Nexans LANmark Category 6 cabling reinforces security of Romania’s air traffic control

From the beginning of the 20th century, Romanians have played a significant role in aviation. As early as 1910, Henri Coanda tested the world’s first reactive engine, the predecessor of today’s omnipresent jet engine. Thus, the opening of the new state-of-the-art Bucharest Air Traffic Control (ATC) center was a significant and symbolic event.

The ATC center is at the very heart of the air traffic management system for the entire air space over Romanian territory. It contains a complex collection of interrelated systems, including navigation, surveillance, weather, and automated information processing and display systems that link hundreds of ATC facilities and provide information to air traffic controllers and pilots around the clock. It also contains special services like fire security, building management and access control, etc.

For Mihai Filip, responsible for Nexans’ Training and Technical Support in Romania, the need for maximum flight and operational security was at the heart of the ATC center’s decision to choose Cat 6 when wiring its new building:

“Category 5 is now used widely in Romania, but this was the first time that Cat 6 was installed. The end-user thought that there was much to be gained in terms of value-for-money, longevity, and performance. Although you can run Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbit/s) on Cat 5e, you need expensive coding technology to do so; whereas, Cat 6 has the potential to do so more easily with much cheaper active equipment, making it a better investment. Also, ATC uses huge workstations. As these integrated and complex systems continue to expand, they require extra bandwidth. Cat 6 future-proofs the network for at least five years, and has proven to be more tolerant to interference, with fewer errors on the network, an important point in the security-conscious ATC environment.”

The cabling was installed by Nexans’ partner, the UTI Group. Since this was a new experience, Nexans provided training for UTI’s subsidiary installation company (INSCON).

“The connectivity was new for the installers,” Filip explains, “and that meant we had to pay close attention to details, which was complicated by the large number of nodes and the need for redundancy. The installers appreciated our snap-in connectors which were much easier to use than insertion connectors. We were also very concerned about interference, so we urged the customer to use a special double-foiled (F2TP) shielded cable that provided the best solution in terms of quality, performance and price.”

The building area was fairly large (19,000 m2), and thus great attention had to be paid to the layout, since the maximum channel distance in structured cabling is 100 meters To maximize security, the usual number of nodes (ports for connecting computers and equipment) were doubled to achieve high redundancy. In fact, there are some 2,400 active nodes in the building. There is also a good deal of Nexans fiber, with 200 workstations receiving fiber-to-the-desk. The fact that Nexans is one of the few global companies to master both high-speed copper and fiber solutions to deliver a fully integrated system was a key benefit for the end user.

The ATC center was completely installed in 2001, and has been functioning for two years without the slightest problem. The expected benefits of headroom, security and future-proofing have been achieved. Meanwhile, Nexans has been using this positive experience to promote Category 6 elsewhere in Romania.

According to Dumitru Sirbu, Nexans’ Business Manager for Central and Eastern Europe, the move from antiquated to leading edge networks has been incredibly swift in Romania: “Before 1989, there were very few LANs operating in this country: the norm being a main computer and terminals all located in a single room. So, in computer terms, we experienced a double revolution, first with the introduction of independent PCs, and then their distribution via LANs. In a mere decade, we saw Category 5 become standard for many businesses and public buildings. Now, with this first experience behind us, we have moved on to install Category 6 in the American School, the Orange Mobile Operator building, and most recently the HQ of Société Générale."

As for existing buildings and historical sites, Bucharest has a good number of solidly constructed buildings from the previous regime. However, wireless LANs have not been a real alternative, due to excessive wall thickness and interference. Thus, wired systems are likely to be the most viable LAN solution in the Romanian context, with fiber and Category 6 as the high-end cable medium.

Alina Darie is Business and Development manager for the UTI Group, a major organization specialized in integrated systems, including IT and communications systems, industrial automation and security systems. Among its references are the National Bank of Romania, and several public administrations, including energy, railways and finance. After four years of working with Nexans, Darie has seen the relationship grow, especially since they installed Cat 6 on the ATC project:

“At first, it was a bit hard since we did not know Nexans’ family of products, and Nexans did not understand our wide needs. Now, we know the quality of their cables and appreciate their capacity to respond quickly to an emergency. UTI is a big company, and an important one, focused on security, communications and medium-voltage power distribution. There are a lot of cable producers based here in Romania, especially local ones manufacturing low-cost energy cables. Nexans’ prime competitors are here, too, along with many cheaper manufacturers. We could easily just shop around and find the lowest priced outlet. However, as integrators who work end-to-end on a project, we don’t like to do that. We prefer a company who takes the same integrated approach as we do, and who can provide one-stop shopping and support when necessary. Quality, wide product range and global support are probably the main reasons we chose Nexans.”

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