.

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Benton asserts that the timing was perfect. “DataTwist 600e came along at just the right time for us, giving us confidence that our goal of a 15-year network infrastructure lifespan is attainable. We didn’t even have to change out the NICs. With Gigabit Ethernet a real possibility in our future and downtime not an option, this was the ideal solution.”

The race was now on to remove the fiber connections at the distribution hubs and install the DataTwist 600e to the relocated user workstations. To accomplish this, Nevada Power contracted design and installation of the cabling system to NetVersant – Nevada, Inc., a national network solutions provider. Kristine Hoffman of NetVersant, notes: “Nevada Power quickly recognized that DataTwist 600e was a viable platform that could comfortably replace both the DataTwist 350 where needed, as well as perform the future-proofing role the fiber was expected to fill.”

To avoid disruption, the experienced NetVersant team did all installation at night and on weekends. In the initial switched Ethernet installation, more than 4,000 drops (800,000 ft) of DataTwist 350 had been installed. In Phase Two, 574 drops (124,000 ft) of DataTwist 600e were connected.

The DataTwist 600e cables travel through above-the-ceiling cable trays and now support the corporate LAN as well as video, voice, HVAC control and security applications. In addition, a T1 link has been installed to bring Nevada Power’s training center online in a speedy 100 Mb Ethernet system–without changing any of the cable.

According to Benton, Nevada Power is leveraging its advanced video conferencing system to great advantage. The online training center initiative has resulted in a dramatic reduction in outsourced training and travel costs. In addition, the system is used as often as six times a day, often simultaneously, for communications and meetings between individuals at various locations. He estimates that the company has saved $270,000 over the past 14 months by utilizing video conferencing alone since it eliminates travel time between company sites in Las Vegas, Henderson, Laughlin and other points.

Savings and performance

Overall, Benton says the project came in on time and within budget and is already delivering a return on investment. He notes that the accounting department alone is reporting a 40 percent decrease in the time it takes to transfer or download files.

“Prior to the upgrade, the accounting department had to wait 15 minutes for a file transfer/download, now they are down to 9 minutes. We are also identifying enormous cost-savings by having the ability to service our users’ mobility needs quickly and easily,” Benton adds.Summing up, Benton and the network administration staff are pleased with the performance of their switched Ethernet LAN and its DataTwist 350 and DataTwist 600e cabling infrastructure. “When your network is as complex and critical as Nevada Power’s, the system has to beright the first time out of the gate. That’s why we continue to work with vendors we believe in, like NetVersant and Belden,” he concludes.

Sampson is marketing manager for com-mercial markets for Belden’s Electronics Division.

Belden is a designer, manufacturer and marketer of wire and cable products for a wide range of communications, entertainment, network and industrial applications.

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