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BICSI Winter Conference

The biggest and best cabling conference of the year. The 2003 BICSI Winter Conference will be held at the spectacular Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Orlando, FL, January 13 – 16, 2003. The BICSI Winter Conference will provide you with up-to-date information that you can use immediately in your daily activities within the cabling industry

There will be many opportunities to network with your peers, and view state-of-the-art exhibits during continental breakfasts and evening receptions. See you there.

Everything you wanted to know about CAT 6 - but were afraid to ask…

An excellent CAT 6 session to attend will be given at BICSI on Wednesday, January 15th, 3:30 – 5:00. “Why Category 6 Cabling Systems are Needed in the Market”. The TIA TR-42.7 committee members felt it is important to educate the telecom industry on the benefits of CAT 6 structured cablings systems, so they formed the CAT 6 Consortium. This presentation will summarize the various benefits of CAT 6 cabling systems. Issues will be reviewed, and there will be time for Q & A following this very informative presentation.


For the past decade, the cabling industry has wrestled with the problem of material and labor performance criteria. As an industry, we have achieved some level of performance criteria in materials. We now have CAT 6 cabling and associated CAT 6 connector hardware. Numerous manufacturers have banded together to form a system solution, which combines the individual products into a working high performance system. We should note that not all products deliver the same performance when connected with other media. If our explanation sounds confusing, it is. However, we suggest you go to the ANIXTER website to look at their approach to assure the best fit of products for the best performance. If you are a contractor or a consumer, we suggest that you do not go it alone in the product selection department. A full service distributor is just about the only safe course to take.

When it comes to labor, the cabling infrastructure industry is absolutely lost. Currently the federal governments of USA and Canada do not have a designation for a network/datacom installer. The closest they come to this animal is a "cable puller", and that is rated as a non-skilled low-income job. This failure to designate the installer has created several downstream problems. If the government doesn't recognize the job designation, then there will be no funds for professional education. Several community college systems have agreed with our frustration over the lack of training for the communications installer, but they say they can’t do anything about it until it is a recognized job designation.

The concept of professional assurance through state licensing is an accepted method of maintaining the industry performance level. Before you get to licensing there are numerous steps. In summary:

* Job description
* Designation
* Criteria
* Testing for minimum ability to meet criteria
* Licensing - requirements
* Licensing renewal

Many people have referred to the licensing program as just another tax without a vote. That may be true, but this industry should have a benchmark system that would assure the consumer some level of quality workmanship.

BICSI operates an educational revenue driven private association and widespread licensing would potentially cut their revenues drastically. The state governments probably cannot adopt the BICSI certifications for numerous legal reasons. In this writers opinion, BICSI has not and probably will not actively support licensing unless the standard (criteria) is BICSI. While we believe the BICSI courses offer a good training opportunity, they are not a sole source for education in this industry.

For additional information and perspective on this issue, we refer you to the following excellent article by Paul Barker, Editor of Cabling Systems Magazine:

In Search of the Proper Designation

“Thanks to the work of a dedicated group of contractors and consultants, installer training could soon take on a whole new meaning right across the country.” Paul Barker

Jacques Marchildon, Roy Sherman, Sherman Su and Andrew Dagenais have much in common when it comes to understanding the challenges related to promoting new and improved training methods for structured cabling installers. Each realizes that just like the industry is changing, so too must the way an installer approaches his or her profession.

There are two issues at stake here. The first involves the training of young installers of which there are very few formal programs across the country. The second involves those who are experienced.

Dagenais, the president of AD NetSolutions Ltd., an Edmonton consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and telecommunications infrastructure design for commercial buildings, says the need for improved training is obvious. Increased personal computer power, corporate mergers, application sophistication and interconnection of computer systems within and between buildings, he says, requires more sophisticated approaches to telecommunication infrastructure planning.

He points out that gone are the days "when you could tie a piece of coaxial cable to the back of your truck, ram it through a conduit and it would still work. Cat 5 and Cat 6 cable and fiber are very sensitive from an installation point of view. There are issues that you need to be aware of.

"Responsibilities are changing. The challenge telecommunications professionals face today is that they need to go into these buildings and take a look at current infrastructures. They also need to come to terms with what's valuable and what isn't and come up with a strategic plan on how they can upgrade an existing site to meet future business needs."

That's one reason why Sherman, general manager of network solutions at State Electric in Toronto, has been pushing for major change for more than six years now. He and other contractors pushed so hard that Ontario has joined Nova Scotia in becoming the second province to issue a formal trade designation for network cabling specialists.

It's extremely important," says Sherman. "There have been a lot of people in this trade for many years that have had no designation. I'm an electrician by trade and it's nice to have that license in your pocket. It also gives the customer a sense that they are getting the work done by a trained professional rather than someone's who's taken a two-day vendor's course and read a few books."

Another key player has been GBS Communications Inc., an Ottawa company that specializes in integrated network cabling design and installation services. Today, three Ontario community colleges -- Algonquin, Humber and Durham -- offer Network Cabling Specialist courses. According to GBS co-owner, Sherman Su, industry standards in product specifications not withstanding, there was a lack of consistency in cabling services rendered by individual installers.

The course at Algonquin, which is located in Ottawa, last 19 weeks, while the course at Humber consists of 4,500 hours of trade school and on-the-job training. "The demand for skilled workers is growing at a rapid pace," states a course outline from Toronto-based Humber. "This program prepares apprentices with a solid foundation in blueprint reading, designing and installing pathways, electronics, LAN systems and job safety." Durham holds similar courses at its campus in Whitby, Ont.

All three are held in association with the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities' apprenticeship training program.

The key to it all in Ontario will be the soon-to-be released certification for qualification (CFQ) exam, which any installer would have to write in order to become certified. While Su sees that as a natural next step, what's even more important, he says, is turning it into a national initiative. To that end, industry personnel in Quebec, Alberta and B.C. have expressed an interest in obtaining formal trade designation

A natural ally in taking the initiative national could be BICSI, but to date there has been very little communication between the two sides apart from one meeting held several years ago. "I don't know if we'll ever work very closely with BICSI on this," says Su. "There's no animosity. A little bit of disappointment, but we're in the mindset now where its (lack of involvement) is not going to hinder how we're going to grow this program in Canada."

Part of the problem could be the lack of BICSI licensed training centres across the country. There is only one and its run by Marchildon, a network engineer with Captel Inc. in Trois-Rivieres, Que., a telecommunications systems integrator.

In Quebec, he says, the structured cabling industry is going through an important phase where the government is being encouraged to make structured cabling a legal part of the construction industry. What that means is that independent installers would be required to join construction unions and pay their employees the going rate. "These installers are in a position where they have to prove their competencies and commitment to the industry or see the government waiver in favour of the construction," says Marchildon.

He adds they face another dilemma in having to compete with larger installation firms who have aligned themselves with a specific cabling manufacturer. Their certification programs, he maintains, are really a means of building up a business. "In the structured cabling world, training has become part of the distribution process," says Marchildon.

"We could say that an RCDD is a well recognized certification that has yet to become a 'need to have' in Canada. This could be said about any BICSI certification at this time."

Still, as the work at the three Ontario colleges the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary proves, progress is being made. Three years ago, (SAIT) developed two classrooms for network cabling programs. One is designed specifically for fiber optic courses, while the second is used structured cabling and telecommunications courses.

Both were designed using BICSI's guidelines for training and the objective is to simulate a TIA/EIA standards compliant environment so that students can gain the practical experience necessary in the industry.

There must be an economic advantage, real or perceived, to spending time and money on training and until that level is attained, the current system will prevail, says Marchildon. As part of its Telecommunications Distribution Fundamentals Program, Captel offers three introductory courses on voice/data cabling systems, LANs and Internetworks, and Customer-Owned Outside Plant (CO-OSP). Each course gives the attendee the right to apply for BICSI certification and write the exam.

"Training should not be exclusive to a manufacturer's certification program," says Marchildon. "Installers should be certified to install the systems of more than one, and ideally all manufacturers. This perfect world scenario is the 'raison-d'etre' of BICSI. Yet, it hasn't been able to sell its training programs at a respectable level. There are close to 1,000 RCDDs in Canada and only one training centre."

Reprinted with the permission of Cabling Systems Magazine.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH: Dennis Curtis, VP & GM, Avaya Connectivity Solutions. " As a result, when traffic levels grow some of these organizations may find their cabling has too little headroom to avoid long wait times and poor streaming media quality when traffic peaks." The importance quality in selecting a cabling infrastructure was, however, widely recognized. Thirty eight - per cent put product at the top of their list of priorities twice as many as the next most commonly named criterion, technical performance.

If you haven't noticed, Cabling Business Magazine is staging a major comeback. The December 2002 issue contains numerous sections on information from OSHA. Much of this information can be seen in its entirety at . Finding the information on that huge website will be an interesting scavenger hunt. You may also wish to check out the new safety publication by NECA. "Safe Use of Arial and Scissor Lifts". This material also includes the latest OSHA safety standards for these applications.

Also in the December 2002 issue of CBM, there is a commentary by Michael Diodato

"Constructing a solid RFP" which contains some interesting points on the RFP (Request for Proposal) process. Our experience is the first three and three quarter inches of the four-inch RFP are filled with page after page of boilerplate dealing with liability, warranty, and a host of additional bear traps for the contractor. The last two pages beyond the boilerplate are the job specs. They usually contain little or no solid information and the quantities are often radically misleading. The usual outcome of this section is the reflection of the sales job that took place by a vendor before the RFP.

Product specific specs are common occurrences, simply because the consumer, architect or engineer, cannot provide the technical specifications for the products to meet their needs. Most of these procurement documents contain powerful words like: CAT 5e or even CAT 6. Usually the author has no idea what they mean or how they translate to a value solution to the end-user.

In summary, we have not seen a single RFP that lives up to the expectations of this article in 35 years. There is always something missing and usually one of the parties gets stuck with the bill for it. Remember, there are always two losers in a bid job; the buyer and the seller. It seems like the only effective way to approach this challenge of acquiring a cabling infrastructure is a negotiated purchase with a design and build concept. This reduces the buyers responsibility to selecting the right company. It is always "Caveat Emptor" (let the buyer beware).

Special note: at this time, the new website for Cabling Business Magazine only offers the lead article for the month. So if you want the rest of their news, you better subscribe.

Comments on residential networking. One contractor told us that they just completed an entire year of focus on selling & installing residence cabling. He summarized the financial disaster in a single phrase: " If it's not new construction, forget it".

The FLUKE Networks new Opti-Fiber is not only the world first certifying OTDR, it creates a completely new standard of excellence for all fiber testers. In the near future, the HOTS column will contain an article on the evolution of fiber optic testing. There seems to be a great deal of interest and confusion revolving around this subject. Plus, it gives us a chance to use a bushel full of techno terms and arcane industry acronyms.

New Years Resolution for buyers and sellers alike:

Consider developing a business case for Green Design in the cabling infrastructure for the building. Today, hard numbers makes sustainable design look good; soft costs make the picture even better.

With the roll out of the NEC 2002 and the requirement for the removal of abandoned cable, we see numerous compelling costs studies, which address the selection of environmentally friendly products in the cabling systems. Proper specification, installation, and management with documentation spell real savings. Green is Gold. Watch this column for numerous articles on this subject throughout the year.

More CIO's are learning to think like the CFO, and it works.

"A QUESTION OF STANDARDS - New and noteworthy", a monthly column by Marilyn Michelson in Structured Cabling Magazine, is a valuable tool for getting the codes and standards info accurately and in summary. Marilyn Michelson continues to publish The Cabling Standards Update - Today's Hottest and Latest info about network cabling. This unique publication is the best summary on the codes & standards picture available.

We still love the "Ask Donna" monthly column in the Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine. These ladies are truly Cabling Divas. Look around and you will see this formerly male dominated industry is changing - BIG TIME.


Established in 2002, the Category 6 Consortium -C6C- is an association of cooper cable, component, and electronics manufacturers. The C6C was formed to help promote the advantage that Category 6 cabling brings to LANS, and to create a resource where end users can learn about the technical advantages and affordability that wide bandwidth brings to LAN's, and specially to horizontal cabling systems. For more information go here

Frequently Asked Questions about Category 6 Cabling Systems

Published by the TIA Category 6 Consortium

Category 6 Cabling System and Application Questions

Why do I need all the bandwidth of category 6? As far as I know, there is no application today that requires 200 MHz of bandwidth?

Bandwidth precedes data rates just as highways come before traffic. Doubling the bandwidth is like adding twice the number of lanes on a highway. The trends of the past and the predictions for the future indicate that data rates have been doubling every 18 months. Current applications running at 1 Gb/s are really pushing the limits of category 5e cabling. As streaming media applications such as video and multi-media become commonplace, the demands for faster data rates will increase and spawn new applications that will benefit from the higher bandwidth offered by category 6. This is exactly what happened in the early 90’s when the higher bandwidth of category 5 cabling compared to category 3 caused most LAN applications to choose the better media to allow simpler, cost effective, higher speed LAN applications, such as 100BaseTX.

Note: Bandwidth is defined as the highest frequency up to which positive power sum ACR is greater than 0.

What is the general difference between category 5e and category 6?

The general difference between category 5e and category 6 is in the transmission performance, and extension of the available bandwidth from 100 MHz for category 5e to 200 MHz for category 6. This includes better insertion loss, near-end-crosstalk (NEXT), return loss, and equal level far end crosstalk (ELFEXT). These improvements provide a higher signal to noise ratio allowing higher reliabilitreliability for current applications and higher data rates for future applications.

Will category 6 supersede category 5e?

Yes, analyst predictions and independent polls indicate that 80 to 90 % of all new installations will be cabled with category 6. The fact that category 6 link and channel requirements are backward compatible to category 5e makes it very easy for customers to choose category 6 and supersede category 5e in their networks. Applications that worked over category 5e will work over category 6.

What does category 6 do for my current network vs. category 5e?

Because of its improved transmission performance and superior immunity from external noise, systems operating over category 6 cabling will have fewer errors vs. category 5e for current applications. This means fewer re-transmissions of lost or corrupted data packets, under certain conditions, which translates into higher reliability for category 6 networks compared to category 5e networks.

When should I recommend or install category 6 versus category 5e?

From a future proofing perspective, it is always better to install the best cabling available. This is because it is so difficult to replace cabling inside walls, in ducts under floors and other difficult to access places. The rationale is that cabling will last at least 10 years and will support at least 4 to 5 generations of equipment during that time. If future equipment running at much higher data rates requires better cabling, it will be very expensive to pull out category 5e cabling at a later time to install category 6 cabling. So why not do it for a premium of about 20% over category 5e on an installed basis?

What is the shortest link that the standard will allow?

There is no short length limit. The standard is intended to work for all lengths up to 100 meters. There is a guideline in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.1 that says that the consolidation point should be located at least 15 m away from the telecommunications room to reduce the effect of connectors in close proximity. This recommendation is based upon worst-case performance calculations for short links with 4-mated connections in the channel.

What is a "tuned" system between cable and hardware? Is this really needed if product meets the standard?

The word "tuned" has been used by several manufacturers to describe products that deliver headroom to the category 6 standard. This is outside the scope of the category 6 standard. The component requirements of the standard have been carefully designed and analyzed to assure channel compliance and electrical/ mechanical interoperability.

What is impedance matching between cable and hardware? Is this really needed if product meets the standard?

The standard has no impedance matching requirements. These are addressed by having return loss requirements for cables, connectors, and patch cords.

Is there a use for category 6 in the residential market?

Yes, category 6 will be very effective in the residential market to support higher internet access speeds while facilitating the more stringent Class B EMC requirements. The better balance of category 6 will make it easier to meet the residential EMC requirements compared to category 5e cabling. Also, the growth of streaming media applications to the home will increase the need for higher data rates which are supported more easily and efficiently by category 6 cabling.

Why wouldn't I skip category 6 and go straight to optical fiber?

You can certainly do that but will find that a fiber system is still very expensive. Ultimately it is the economics that drives decisions of customers and today optical fiber together with optical transceivers is about twice as expensive as an equivalent system built using category 6 and associated copper electronics. Installation of copper cabling is more craft friendly and can be accomplished with simple tools and techniques. Additionally copper cabling supports the emerging Data Terminal Equipment (DTE) power standard under development by IEEE (802.3af).

Category 6 Cable Questions

What is the difference between enhanced category 5e cable rated for 400 MHz and category 6 cable rated for 250 MHz?

Category 5e requirements are specified up to 100 MHz. Cables can be tested up to any frequency that is supported by the test equipment, but such measurements are meaningless without the context of applications and cabling standards. The category 6 standard sets minimum requirements up to 250 MHz for cables, connecting hardware, patch cords, channels and permanent links and therefore guarantees reasonable performance that can be utilized by applications.

Why did all the category 6 cable used to have a spline, and now they offer without one?

Some category 6 cable designs have a spline to increase the separation between pairs and also to maintain the pair geometry. This additional separation improves NEXT performance and allows category 6 compliance to be achieved. With advances in technology, manufacturers have found other ways of meeting category 6 requirements. The bottom line is it does not matter what the internal construction of the cable is so long as it meets all the transmission and physical requirements of category 6. The standard does not dictate any particular method of cable construction.

Is there a limitation on the size of bundles one can have with category 6? Can you have 200-300 and still pass category 6?

There is no limit imposed by the standards on the maximum number of category 6 cables in a bundle. This is a matter for the market and the industry to determine based on practical considerations. It should be pointed out that after 6 or 8 cables, the performance in any cable will not change significantly since the cables will be too far away to add any additional external (or alien) NEXT.

Category 6 Patch Cord Questions

Will contractors be able to make their own patch cords?

Category 6 patch cords are precision products, just like the cables and the connectors. They are best manufactured and tested in a controlled environment to ensure consistent, reliable performance. This will ensure interoperability and backward compatibility. . All this supports patch cords as a factory assembled product rather than a field-assembled product.

Do you have to use the manufacturer's patch cords to get category 6 performance?

The category 6 standard has specifications for patch cords and connectors that are intended to assure interoperable category 6 performance. If manufacturers can demonstrate that each component meets the requirements in the standard, minimum category 6 performance will be achieved. However, manufacturers may also design their products to perform better than the minimum category 6 requirements and in these cases using compatible patch cords and connectors may lead to performance above the minimum category 6 requirements.

Category 6 Testing Questions

Why do field tester manufacturers offer many different link adapters if everyone meets the standard?

This was an interim solution while the standard was still being developed and the interoperability requirements were not established. It is likely that soon one or more adapters will work for testing of cabling from all vendors.

Would you get passing test results if you used a link adapter not recommended by a manufacturer?

You should expect to get passing results if both the link adapter interface and the mating jack that is part of the link are both compliant to category 6 requirements.

Category 6 Connecting Hardware Questions

Are the connectors for category 5e and category 6 different? Why are they more expensive?

Although category 6 and category 5e connectors may look alike, category 6 connectors have much better transmission performance. For example, at 100 MHz, NEXT of a category 5e connector is 43 dB while NEXT of a category 6 Connector is 54 dB. This means that a category 6 connector couples about 1/12 of the power that a category 5e connector couples from one pair to another pair. Conversely, one can say that a category 6 connector is 12 times less "noisy" compared to a category 5e connector. This vast improvement in performance was achieved with new technology, new processes, better materials, and significant R&D resources, leading to higher costs for manufacturers.

What will happen if I mix and match different manufacturers' hardware together?

If the components are category 6 compliant, then you will be assured of category 6 performance.

TIA Category 6 Consortium Members - click for Product Information





Draka Comteq

Intertek Testing Services ETL Semko

Fluke Networks

General Cable

Hellermann Tyton

Hitachi Cable Manchester Inc.

Hubbell /







Ortronics /

Panduit /

The Siemon Company

Superior Essex

Superior Modular Products


Tyco Electronics / AMP NETCONNECT


More CAT 6

From the pages of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, January 2003 issue, a wonderful case study written by Patrick McLaughlin, Chief Editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance. CI&M, a PennWell publication is a top magazine for the datacom cabling industry. The PennWell pages are jammed with valuable information that will connect the buyers and the sellers in a win/win scenario. We have heard many positive remarks about this publication from technicians and installers who say they have learned a lot from CI&M.

No objections to Cat 6's appeal for this Boston law firm

In many ways, selecting a Category 6 cabling infrastructure was the easy part for Foley Hoag, LLP a law firm that occupies seven floors and 230,000 square feet of space at their newest addresses in Boston, MA. Even though decisions about the cabling project were being made in early 2000, nearly a year-and-a-half before the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) made Category 6 specifications official, issues such as network layout and connectivity with a satellite office posed challenges that rivaled choosing the cabling system's performance level.

While construction was ongoing, members of Foley Hoag's space committee frequented the site to ensure the project was on track.

155 Seaport Boulevard is part of the World Trade Center complex on South Boston's waterfront. The construction of "World Trade Center West," as it is called, was completed in 2002. The 17-story building accompanies World Trade Center East, a 16-story building constructed in 2000, and the 16-story Seaport Hotel, which opened in 1998, making up the complex.

For Frank Bayley, Foley Hoag's director of information technology, the May 2002 move to the new building was the culmination of many months' work. It was also a new opportunity to manage a network and cabling system that was designed into the building structure. He recalls the firm's

20-year history at its former address in the city's Post Office Square. "In 1981, Foley Hoag occupied three floors at 1 Post Office Square. That grew to seven floors and 170,000 square feet before the move," says Bayley. "The first network was installed in the old building in 1991, and at that time, we had to settle for the space that was available to house the networking equipment."

Bayley continues, "At 1 Post Office Square, the distances of many of the cabling runs were close to the maximum allowed, and we had some performance concerns that were attributable to that distance issue. When designing the system here in the new building, we had the opportunity to decide where the telecom rooms would be. Those rooms are stacked horizontally on the floors that we occupy, and even the longest cabling run doesn't approach the maximum allowable distance."

Bayley was part of the space committee, which included the firm's directors and partners, working with the building's architects to ensure that both visual appeal and practicality were given consideration during the design phase. "The tide certainly had shifted in the nine years between the first network installation and the planning of this move," Bayley says. "The firm's managers understand the necessity and benefits of a robust network. While office real estate in Boston is expensive, sacrificing the proper telecommunications rooms was not part of the answer. This part of the planning stage, and its implementation, will pay dividends for years to come."

It would be unfair, though, to say that the entire construction process revolved around the needs of networking and cabling. While much of the office space includes dropped ceilings and modular furniture, easily accessible to cabling professionals and network-management personnel, some areas include hard-ceiling and hard-walled space.

"The fixed ceiling could have been a problem," Bayley notes. "All of the utilities were vying for the same space, from HVAC to plumbing to electrical power to telecommunications."

The physical space allotted to the data center, as well as the spare conduit that can be seen at the ceiling, indicate that the network at Foley Hoag LLP can capably handle expansion.

The communications cabling runs through 4-inch conduit in these areas. "It was especially important to make sure that the fixed-ceiling spaces had all the cabling they will need because, ideally, you don't want to access those ceilings after the cabling is initially installed," explains Joe Bodio, president of LAN-Tel Communications, the project's installation contractor.

Wired for expansion

Overall, Bayley says, he intended to plan for growth by "overcabling" the facility. "If you don't design the space for expansion, you'll never recapture that space in the future. We were cramped in the past and we didn't want that situation repeated in the new facility."

He points to the 30 conference rooms, which have enough cabling to accommodate one out of every three seats, as examples of this strategy. The infrastructure allows secure login for visitors to the firm, as well as network access for all of the firm's users, through outlets built into the tabletops.

Foley Hoag also has 12 Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) circuits. LAN-Tel's Phil Milan explains, "By simply patching the ISDN circuits in the data center, you can bring videoconferencing to any of the 30 conference rooms." That fact creates a competitive advantage for Foley Hoag, according to Bayley. The firm has a satellite office in Washington, DC, and the firm's international client base is growing. The combination of modem, data, and voice lines in the conference rooms helps accommodate the demands of long-distance (including overseas) communication.

Cat 6 early adopter

Regarding the selection of Category 6 as the cabling system's performance level, Foley Hoag made that decision in January 2000 based on its present and anticipated future data loads. Voluminous documents, including Portable Document Format (PDF) files, constantly travel electronically among attorneys in the firm and across the Internet to the outside world. A federal district court mandate will soon require that all documents, which sometimes are 150 pages in length, be submitted electronically. All indications are that the amount of data traveling over the firm's network will steadily increase in the years ahead.

"All our connections are 100 Mbits/sec now, and I wonder if there is some bottlenecking at the switches," Bayley says. "We installed the 100-Mbit switches knowing that we would be moving them, and realistically expected to get three to five years out of the switches. I always believed that Category 5e cabling would have about a three- to five-year lifespan, and I use a ten-year window when making upgrade decisions. I will get ten years out of the Category 6 system."

Bayley says a turning point in his decision-making process came when he attended a seminar presented by Mohawk/CDT that made the case for Category 6. "We knew there was an uncertainty with Category 6, and at that time there was still industry-wide concern about whether or not it would live up to its billing," says Bayley. "But the thought of wiring this new building with anything less than Category 6, then having to upgrade, was unacceptable given the effort that would go into the project. We knew it was inevitable that Category 6 would be released as a standard, and there was no good reason for not deploying it."

As it turned out, Foley Hoag's move into its office space at 155 Seaport Boulevard, and the activation date of its Category 6 cabling system, occurred almost exactly one week before the TIA cast its final vote of approval for the Category 6 standard. The move took place over Memorial Day Weekend 2002, beginning after the close of business on Friday. By Tuesday at 8 AM, the office and its network were running, with no reports of dead ports or crossed wiring. "LAN-Tel was exceptional to work with, and really rolled with the punches in meeting any of the challenges placed in their path, including the special patching arrangements required for the voice, data, and video," Bayley says.

Vendor selection

With the help of consulting firm Vanderweil Engineers, Bayley specified a product set for the project. Mohawk/CDT's Category 6+GigaLAN brand UTP cable and Clarity6 connecting hardware from Ortronics were used throughout the installation. GigaLAN's Flex-Web construction provides pair-to-pair isolation over the entire cable length. The result is superior NEXT and ACR headroom, according to the manufacturer. But Bayley comments that it wasn't just Mohawk's seminar on Category 6 that helped him make that decision. "I have had a great working relationship with Mohawk for over 10 years," he says. "I have attended meetings of Boston-area law-firm IT directors, and all agree that service is a big factor in our satisfaction with vendors. Many people have had difficulty with service, but I haven't."

The decision to specify Category 6 cable and connectivity was not difficult, says Foley Hoag IT director Frank Bayley, who plans to get at least a ten-year useful life out of the cabling system.

Bayley adds, "I also looked at the warranties of cable vendors. Very few companies offer a 100% warranty on backbone cable. Mohawk does."

Installation contractor LAN-Tel also has an ongoing working relationship with Foley Hoag. LAN-Tel is a Mohawk-Accredited Contractor (MAC) and an Ortronics Certified Installer Plus-Platinum. When the law firm was still at its former site, LAN-Tel built out network expansions as the firm grew. The contractor also installed the audio/video system, and assisted with the telephone-system installation at the new facility. By leaving stock in the Foley Hoag facility, in an emergency, a LAN-Tel installer or technician can be on site within an hour to address moves, adds, and changes, or any other issues. That's a significant statement, which anyone who has ever negotiated Boston traffic can confirm.

Overall, the network at Foley Hoag is prepared for the expansion that the firm expects. "We anticipate 6% to 8% annual growth for the next three to four years," Bayley says. "All drops in the building are live and ready to go, even if no one currently occupies the space. This allows a degree of flexibility for single occupants to work in groups for specific projects."

Bayley and his IT department of 20 provide desktop, network, and training support around the clock. True to the stereotype, the attorneys at Foley Hoag make use of that 24-hour availability. Bayley quips, "At 3 AM, the attorneys outnumber the IT staff in the building."

Enterprise network decision-makers call for Category 6

New research by Avaya Inc., a provider of communications networks and services for businesses, shows that 82% of enterprise network decision-makers surveyed will specify Category 6 high-performance cabling in their next installation. The results are in the Avaya SYSTIMAX Structured Connectivity Solutions research report, Cabling Infrastructure: Ready for Tomorrow's Network Traffic or Heading for Congestion?

"This doesn't leave much room for the future of Category 5 or 5e," says Jim Hulsey, strategic marketing manager for SYSTIMAX, Avaya, Inc., based in Basking Ridge, NJ. "In all likelihood, a small portion of the market will go for Category 5e for moves, adds and changes (MACs). But the uptake of this is Category 6 installation will be rapid and dominant."

Avaya surveyed more than 2,000 organizations in 38 countries. The report also found that 28% of those surveyed have already installed Category 6. Cabling contractors concur with the Avaya the findings, and say they are seeing an accelerating demand for Category 6 products—particularly for new construction.

"I'd say at least 70% or our company's installations are touched by Category 6 in some form or fashion," says Rick Sousa, an RCDD and director of professional services for Network Communications Technologies based in Charlotte, NC. "This is going to bring more work for the contractor that can provide the installation of these products," Sousa continues. "But the end user is now more savvy, doing their homework, and asking the right questions. A new commitment is being formed between the end user and the contractor."

IT professionals were invited to participate in the survey via an Internet Web portal during August and September 2002. The survey's 22 questions were available in 12 languages. The 2,047 IT professionals who took part in the research were from a representative sample of SYSTIMAX SCS and non-SYSTIMAX SCS customers around the world. They spanned organizations with between 50 and 10,000 network users across all industry sectors, including education, finance/banking, government, medical facilities, and industrial facilities.

The research revealed that network downtime, together with MACs, is costing businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity. From research data, it is estimated, for example, that downtime is costing companies with more than 7,500 network users an average $5.5 million annually in lost employee productivity.

Network downtime was cited as the issue of greatest concern. Twenty-six percent of the survey respondents said downtime was the most likely network issue to keep them awake at night, and a further 15% said degraded network performance was their biggest worry.

Network downtime experienced by users of Category 6 cabling was less than among users of Category 5 and 5e solutions. Among Avaya's global sample, only 8% of Category 6 users experience more than five hours a month downtime, compared with 11% among users of Category 5 and 5e.

The importance of quality in selecting a cabling infrastructure was widely recognized in the survey. Thirty-eight percent put product quality at the top of their list of priorities, twice as many as the next most commonly named criterion (technical performance).

According to the Avaya findings, organizations worldwide have also been upgrading their networking technology. Gigabit Ethernet is now used by 31% of respondents in LAN horizontal. Within five years, 73% anticipated using it, and 26% of respondents expected to adopt 10 Gbit/sec connections in horizontal applications.

Sousa says he is not surprised by the popularity of copper cabling, as opposed to optical fiber. He says customers still see a sizable cost difference when it comes to installing copper cable. "We are squeezing more bandwidth out of copper today," says Sousa. "Every hurdle that is put in front of a copper manufacturer seems to be leaped and gone over."

Draka Comteq consolidates, reaches out to specialty cable markets

Draka Comteq, in an effort to differentiate itself in the market, has consolidated its operation while simultaneously branching out of its structured cabling focus and dabbling in specialty cable markets. As of this month, the company will be known as Draka Comteq USA Inc. The company was formerly known as Helix/ HiTemp Cables and Chromatic Technologies.

Draka Comteq USA Inc. was formerly known as Helix/HiTemp Cables and Chromatic Technologies. Both companies, which marketed under the brand name of Draka Comteq, have consolidated their two manufacturing facilities into one location at 20 Forge Park, Franklin, MA.

Both companies, which marketed under the brand name of Draka Comteq, have consolidated their two manufacturing facilities into one location at 20 Forge Park, Franklin, MA. The company consolidated to reduce costs while increasing cable output.

"Both will be under the Draka umbrella, but act as distinct operating units," says Jeff Mahall, director of marketing for Draka Comteq USA Inc.

Draka Comteq USA Inc. will keep structured cabling product manufacturing at the core of its focus. It has good reason to do so.

Draka Holding Group, parent compnay to Draka USA (and Draka Comteq), captured almost $2 billion in worldwide sales. Strucutured Cabling business is about 15% of worldwide revenue.

In keeping with this strategy, the company will keep the Chromatic Technologies and Helix/HiTemp Cables as brand names. These products include twisted pair, coaxial and composite cables used in a variety of industries and applications. Optical-fiber products under these brand names include outdoor, indoor, armored and aerial designs for campus backbone and fiber-to-the-workstation. But, due to the still struggling telecommunications market, Draka Comteq USA will also use the union of these two companies to provide products for non-traditional structured cabling markets, including robotics, military and defense, medical facilities and power plants.

Mahall says Draka Comteq USA expects that revenue from the specialty markets will eventually outpace the datacom market. "We won't leave the datacom market, but we do share that with other manufacturers," says Mahall. "This will allow us to broaden our technology, expand our customer base and market potential."

The decision to consolidate did not come easily. Bill Dungan, corporate vice president of sales and marketing for Draka Comteq USA, says the company was forced into decision-making mode when it considered the myriad of brand names it was using. "All of a sudden, we had all of these brand names," says Dungan. "We are overbooked when it comes to brand names; there's no question. Now, we will do something that is simple and easy." Draka Comteq USA Inc. is a subsidiary of Draka USA, the North American companies under the parent company of Draka Holding, NV comprised of 60 companies in 25 countries in Europe, America and Asia. Draka Comteq USA is now joined with three other North American companies, including BIW Cable Products, Tamaqua Cable Products, and Draka Elevator Products. In addition, the datacom and telecom product division of Draka Comteq USA is an integral partner of the global Draka Comteq communications marketing alliance, also under Draka Holding NV. Eleven different worldwide companies produce copper and fiber products under Draka Comteq.

Up until now, all manufacturing facilities for Helix/HiTemp were located in the building at 20 Forge Park. All optical-fiber manufacturing took place across the street in Building 9, where Draka USA's corporate headquarters are located. Now, the company has revised its 165,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which houses both copper and optical-fiber engineering, research, customer service, and manufacturing. Manufacturing will continue to operate a three-shift schedule for fiber and copper production. Included in the facility is a newly constructed 10,000-square-foot atmospherically controlled clean room housing that's critical for fiber operations.

The revisions will create a manufacturing plant within a plant, adding four additional lines of optical fiber. The new factory is expected to produce more than $75 million worth of cable and components per year. "We want to allow our strengths to feed off of each other, and get a greater market share," adds Mahall. Cabling Installation & Maintenance January, 2003

Author: Brian Milligan

Large Capacity Poke-Thru is Scrub Water Compliant

The Walker® RC4 Series poke-thru device from The Wiremold Company (Hartford, CT)– the industry's largest capacity flush poke-thru device – now exceeds forthcoming UL standards for scrub water exclusion. Beginning in June 2003, new standards under UL514A will require that the power compartments of poke-thru devices meet the carpet test for scrub water exclusion. The Wiremold Company has redesigned the RC4 poke-thru device to not only meet this standard, but also to meet the current and more stringent tile floor requirement. Thus, this poke-thru device is approved for use on tile/terrazzo, carpet, and wood floors.

Exclusive Top Guard protection uses gaskets in conjunction with integral slide covers to prevent water from entering the electrical compartment, as required by UL514A. Although not required by the standard, this protection has been extended to communications as well. Water entry into communications connectors is not considered a high risk for fire and/or shock, but the presence of moisture can damage connectors. A more practical advantage, however, is that gaskets that are designed to deter water also keep out dust and debris that can degrade the performance of sensitive communications systems.

The RC4 poke-thru device provides two dual-circuit, 20 amp duplex receptacles wired on individual circuits with separate neutral and ground wires. It also supports four multimedia data/communication connectors. The flush profile provides an aesthetic and unobtrusive solution for new and retrofit commercial office buildings, financial institutions, government buildings, airports and retail outlets. Cover plate flanges are available in gray, black, ivory, brushed aluminum or with a solid brass finish ring, and slide holders come in black, ivory and brass.

Merged fluoropolymer producers to call themselves Solvay Solexis

The Solvay Group is merging its fluoroppolymers activities with those of Ausimont into a new company, which will be officially launched under the name Solvay Solexis on January 1, 2003.

In May, Solvay completed the acquisition of Ausimont, estimated in value at 1.3 billion euros. Two chief executive officers-Bernard de Laguiche and Carlo Cogliati-will head Solvay Solexis, which will be headquartered in Bollate, Italy. The company will have approximately 1,800 employees, including an estimated 250 in research-and-development. Production sites and commercial branches will be located in five countries: Italy, the United States, France, Japan, and Brazil. The U.S. locations are in Thorofare and Belle Mead, NJ and Orange, TX. Solvay Solexis will keep all commercial trade names previously used by Solvay and Ausimont.

Solvay is a chemical and pharmaceutical group headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. It employs more than 31,400 people in 50 countries and includes four business sectors: chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and processing.


Released December 18, 2002

The Board of Directors of the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) decided to dismiss the petition by the special interests groups (to reduce fire safety by the elimination of Limited Combustible Cable). A unanimous vote concluded that this petition had no merit. We applaud all of the parties who supported the option for enhanced fire safety.


Article from TED Magazine (The Electrical Distributor Magazine) by Joe Salimando of EFJ Enterprises is a consultant, web content provider, and wordsmith.

Cat 6 - Copper's Last Stand?

Network magazine had an August article on "Troubleshooting Category 6 Cabling." It's very rare for the networking publications to deal with cabling. Find the article here. Much of the article discussed Cat 6 testers -- with equipment from Fluke, Ideal, Textron's Datacom, and Agilent named and covered.

Here's how the article ends:

"Agilent estimates that 20% of new cable installs are employing Category 6 components today and that the fraction will increase. Cable installers and network managers will both need to certify or test Category 6 systems soon, if they haven't already taken the leap. Fiber optic cabling hasn't caught on [hey, Eric!] in most customer premises and likely won't until the cost of network interface cards drops to near-parity with copper versions.

"Though the cable testing vendors will likely have to build in support for Category 7 and higher-capability copper links. Category 6 could possibly represent copper's last stand in commercial and residential environments."

The article's author was Steve Steinke, Network's editor-in-chief.

The TIA has a white paper on Cat 6 (carrying an August 2002 date) which is worth downloading (go here and, of course, register for free first). It includes a table of Cat 5, Cat 5e, and Cat 6 standards requirements. The paper notes the "key features" of the Cat 6 standard:

test plug qualification for near-end crosstalk and far-end crosstalk. These things are known to their friends as Heckle and Jeckle. . . oops, no, they are NEXT and FEXT.

patch cord performance requirements and test specifications.

measurement procedures for connecting hardware NEXT and FEXT. "These procedures required the creation of brand new fixtures, calibration procedures, and many refinements to ensure repeatability in different laboratories."

Unwittingly (I think), the TIA paper presents perspective on research in the technology field, by noting a March 3, 2000 projection from a researcher at Gartner, "that by 2003, 90% of all new enterprise copper cabling installations will be Category 6 (with a confidence level of 80%)." Oooops! At this point, you might want to get your money down on that 4-to-1 bet!

Incidentally, the search page on the TIA site lists the top searches performed on it (for easier access for those with Boolean handicaps, which probably includes me). The #1 search listed is Category 6. Back in early summer, I distinctly remember, Cat 6 was also the #1 search listed.


January 9 - 12, 2003
Las Vegas, Nevada

January 12 -15, 2003
Tempe, Arizona

January 13 - 16, 2003
Orlando, Florida

January 27 - 30, 2003
Washington, DC


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