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Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

Graybar, Tilson bring fiber to new Purdue U. business district

Oct. 19, 2021
Discovery Park District, a new live/work/play development by the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF), aims to foster a community of innovation near Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Discovery Park District, a new live/work/play development by the Purdue Research Foundation (PRF), aims to foster a community of innovation near Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Already, the development has attracted startups and major companies tackling the latest challenges in industries varying from aerospace to AgTech – all of which depend on state-of-the-art wireless connectivity.

For the turn-up of the Discovery Park District, PRF partnered with Tilson, a leading network design, build, and operating firm, to build out a neutral host broadband infrastructure across the 400-acre campus, and communications supply distributor Graybar, for project implementation services.

Smart city dreams

To provide versatile, future-ready connectivity, Tilson decided to build a neutral-host fiber network and operate it long term – a new business model for the company.

“It was a bigger play for Tilson. We were trying to not only build, own and operate the fiber network, but also to turn this into a ‘smart city’ and come up with ideas of how Discovery Park can show innovation within the district,” explained Todd Corcoran, the Tilson program manager in charge of the project.

In addition to installing dark fiber throughout Discovery Park, Tilson also needed to design and build an edge data center on site. Tilson’s client envisioned it as a “walled garden,” housing multiple ISPs that could compete or collaborate to provide better pricing and services – as well as telecommunications companies and private network providers.

Fiber expertise at distribution

When Corcoran reached out to Graybar, he was matched with Jerry Lee and Greg Vincent, senior sales representatives at the distributor who have worked on broadband deployments, from blueprints to install.

“Greg and Jerry’s technical experience really assisted me upfront. They worked with me throughout to help with the design and help me get the right players,” Corcoran said.

Over several months of planning, the team developed a solution that would be cost-effective, easy to install and simple to operate. In addition to fiber, Graybar helped provide all the equipment for the data center.

The technical team laid out full-size and colocation cabinets in a condensed footprint to lower potential costs for ISPs, providing adequate power and cooling in the least amount of space.

When they realized they needed a specific, more expensive type of fiber to connect all the buildings in the Park, Graybar reps Lee and Vincent were able to negotiate with multiple suppliers to keep costs and lead times down.

“It was fun,” said Graybar's Vincent. “It’s always exciting to have someone reach out with a project to see how we can help, and [I enjoyed] putting together the whole concept of the Park. Instead of Todd managing many vendors, he just had to deal with Jerry and me."

“They were instrumental in pulling all the manufacturers together,” Corcoran agreed.

Broadband turn-up made easy

Once install began, the Graybar reps helped coordinate deliveries, routing materials through a local Graybar branch with a regular team of truck drivers. When several units failed to work on arrival, Vincent worked to troubleshoot and return them to the supplier for replacement.

According to Corcoran, “good communication” was one of the things he appreciated most about working with Graybar. “Greg and Jerry were always available, and always able to take my questions,” he added. “I didn’t have to keep calling them to get things done – they just knew what needed to get done, and they did it.”

The data center is now operational, and three ISPs have already moved in to provide service.

“Our clients think that the install is pretty spectacular,” Corcoran said. “There’s nothing that they need to do except put their equipment in the cabinet, and … in the commercial or residential location. Everything else is taken care of. Turn-up is quick and easy.”

Looking back on the project, Vincent said he thinks it serves as a great example of how Graybar can collaborate with broadband customers to provide end-to-end solutions. “That was one of the coolest parts of the project,” concluded. “We helped Tilson set up a data center and a fiber network, which is connected to the last house on the street.”

Download the full case study from Graybar.

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