Infrastructure cabling has traditionally kept pace with the speed of the network. Only in the past few years has the internal network zoomed past the speeds of the external network. That may soon be changing as we see MediaOne, Sprint and other carriers introduce high-speed, fiber optic-based networks. All this speed is coming at us faster than you may realize.
Metromedia Fiber Network, New York, N.Y., recently announced plans to expand its fiber optic infrastructure, deepening its penetration into New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and the Chicago metropolitan areas. This expansion will bring Metromedia Fiber Network's total infrastructure in these four key Tier 1 telecommunications markets to in excess of 380,000 fiber miles and 1,000 route miles, increasing by over 50 percent the company's original network plans.
"Our rapid growth is evidence that our strategy is working in these top tier telecommunications markets," said Howard M. Finkelstein, President of Metromedia Fiber Network. "This planned network expansion will enable Metromedia Fiber Network to broaden and deepen existing customer relationships and to address growing demand from businesses, government agencies, and carriers in a number of additional, densely populated regions within the Northeast corridor and the Chicago Metropolitan Area."
What does this all mean? More bandwidth; more robust LANs, WANs, intranets; more high-performance cabling systems...this is good.
Northern Telecom Ltd. has recently announced that it has agreed to acquire Bay Networks Inc., Santa Clara, Calif. for $9.1 billion in stock.
Northern Telecom's John Roth will remain the company's chief executive officer; while Bay Networks' CEO Dave House will be president. The deal brings Bay Networks' strengths in Internet Protocol (IP) technology to Northern Telecom's vast telecommunications network.
IP technology allows for advanced data transmission, such as simultaneous voice, data and multimedia transmission, over phone lines. We have heard the two companies don't expect any layoffs or significant restructuring because there is little overlap in technology between them.
Atcom Services, Inc., Iselin, N.J., announced the launch of its fully automated web store. The site features an advanced shopping cart system through which cabling and computer connectivity assemblies and hardware, including custom sized cables with a variety of options, may be ordered.
"Given the fact that our industry is on the cutting edge of telecommunication technology, it has been relatively slow to embrace the Internet. Many of my colleagues in the business do not even have email capability, and most web sites are informational only. I decided that the industry needed a fully automated web-store," says Tony Casazza, of Atcom.
The web site, www.atcomservices.com, even allows customers to completely customize their patchcords. They can specify, for instance, a nine-foot, custom Category 5 patchcord with yellow cable and purple boots. The shopping cart will calculate the price including the shipping based on zip code and weight.
"We make our money the old-fashioned way. We earn it!" might have been an appropriate opener for the CDT results. Clearly, quality plus quality plus quality is their secret. Next time you see a cable quote for a lower price, don't ask why the Mohawk, NORDX, or the other CDT products cost more; ask what the other guy left out. High performance cables demand a level of quality control never before experienced in our industry.
CDT (Cable Design Technologies, Pittsburg, PA) has announced the results for the third fiscal quarter ending April 30, 1998. Net sales increased $37.7 million, or 29% to a record$167.6 million versus $130.0 million for the same period last year, including $22.5 million of additional sales attributable to CDT's recently acquired operations. Operating income for the period was $19.9 million versus $15.9 million last year. Net income for the quarter increased 16.0% to $10.7 million last year versus $9.2 million a year ago.
Results for the third quarter of fiscal 1998 reflect increased sales in all four of CDT's principal business groups with the addition of sales by its recent acquisitions. Sales attributable to the recent acquisitions primarily benefited the Automation & Process Control and Specialty Electronic Cable groups. Sales for the Network Products group was up 17% over the same period last year reflecting a 28% increase in North American sales of computer network cables, and sales for the Communications Cable group increased 20% over a year ago.
In commenting on results, Paul M. Olson, President and CEO, stated, "We are extremely pleased with CDT's results in what was, an anticipated, a very challenging quarter. Our performance was initially hindered by slower than anticipated sales of networking products early in the quarter, however by March, sales momentum accelerated with the release of several pending network systems projects along with a mix shift to greater sales of Level 6 & 7 network cables compared to our second quarter 1998. In fact, our third fiscal quarter ended wit on of the strongest months on record for CDT's networking products, a trend, which appears to be continuing into the final quarter of 1998.
Anixter Inc., Skokie, Ill., www.anixter.com, has found a match made in heaven, so to speak, with LeCroy, the folks who develop, manufacture and market electronic signal acquisition and analysis products. The engineers responsible for the Anixter Levels ChannelSM program have relied heavily on LeCroy's revolutionary NEWSLine product for characterizing and testing all elements in an active network channel, including cables, connectors, networking cards and hubs, to identify the root cause of physical networking problems.
Anixter Testing Lab has been able to measure the characteristic impedance that points to a channel's failing elements, which traditional hand-held testers have not been able to do. NEWSLine has also provided Anixter with immediate analysis when comparing component performance, which costly laboratory network analyzers have not been able to do. As a field troubleshooting tool or an embedded monitoring tool, Anixter thinks NEWSLine truly pushes the envelope on LAN testing into the 21st century.
Ausimont USA Inc., Thorofare, N.J., www.ausiusa.com, a multinational fluorochemical producer, is planning construction of a new facility for the production of tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) monomer and Hyflon® MFA perfluoropolymer in the United States. Production start-up is scheduled for the first quarter 2001.
The new TFE manufacturing plant will serve as the base for the production of Ausimont's specialty fluoropolymers and other fluorinated products in the USA. The main driver for this expansion is the rapid growth and market acceptance of Hyflon® MFA, a perfluoroalkoxy polymer introduced by Ausimont in 1995 and the first new thermoplastic perfluoropolymer material to the fluoropolymer industry in more than 20 years. Hyflon® MFA will be the first fluoropolymer produced at the new plant. Production capacities of 7500 metric tons for TFE and 5000 metric tons of fluoropolymers are planned. Ausimont's initial investment in the new facility will exceed $200 million.
Fluorinated plastic materials, in general, are known for their excellent electrical and fire safety performance in wire and cable applications.
DuPont reports a smooth start up of its new Teflon® expansion at Parkesburg, W.Va., completing the third phase of a three-year expansion program. We expect the supply of Teflon® and Daikin's FEP to remain tight despite recent expansions, but not in unbearably short supply.
The plenum cable fire safety issue, reported in ACP's Fire Safety Alert, generated widespread attention throughout the cabling industry and fire science community.
Many mixed pair insulation cable designs have been taken off the market in favor of returning to the industry standard 4x0 100 percent FEP. FEP and 4x0 cable are available in good supply for Category 5, Enhanced Category 5 (CAT 5e) and Anixter Levels™ 5, 6, 7 performance requirements.
UL® (Underwriters Laboratories) and major fire safety agencies have responded with active programs to assure stringent testing and compliance procedures are followed. Following is a brief synopsis and update.
- UL's March 20, 1998 bulletin proposes: "...a program of analytical tests to characterize commercial and proprietary jacket and insulation materials used in the construction of plenum cables listed by UL. The information obtained is for use in periodic materials testing at UL to ensure the consistency of these materials. Improved consistency is the aim." Also, to strengthen its relationship with the wire and cable industry and deal with fire safety and other issues, UL announced the appointment of Steve Galan as coordinator for UL's Wire and Cable Sector and associate managing engineer of the wire and cable department.
- In its May 8, 1998 bulletin, UL® proposed "...a revised description of the plenum flame test to update the UL 910 standard. There are no changes in the test, just in the wording and illustrations to more completely and accurately describe the test as it is conducted at UL Northbrook." This revision would provide a more detailed reference documentation of UL 910 test equipment, operating conditions and requirements, and maintenance procedures. UL 910 is the test procedure used to qualify cable for CMP listing which allows installation in plenum areas.
- The NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) Fire Test Committee met on April 30 and May 1, 1998 to develop a revision to NFPA 262 to align it with the above mentioned UL 910. The objective is to have uniform test methods and procedures.
- At a May 21, 1998 meeting, the NFPRF (National Fire Protection Research Foundation) instituted a program to harmonize the fire testing of plenum communications cable on an international scale. A $300,000 round-robin program was initiated. Dr. Tom Chapin of Lucent was appointed technical director. Participating in the round-robin test program are:
- UL Northbrook
- ETL Testing Laboratories (ITS/ETL)*
- Loss Prevention Council (LPC), UK
- British Research Establishment/Fire Research Station (BRE/FRS), UK
- Japan Electric Cable Technology Center, Inc. (JECTEC)
These intense testing and harmonization programs are positive developments but in the meantime...caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware is prudent advice.
For those of you who procure or install cable, be wary of substitute insulation materials. We recommend the following:
- Know what you are buying. Insulation materials make a difference.
- Ask for 4x0 100 percent FEP designs for plenum cable for fire safety protection and proven performance.
ACP will continue to track this important fire safety (life) issue and bring you updates when important developments occur that you should know about. Stay tuned and be sure to check the ACP website www.wireville.com regularly.
*The ETL mark is owned by Intertek Testing Services (ITS)
Prestolite Wire Corporation www.prestolitewire.com has rolled out a new big gun in the high-performance copper cable competition. The company's previous top end product was NETLink 2000® enhanced performance Category 5 cable. The new top gun in town is NETLink GX™ with Gigabit speed (and bandwidth to spare) and multi-media capable. It has been verified that this cable has been tested with the most sophisticated 1.2 GHz network analyzer available and the testing has been cross-verified in Anixter's laboratory. This Anixter Level 7 compliant product has more than twice the bandwidth of traditional Category 5 cable specs and is no larger in diameter than Category 5. You can bet that competition will follow this leader to a new high water mark in the flood of faster technology. Cabling can still be your best investment and barrier to obsolescence.
August Issue: Look for individual profiles on Joseph Delagalo, Vice President and Super Technical Guru at Mohawk/CDT and Bob Kenny, Cabling Design Wizard at Belden. We will try to profile industry leaders periodically, where space permits.
When space is a premium . . . you may wish to check out Mini 5™ Cables manufactured by Belden. Mini 5™ isn't just a new Category 5 cable, it's totally different from anything else on the market. This unique Belden® cable is more than 50% smaller in cross-sectional area than the maximum allowed by standard Category 5 specs. And this size advantage comes with absolutely no sacrifice in performance. With Mini 5, the payoff starts the minute you have it installed . . . and continues for years to come.
When you've got to think small because there just isn't any more space, Mini 5 is the best choice for premise wiring. Although the Belden brochures did not name the jacketing material, we understand that they are using a new Halar® Flex manufactured by Ausimont USA, Inc. This jacketing material is extremely rugged and flexible at the same time. If the environment is hostile, this product may be you solution. It is rugged, very tough, and operates over a much wider temperature range than normal jacketing materials. If you put this new Halar® Flex jacket over a Teflon® FEP insulated cable, you have a real winner of a product.
Greenlee Textron, Rockford, Ill., has announced a major product introduction for the data, signal and voice (DSV) markets. With over 140 new products logically presented in a new 63-page color catalog, and a complete marketing plan tailored for its various distributors, this is truly an important declaration of Greenlee's commitment to further its distributors' ambitions into emerging markets.
For decades, Greenlee has been a market leader in the tools that bend conduit, pull cable and cut, strip, test and terminate all kinds of wire and cable. Significant portions of Greenlee's products today are used in electronics, data communications and security applications. Greenlee is now simply driving a focused effort towards this rapidly growing market.
By combining the broad product line already in the Greenlee offering with all the new DSV products being added, Greenlee will have one of the largest selections in this market.
MOSCOM Corporation (Pittsford, N.Y.) has recently announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership with Phoenix-based Cablesoft Inc. in which MOSCOM will market Cablesoft's Crimp for Windows cable and infrastructure documentation and management software. MOSCOM will market Crimp for Windows as a stand-alone product and integrate it with its portfolio of call accounting, telemanagement and subscriber billing products.
Crimp for Windows helps network and information technology (IT) managers build a hierarchical model and asset register of their entire network infrastructure, providing a detailed record of the type, location and connectivity of each network component. Crimp for Windows dramatically simplifies troubleshooting, office relocations, disaster recovery efforts and network upgrades.
Good things are happening at ICC, International Connectors and Cable Corporation of Cerritos, Calif. ICC has made a new investment in technical resources, quality assurance and product development. We have glimpsed some new products, high-performance system solutions and soon-to-be launched programs. These will definitely put ICC in the "company on the move" category.
Ron Schwenger, ICC's marketing manager, said, "Our goal is to perform for the cabling industry and earn our position as one of the leading suppliers for cost-effective, high-quality, high performance components." ICC's 1998 catalog is first class, and extremely user friendly for selecting and designing top-quality products. Keep an eye out for more news and innovative programs from this growing company.