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What Is Structured Cabling?

The TIA/EIA structured cabling standards define how to design, build, and manage a voice and data cabling system that is structured, meaning that the system is designed in blocks that have very specific performance characteristics. The blocks are integrated in a hierarchical manner to create a unified communication system. For example, workgroup LANs represent a block with lower-performance requirements than the backbone network block, which requires high-performance fiber-optic cable in most cases. The standard defines the use of fiber-optic cable (single and multimode), STP (shielded twisted pair) cable, and UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cable.

The current trend is to evolve the standards to support high-speed networking such as Gigabit Ethernet and define advanced cable types and connectors such as four-pair Category 6 and Category 7 cable. Category 6 is rated for channel performance up to 200 MHz, while Category 7 is rated up to 600 MHz.

A properly designed and installed structured cabling system provides you with a cabling infrastructure that delivers predictable performance as well as flexibility to accommodate growth and change over an extended period of time. Your initial investment in a ‘standards’ based structured cabling system will return many benefits including an extended operational lifespan, predictable performance, manageability and growth. These benefits bring increased efficiency, improved productivity and reduced costs to you and your business.

Cat 5e Cable Run $110.00 per location (includes: Single Cable Run of Category 5e cable, faceplate, jack insert, blank insert, patch panel port, and labor – complete turnkey installation)

Cat 6 Cable Run $142.00 per location (includes: Single Cable Run of Category 6 cable , faceplate, jack insert, blank insert, patch panel port, and labor – complete turnkey installation)

What Are ‘Standards’?

Domestic and international standards organizations have been formed to ensure that manufactured products meet certain quality, safety and performance ‘norms’ for that category and class of product. Standards organizations such as ISO/IEC, TIA/EIA, CENELEC and CSA have created and published standards for structured cabling components and systems, and their specifications for Category 5, Category 5e, Category 6 and Category 7 systems are widely used and accepted in the industry today.

Category 5 recommendations were developed in the early 1990’s to define the use of low cost Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cabling and components in a structured cabling system with performance parameters specified up to 100 MHz.

Category 5e specifications, also referred to as Enhanced Category 5, were developed at the end of the ’90s to meet the demands of more sophisticated networking applications such as Gigabit Ethernet and to take advantage of significant advances in UTP cabling system engineering and manufacturing technologies. Today, the Category 5e standard is generally accepted as the minimum requirement for data applications in new cabling system installations, and it is anticipated that most standards organizations will recommend the use of the Category 5 standard in lieu of all earlier standards for voice networking applications.

Category 6 begins to meet the constant need for faster and more efficient network applications, inevitably, resulting in the need for higher performance structured cabling systems. Standards organizations around the world developed a new Category 6 standard to define enhanced performance parameters beyond the current scope of Category 5e specifications. Current Category 6 define channel bandwidth at 200 MHz or greater, providing at least twice the bandwidth of Category 5e systems and ensuring support for tomorrow’s multi-gigabit networking applications.

Category 7 is a cable standard for Ethernet and other interconnect technologies that can be made to be backwards compatible with traditional Cat 5 and Cat 6 Ethernet cable. Cat 7 features even more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise than Cat 6. To achieve this, shielding has been added for individual wire pairs and the cable as a whole.

The Cat 7 cable standard has been created to allow 10-gigabit Ethernet over 100 meters of copper cabling. The cable contains four twisted copper wire pairs, just like the earlier standards. Cat 7 can be terminated either with RJ-45 compatible GG45 electrical connectors which incorporate the RJ-45 standard or with TERA connectors. When combined with GG-45 connectors, CAT7 cable is rated for transmission frequencies of up to 600 MHz. When combined with TERA connectors, Cat 7 cable is rated for transmission frequencies above 600 MHz.

For end-users, the challenge will be in selecting a structured cabling system that will meet both current and future needs. Whether those needs indicate the use of Category 5e , Category 6 or Category 7 systems, end-users should look for systems that not only meet but exceed the specifications of each respective standard, thereby providing additional performance margins to accommodate the evolution of ever more demanding networking needs, BANDWIDTH AND BEYOND!

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