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Issue: March 2009
By: Frank Bisbee

Datacom/Telecom Glossary
In This Issue

Bits N' Pieces


The economy stinks and everyone is asking “How low can the stock market go”.

On days like we have had recently, it helps to look at the silver lining.  Here it is: The farther stocks fall, the cheaper they get--and the higher the expected long-term return becomes.  Unfortunately, that doesn't mean we don't have a long way to go on the downside.

There were four massive stock bubbles in the 20th Century: 1901, 1929, 1966, and 2000.  During each of these bubble peaks, the S&P 500 neared or exceeded 25X on professor Robert Shiller's cyclically adjusted P/E ratio.*  After the first three of these peaks, the S&P 500 PE did not bottom until it hit 5X-8X.  We're still in the middle of the last one.

The most recent bubble peak, 2000, was by far the most extreme we have ever experienced.  In 2000, the S&P 500 (by professor Shiller's measure) exceeded 40X (it had never before exceeded 30X). With the S&P 5000 hitting 700 on 3-2-2009, the PE has now fallen back to 12X. 

Three major bubbles are not enough historical precedent to confidently conclude where the S&P 500 will bottom this time around, but it seems reasonable to conclude that the trough will be in line with--or below--the preceeding lows (Given that we just had the highest peak in history by a mile, it doesn't seem absurd to think that we might be headed for the lowest trough in history by a mile.)

Remember: Things are always darkest just before it goes completely black.

I am certainly glad that I am in the communications and information infrastructure business. I don’t wish I was in the automotive or real estate sectors.

But that’s just my opinion,

Frank Bisbee
"Heard On The Street" Monthly Column
4949 Sunbeam Rd, Suite 16
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Industry News


Mary Fournier, the senior Teknor Apex Company representative in charge of customer service for cable manufacturer Northwire, Inc., has received Northwire’s Whale Award for outstanding service.

Northwire purchasing manager Rod Larson cited Fournier for her reliability in ensuring that the Teknor Apex vinyl and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) compounds required by Northwire are in stock and ready to ship when the customer needs it, and for her skill in working with freight carriers to arrange for on-time delivery. “Consistently short lead times and on-time delivery greatly help us to serve our customers in the marketplace,” Larson said in his presentation to Fournier. “You have played a key role in enabling us to do so.”  

In addition, Larson noted, Fournier now supports Northwire’s international operations by providing the same fast and reliable service for shipments to the company’s facility in Suzhou, China, where Teknor Apex also manufactures vinyl compounds.

The name of the Northwire award refers to the “Whale” graphic that for several years was a symbol for the company and is still used in honoring excellence. The symbol commemorates an incident in the 1990s that received worldwide attention, as Northwire power cable played a role in special de-icing equipment set up to free three whales trapped in the Arctic ice.

NORTHWIRE, INC. is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of industrial-grade technical cable. Custom design choices include paired, non-paired, triads, various shielding and grounding options, special insulation options, and a variety of conductor and jacket materials and colors. The company is headquartered at 110 Prospect Way, Osceola, WI 54020 U.S.A.  Tel: 1-715-294-2121. Email:  Visit

Founded in 1924, TEKNOR APEX COMPANY is a privately held company with seven business units and 2,000 employees.  It is headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, U.S.A., manufactures at 12 locations in the U.S. and overseas, and sells in 86 countries. Visit  


John Moritz and Paul Harvey gone in 2009, but not forgotten

Each in their own way made remarkable contributions to our world.

John Moritz – a champion for safety in the cabling world

John was a man of deep convictions and strong passions.  Those of you who have seen him working on various codes and standards issues through the years are well-acquainted with both his fierce intellect and intense passion for what he believed to be right.  These characteristics were fundamental parts of John’s personal life as well.  His family was his number one priority.  John believed very strongly in doing the right thing just because it was the right thing, even if everyone else around him disagreed or took another path.  I have heard from many of his colleagues that John’s passion impacted them deeply and that they learned much from him in terms of character and commitment.  It is a comfort to know that John has touched so many lives in the business world and that hopefully some of his principles will live on in the actions and memories of those people.  While we, his family and friends, will miss him dearly, we truly believe that he is with us in spirit and I know that includes this meeting as well as there are many attendees here with whom John enjoyed very gratifying relationships and good times.  Thank you for honoring John’s memory with this moment of silence.  Please keep him in your hearts and minds as you move forward with your work over the coming months and years so that his impact continues to live on.
Juliet Moritz

JOHN M.MORITZ, JR., 46 of Blue Bell, PA, died on January 17, 2009. Beloved husband of Juliet M. (Pederson) Moritz. Son of Anna Marie (Cullerton) Acosta and John Moritz, Sr. Step-son of Fred Acosta. Father of John C. Moritz, Elizabeth P. Moritz, Jennifer L. Moritz. Step-father of Nicholas A. Gruninger USN, Bennett J. Gruninger. Brother of Marianne P. Russo, Michael J. Moritz. Relatives and friends are invited to his Memorial Service, Friday, Jan. 23rd at 7 P.M. at Blue Bell Country Club, 1800 Tournament Dr., Blue Bell, PA. Reception prior from 6:30 - 7 P.M. Please omit flowers, donations in John's name to John M. Moritz, Jr. Scholarship Fund, c/o Wachovia Bank, 1375 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422 or a remembrance story sent to the family, are appreciated. Arr. by EMIL J. CIAVARELLI FAMILY FUNERAL HOMES, Ambler
Published in the Philadelphia Inquirer & Philadelphia Daily News on 1/20/2009 

Paul Harvey - an icon in media

Broadcasting pioneer Paul Harvey dies at age of 90

By RUPA SHENOY, Associated Press Writer Rupa Shenoy, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 1, 8:16 am ET

CHICAGO – Paul Harvey, the news commentator and talk-radio pioneer whose staccato style made him one of the nation’s most familiar voices, died Saturday in Arizona, according to ABC Radio Networks. He was 90.

Harvey died surrounded by family at a hospital in Phoenix, where he had a winter home, said Louis Adams, a spokesman for ABC Radio Networks, where Harvey worked for more than 50 years. No cause of death was immediately available.

Harvey had been forced off the air for several months in 2001 because of a virus that weakened a vocal cord. But he returned to work in Chicago and was still active as he passed his 90th birthday. His death comes less than a year after that of his wife and longtime producer, Lynne.

“My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news,” Paul Harvey Jr. said in a statement. “So in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents and today millions have lost a friend.”

Known for his resonant voice and trademark delivery of “The Rest of the Story,” Harvey had been heard nationally since 1951, when he began his “News and Comment” for ABC Radio Networks.

He became a heartland icon, delivering news and commentary with a distinctive Midwestern flavor. “Stand by for news!” he told his listeners. He was credited with inventing or popularizing terms such as “skyjacker,” “Reaganomics” and “guesstimate.”

“Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation’s history,” ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said in a statement. “We will miss our dear friend tremendously and are grateful for the many years we were so fortunate to have known him.”

In 2005, Harvey was one of 14 notables chosen as recipients of the presidential Medal of Freedom. He also was an inductee in the Radio Hall of Fame, as was Lynne.

Former President George W. Bush remembered Harvey as a “friendly and familiar voice in the lives of millions of Americans.”

“His commentary entertained, enlightened, and informed,” Bush said in a statement. “Laura and I are pleased to have known this fine man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Harvey composed his twice-daily news commentaries from a downtown Chicago office near Lake Michigan.

Rising at 3:30 each morning, he ate a bowl of oatmeal, then combed the news wires and spoke with editors across the country in search of succinct tales of American life for his program.

At the peak of his career, Harvey reached more than 24 million listeners on more than 1,200 radio stations and charged $30,000 to give a speech. His syndicated column was carried by 300 newspapers.

His fans identified with his plainspoken political commentary, but critics called him an out-of-touch conservative. He was an early supporter of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy and a longtime backer of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps Harvey’s most famous broadcast came in 1970, when he abandoned that stance, announcing his opposition to President Nixon’s expansion of the war and urging him to get out completely.

“Mr. President, I love you ... but you’re wrong,” Harvey said, shocking his faithful listeners and drawing a barrage of letters and phone calls, including one from the White House.

In 1976, Harvey began broadcasting his anecdotal descriptions of the lives of famous people. “The Rest of the Story” started chronologically, with the person’s identity revealed at the end. The stories were an attempt to capture “the heartbeats behind the headlines.” Much of the research and writing was done by his son, Paul Jr.

Harvey also blended news with advertising, a line he said he crossed only for products he trusted.

In 2000, at age 82, he signed a new 10-year contract with ABC Radio Networks.

Harvey was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa, Okla. His father, a police officer, was killed when he was a toddler. A high school teacher took note of his distinctive voice and launched him on a broadcast career.

While working at St. Louis radio station KXOK, he met Washington University graduate student Lynne Cooper. He proposed on their first date (she said “no”) and always called her “Angel.” They were married in 1940 and had a son, Paul Jr.

They worked closely together on his shows, and he often credited his success to her influence. She was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997, seven years after her husband was. She died in May 2008. or

“And now you know the rest of the story…”


ADC Updates Financial Outlook and Plans New Cost Reduction Initiatives

ADC (NASDAQ: ADCT)( announced an update to its first quarter fiscal 2009 guidance as well as additional plans to better align its cost structure with the current economic outlook and market demand. The company is implementing a number of new cost reduction initiatives across its operations to drive efficiencies and improve profitability and cash flows.

"In response to the ongoing difficult macroeconomic conditions and slower market demand, we are taking further cost reduction actions both to solidify our competitive position as a leading provider of high-quality equipment to fiber-based and wireless communications networks worldwide and improve our overall financial performance," said Robert E. Switz, chairman, president and CEO of ADC. "For the past three years we have been highly focused on driving costs out of our operations. This effort is intensifying as we work to achieve additional operating efficiencies in every area of the company. We also remain committed to maintaining a strong financial position with ample liquidity, allowing us to have operational and strategic flexibility in meeting the current and long-term needs of our global customer base. Despite the challenges we face in 2009, the unrelenting global demand for bandwidth will continue to offer strategic opportunities for ADC in the fastest-growing segments of our customers' networks."

Updated Guidance

ADC announced the following updated first quarter fiscal 2009 guidance:

  • ·        Net sales of $240-255 million
  • ·        Gross margins of around 29%
  • ·        GAAP diluted loss per share of $(0.17) - $(0.23), which includes non-cash amortization expense of $(0.09) per share

ADC's previous guidance provided on Dec. 9, 2008 estimated net sales of $255-290 million and GAAP diluted loss per share of $(0.05) - $(0.17), including non-cash amortization expense of $(0.09) per share. The updated estimate does not include the potential impairment charge discussed later in this announcement.

The reduced revenue levels in the updated financial outlook primarily reflect the challenging macroeconomic environment and declining customer spending within the telecommunications industry. These factors have significantly impacted results in all business segments and across a majority of our geographies.

The updated estimates are subject to the completion of ADC's actual financial results for the first quarter that ended Jan. 30, 2009. ADC plans to announce its financial results for the first quarter for fiscal year 2009 on March 3, 2009.

Cost Reduction Plans

Based on the company's current outlook for the macroeconomy and market demand, ADC is improving the focus of its business operations by further reducing discretionary spending and capital expenditures and introducing new general and administrative process improvements. In addition, the company is implementing a general hiring freeze and planning additional workforce reductions. ADC expects to take a restructuring charge for some of these initiatives in the second quarter. Specific restructuring charges and employee reductions have not yet been finalized and will be reported separately at a later date.

Bank Line of Credit

As of January 30, 2009, ADC has terminated its $200 million bank line of credit. This facility had no outstanding balances and, as a result of the current economic environment, had become increasingly costly to maintain.

"We did not borrow funds under this bank line of credit and, based on the fact that it was increasingly unlikely that we would be able to utilize the credit facility under current terms of the agreement, we determined that the expense of maintaining it could be eliminated," said James G. Mathews, ADC's chief financial officer. "ADC maintains a strong balance sheet and cash position that continues to leave us well positioned to navigate through this challenging environment. After using approximately $90 million to buy back our common stock during the first quarter of fiscal 2009, we presently expect to end the quarter with over $500 million in cash."

Goodwill Impairment Analysis

ADC also reported that it is currently conducting an interim goodwill impairment analysis to determine if it is necessary to record an impairment charge to reduce the book value of its goodwill and other long-lived assets related to one or more of its operating segments. The company has undertaken this analysis based on a combination of factors, including the current economic environment and adverse market conditions that have resulted in a sustained decline in ADC's stock price as of Jan. 30, 2009. ADC presently expects that the results of this analysis will result in a significant non-cash impairment charge in its first quarter financial results that are scheduled to be reported on March 3, 2009.

March 3, 2009 Conference Call and Webcast for First Fiscal Quarter 2009 Financial Results

ADC will discuss its first quarter results during a conference call currently scheduled for March 3, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. The conference call can be accessed by domestic callers at (800) 399-7506 and by international callers at (706) 634-2489 or on the Internet at, by clicking on Webcasts.

About ADC

ADC provides the connections for wireline, wireless, cable, broadcast, and enterprise networks around the world. ADC's innovative network infrastructure equipment and professional services enable high-speed Internet, data, video, and voice services to residential, business and mobile subscribers. ADC (NASDAQ: ADCT) has sales into more than 130 countries. Learn more about ADC at


Anixter International Inc. Announces a $200 Million 5 Year Senior Note Offering by Anixter Inc.

Anixter International Inc. (NYSE: AXE - News), a leading global distributor of communications and security products, electrical and electronic wire & cable, fasteners and other small parts, (March 2, 2009) announced that through its wholly owned subsidiary, Anixter Inc., it is offering $200 million of senior notes due 2014.

Anixter International Inc. fully and unconditionally guarantees the notes, which are unsecured obligations of Anixter Inc. The proceeds will be used to pay down short term borrowings and for general corporate purposes.

The offering will be made under Anixter Inc.'s existing effective shelf registration statement. Copies of the prospectus and prospectus supplement may be obtained from Anixter International Inc., 2301 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview, Illinois 60026, Attn: Treasurer. This press release shall not constitute an offer to buy nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any jurisdiction to any person where such offer or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction.

About Anixter

Anixter International is the world's leading distributor of communications and security products, electrical and electronic wire & cable, fasteners and other small parts. The company adds value to the distribution process by providing its customers access to 1) innovative inventory management programs, 2) more than 425,000 products and over $1 billion in inventory, 3) 237 warehouses with more than 6.5 million square feet of space, and 4) locations in 271 cities in 52 countries. Founded in 1957 and headquartered near Chicago, Anixter trades on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AXE.


Belden Declares Regular Quarterly Dividend

The Board of Directors of Belden (NYSE: BDC - News) declared a regular quarterly dividend of five cents per share payable on April 2, 2009 to all shareholders of record as of March 16, 2009. The Company has also established May 20, 2009 as the date for its annual meeting of shareholders.

About Belden

Sending All the Right Signals -- from industrial automation to data centers, from broadcast studios to aerospace, from cutting-edge wireless communications to consumer electronics, Belden people are committed to delivering the best signal transmission solutions in the world. Belden associates work in copper cable, fiber, wireless technology, connectors, switches and active components to bring voice, video and data to your mission- critical application. With 2008 revenue of $2.0 billion, Belden has manufacturing capability in North America, Europe and Asia. To obtain additional information contact Investor Relations at 314-854-8054, or visit our website at


Cisco lays off 250, more to come

Cisco Systems, which previously had been distinct among large network equipment vendors for not initiating job cuts as part of broader cost cuts, finally did lay off 250 employees this week. The company, according to The Wall Street Journal, plans to cut up to 2,000 jobs, but Cisco CEO John Chambers has insisted that Cisco will not be rocked by broader job cuts affecting a large percentage of its workforce. The company had 64,000 employees as of January, and late last year announced a hiring freeze and $1 billion in cost cuts.

For more:
- The Wall Street Journal has this report

Related articles
Cisco recently posted a 27 percent drop in quarterly profit
Cisco announced $1 billion in cost cuts last November


CommScope shares sink after 4Q report

CommScope shares fall after 4th-qtr and 1Q revenue outlooks miss analyst expectations

CommScope Inc. shares plummeted Friday after the network infrastructure maker's fourth-quarter revenue missed analyst views and also predicted first-quarter revenue far below Wall Street expectations.

Shares of the Hickory, N.C.-based company fell $4.34, or 32.9 percent, to $8.83.

For the quarter that ended Dec. 31, CommScope fell to a loss of $342.4 million, or $4.86 per share, compared with a profit of $37.6 percent, or 51 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

The company said the loss was due mostly to $397.1 million in non-cash impairment charges, which included $359.5 million in goodwill and intangible asset charges, $17.7 million in amortization charges and $8.8 million in restructuring charges.

When excluding items such as these, CommScope earned $43.6 million, or 55 cents per share, which is a penny greater than what analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected.

Revenue rose 86 percent to $861.8 million, helped mainly by the company's late-2007 purchase of communications equipment maker Andrew Corp.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of 54 cents on $866.6 million in revenue.

For the full year, the company reported a loss of $228.5 million, or $3.29 per share, compared with a profit of $204.8 million, or $2.78 per share, in 2007. Adjusted earnings totaled $264.8 million, or $3.31 per share in 2008.

CommScope's revenue totaled $4.02 billion in 2008, more than double the $1.93 billion it reported the year before.

For the current quarter, the company predicted a loss, with revenue of between $720 million and $770 million. Analysts expect a profit of 46 cents per share, with higher revenue of $822.9 million. CommScope added that it expects better results in the second and third quarters, which are seasonally strong for the company.

In a client note, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Jeffrey Beach cut his price target by $7 to $33. He lowered his 2009 earnings forecast to $2.24 per share from $3.20, saying half of that cut is in the company's first quarter.

"The 1Q guidance is so weak that forecasting the rebound in 2Q and beyond is difficult, in our view," he said.


Danaher Announces Pricing of Senior Notes Offering

Danaher Corporation (NYSE: DHR - News) announced Thursday February 26, 2009 that it has priced a public offering of $750 million of its 5.40% senior notes due 2019.

Danaher expects to receive net proceeds, after expenses, of approximately $744 million. Danaher intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to repay all or a portion of Danaher's outstanding commercial paper and for other general corporate purposes. The offering is expected to close on March 5, 2009.

Banc of America Securities LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Goldman, Sachs & Co. are acting as joint book-running managers.

The offering is being made pursuant to an effective registration statement filed by Danaher Corporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 14, 2006.

The offering of the senior notes may be made only by means of a prospectus. A copy of the prospectus and prospectus supplement relating to the senior notes can be obtained from Banc of America Securities LLC's Prospectus Department at 100 West 33rd Street New York, NY 10001, telephone 1-800-294-1322, email; from Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. at Harborside Financial Center, 100 Plaza One, Floor 2, Jersey City, NY, 07311-3988. Attn: Prospectus Department, telephone 1-800-503-4611, email; and from Goldman, Sachs & Co.'s Prospectus Department at 85 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, telephone: 1-866-471-2526, facsimile: 1-212-902-9316, email:

Danaher Corporation is a leading manufacturer of Professional Instrumentation, Medical Technologies, Industrial Technologies and Tools and Components.


Dow Corning says it will cut 800 jobs worldwide

Dow Corning Corp. says it will eliminate 800 jobs, about 8 percent of its global work force

-- Dow Corning Corp. says it will cut 800 jobs, or about 8 percent of its 10,000-member global work force, because of the poor economy.

The company, a joint venture between Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. and Corning, N.Y.-based Corning Inc., will eliminate the jobs during the first half of 2009 through a combination of voluntary retirement programs and involuntary layoffs.

The Midland Daily News says only voluntary separations will be considered at Dow Corning locations in the United Kingdom and at its Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. joint venture in Saginaw County.

Dow Corning spokesman Jarrod Erpelding told The Bay City Times that it isn't known how many of the company's 3,500 Michigan employees will be affected. About 1,300 work at its corporate headquarters in Bay County's Williams Township and factory in Auburn combined.


DuPont finance chief doesn't see recovery in 2009

DuPont CFO doesn't see recovery in 2009, says stimulus package could boost sales

DuPont likely won't bounce back from the economic slump this year, though it stands to benefit from a stimulus package under debate in Congress, the chemical maker's chief financial officer said Tuesday.

"We're not immune from this recession," Jeffery Keefer said at the Barclays Industrial conference in Miami. "We do not expect recovery in 2009."

The Wilmington, Del.-based company, also known as EI DuPont de Nemours & Co., said last month it swung to a fourth-quarter loss as sales and volumes fell sharply.

Part of the loss was due to a restructuring plan, including more than 2,500 layoffs, announced late last year. Others in the sector, including Huntsman Corp., Dow Chemical Co., Rohm & Haas Co. and Ashland, have also announced layoffs in recent months in an attempt to cut costs.

DuPont earned $2 billion, or $2.20 per share, in 2008, down from $2.9 billion, or $3.22 per share, in 2007.

For 2009, the company expects to earn $2 to $2.50 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect, on average, earnings of $2.05 per share for the year.

DuPont is now working to conserve and generate cash, and maintain its balance sheet, Keefer said.

The company will slash capital spending and expenses this year, and focus on high-growth areas, including its agricultural and alternative energy businesses, he said.

Construction products -- including its pavement materials and Tyvek home wrap -- could see an uptick in sales if the final version of a stimulus package currently under debate in Congress is approved, Keefer said.

"We're well positioned to go through this economic recession," he said.

The company will return excess cash to shareholders "unless we have compelling growth opportunities," he said.

"We understand the dividend is the corner of our valuation," Keefer said. The dividend has been paid consecutively for more than 400 quarters,  


The current industry position for next-gen standards

By pwylie

While optimism for a late 2009 finalization of the 10G EPON standard abounds, the actual deployment of the technology likely will take much longer, due to several considerations.

Alcatel-Lucent is a co-author of the IEEE standard for 10G EPON currently being developed, and it has a significant role in developing the 10G GPON standard too, according to Marcus Weldon, CTO for Alcatel-Lucent's wireline network division. Weldon said significant deployments of 10G PON technologies, both GPON and EPON, likely won't occur in live networks until 2011. He said that even once 10G EPON has been standardized and products have been developed around the standard, uptake could be limited by the success of current deployments of 2.5G GPON.

"We don't see any urgent need in the market for 10G technology," Weldon said. "Currently with 2.5G GPON, the upstream and downstream speeds at capacity are more than sufficient for customers' needs, and very few deployments actually have the take rate to be at full capacity, meaning speeds are usually greater for individual users anyway. The biggest play I see for 10G EPON currently is high-density areas where it allows for more nodes per PON through greater splitting capacity for multi-dwelling units."

Scott Wilkinson, VP of marketing for Hitachi, is also less than optimistic about the market opportunity for 10G EPON.

"There are problems with both flavors of IEEE standardized 10G EPON currently available," Wilkinson said. "First, the 10G downstream/1G upstream does not offer enough bandwidth upstream; and the 10G downstream/10G upstream is prohibitively expensive, because it requires a pricy core chip set."

He echoed Weldon's comments about successful GPON deployments keeping future demand for 10G low.

"Right now, GPON provides plenty of bandwidth, a lot more than people use or need," Wilkinson said. "Many carriers are deploying GPON right now, and they'll be able to upgrade to 10G EPON when it becomes available without changing outside points of deployment."

Wilkinson expects some limited 10G EPON deployments, mainly to enterprise customers, some time early next year, with commercial deployments beginning in late 2010. He was quick to add though that the commercial viability of 10G EPON has yet to be demonstrated.

"It will be two to three years before we see any significant residential 10G EPON deployments in the U.S.," Wilkinson said.

Julie Kunstler, VP business development for Teknovus, said her company is well underway with development of 10G EPON chip sets. Kunstler expects chips to ship in late 2009. Kunstler sees high demand for 10G EPON technology, but she said the driving factors are very different for developing and developed nations.

In Japan, for instance, Kunstler said the majority of demand for 10G EPON has been due to large amounts of bandwidth needed to run high-end video applications. She said numerous vendors and carriers are testing the standard for future deployment to meet their ever-growing bandwidth needs.

In China, on the other hand, carriers want 10G EPON for the density it would enable in high-occupancy buildings in China's rapidly growing urban areas. Since existing infrastructure is poor in most parts of the country, Kunstler said carriers are looking at newer technologies for network overhaul, rather than building on top of existing systems as carriers have done in developed markets like the U.S. and Japan. She also noted that Teknovus has EPON deployments in every Chinese province save one, and it will migrate some existing networks to the 10G standard once it is finalized.

While Kunstler said she sees demand rising in both sectors for 10G EPON, she said increased demand will really drive adoption, because it will make the technology more affordable through scale.

Source URL:


Published on FierceTelecom (

The current industry position for next-gen standards - Part 2

By pwylie

Weldon agreed that Asian markets, and specifically Japan, are the ones poised to see the largest deployments of 10G EPON in the near future. He said some of the desire to move to 10G EPON there has been somewhat driven by carriers wanting to stay on the EPON standard, but also to upgrade from 1G EPON. Weldon said he had heard discussions that 1G EPON was maxed out in a technological sense, which Weldon said were driven more by perception rather than actual use cases.

Weldon said Alcatel-Lucent will leverage its strong market position in broadband access to experiment and test 10G EPON and GPON, as well as WDM-PON. 

As far as the standard that U.S. companies were likely to adopt for next-gen optical networking, Wilkinson said the ITU standard would likely gain more traction. He cited the telecom industry's familiarity and investment in the ITU and the robustness of the ITU standard as reasons U.S. companies would likely go with ITU over the IEEE standard. Wilkinson likes the ITU standard because of its standard of 10G downstream and 2.5G upstream, which he said gives a more cost-effective and useful offering for present conditions and demand.

Kunstler expects the U.S. cable players to consider 10G EPON as a viable alternative to DOCSIS technology in an effort to compete with Verizon's FiOS by offering faster individual downstream capabilities. She said 10G EPON's speed could help cable companies grab a larger share of the enterprise market, where they have traditionally lagged far behind telecommunications companies. She also thinks that instead of deploying current industry-leading optical networking technology, such as GPON, carriers will wait until 10G EPON is available to upgrade their networks.

While Kunstler is bullish on 10G EPON deployments, she thinks other next-gen optical networking technologies are not going to be as well received. For instance, Kunstler thinks that WDM-PON's lack of standards will keep it from ever becoming a mass-market technology.

WDM-PON's main advocate seems to be LG-Nortel, the joint venture between the companies in the wireline space. Nortel's acquisition of Novera in Aug. 2008 primed the joint venture's focus on WDM-PON.

While everyone quoted in this article agreed that WDM-PON was several years away from meaningful deployment (Weldon said no earlier than 2012), LG-Nortel has said [1] they are in WDM-PON trials with more than 10 operators globally.

LG-Nortel says that the WDM-PON could be standardized and cost-effective as early as 2011, but sets 2013 as the late end of its schedule. It said fiber needs to be deployed more widely and applications requiring more bandwidth must continue to expand for the market for WDM-PON to form.

Source URL:



GE shares hit 16-yr low following dividend cut GE shares tumble to 16-yr low days after company slashes dividend for 1st time in decades

Shares of General Electric Corp. slid to a 16-year low Monday after the industrial conglomerate cut its quarterly dividend for the first time in decades.

On Friday, the Fairfield, Conn.-based company said it will pay shareholders a dividend of 10 cents beginning in the third quarter, down from the company's prior dividend of 31 cents.

The dividend cut, allowing GE to save $9 billion annually, had been long predicted by Wall Street and was the company's first since 1938. The move follows a similar cut announced by Dow Chemical Co. last month.

In a note to investors Sunday, analyst Jeffrey T. Sprague of Citi Investment Research wrote that the cut was "deeper than generally expected, but it makes sense to cut deep while the ax is out to hopefully avoid the need for another round.

"While this move is a reputational blow to GE and an income hit to long-suffering shareholders, it had to be done," he added. The analyst maintained a "Hold" rating on the stock.

Shares of GE slid 80 cents, or 9.4 percent, to $7.71 in midday trading Monday. Earlier in the day, GE stock hit a low of $7.51. The shares last sank below that level in April 1993.


HCM Invests in New Cable Manufacturing Equipment

Hitachi Cable Manchester (HCM) continues to be a leader in the development of new and innovative copper and fiber optic communication cables. 

HCM continues to invest in the latest cable manufacturing technology.  Even during tough economic times, HCM has chosen to install four new Triple Torsion Twisters.  The twisters, which were installed February 16, will not only increase manufacturing capacity, but will produce twisted pairs at a speed three-times faster than previous models.  The twisters are used in the manufacture of high-performance Category 6 cables.  While many manufactures are choosing to forgo upgrades to their facilities, HCM has determined that the new twisters will better position HCM in the market once demand is back on the rise.  The new twisters are also more energy efficient than previous models. 

About HCM

HCM, located in Manchester, NH manufacturers a complete line of copper and fiber optic cables for the communication industry.  Over 3,300 different cable products are manufactured at this facility.  In addition to Category 6A cables, products include Category 6 and 5e cables, outdoor Category 5e and 6 cables, indoor and outdoor fiber optic cables, armored fiber optic cables as well as plenum-rated indoor/outdoor fiber optic cables.

To learn more about HCM products and where you can purchase them, please contact HCM toll free at 800-772-0116 or visit the HCM website at


Intertek featured on truTV special “Testing the Limits”

truTV and Intertek take viewers into the world of smash-and-burn product testing; new television special premiering Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 11PM EST.

Intertek (LSE: ITRK), a leading provider of quality and safety solutions announced today that its laboratories will be featured in a new television special titled, Testing the Limits, premiering on the truTV network, Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 11 PM EST. Testing the Limits demonstrates the “bang, crash, boom” testing that a product must endure before it ever makes it on a shelf and into the hands of the consumer.

The show, filmed at three Intertek laboratories across the US, is chronicled by two Intertek engineers as they take viewers on an exclusive, behind the scenes journey into the world of product safety and performance testing. Testing the Limits gives the public a never-before-seen look into the exciting world of product testing. But it’s all “just another day” for Intertek, as pushing products to their failure point is what the company has done for clients for over 100 years.

“We are excited to work with truTV to elevate the awareness of product safety to the masses in a unique and entertaining way,” said Gregg Tiemann, Chief Executive, Intertek Commercial & Electrical Products. “Our company is known for creating innovative approaches in the industry, and using TV to spotlight the importance of product safety, in a bold way, aligns with the way we operate our business.”

Intertek opened its doors to truTV for this unique special to bring the unknown and unheralded world of product testing to the consumers.  Each year Intertek conducts millions of product tests and inspections across thousands of product categories throughout its network of more than 1,000 labs. The company’s ETL Listed Mark is the safety certification of choice for thousands of global manufacturers – from medical devices and automotive products to HVAC units, lighting products, industrial machinery, and much more – and can be found on millions of products sold across North America every year.

Visit or for more information!


Manufacturing sector contracts again in February

A private measure of the nation's manufacturing sector contracted for the 13th straight month in February, but at a slower pace than expected.

The reading suggested to some economists that the decline of the ailing factory sector could be bottoming out, though they expect a recovery is still far in the future.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said Monday its manufacturing index actually rose to 35.8 from 35.6 in January. Analysts had expected a drop to 33.8, and a reading below 50 indicates the sector is shrinking.

The index, which is based on a survey of members of the Tempe, Ariz.-based group, has fallen steadily since August as the economy has deteriorated, hitting a 28-year low of 32.9 in December.

"Survey respondents appear generally pessimistic about recovery in 2009," said Norbert Ore, chairman of the group's survey committee. "Some express hope that the stimulus package will help their industry."

The new report showed manufacturers cutting jobs at a rapid pace while new orders fell. The employment index fell to 26.1 in February, a new record low, from 29.9 the previous month. New orders dipped to 33.1 from 33.2.

The production index increased for the second straight month, to 36.3, from 32.1 in January.

None of the 18 industries covered by the survey -- including wood products, primary metals, electrical equipment, transportation equipment and machinery -- reported growth.

"While the index continues to show the manufacturing sector to be in a steep decline, the steady readings of the last two months suggest the decline is not accelerating," David Resler, chief economist at Nomura Securities International, wrote in a note to clients.

Separately, the Commerce Department said Monday that construction spending dropped 3.3 percent in January, the fourth straight monthly decline. Wall Street economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 1.5 percent drop. Residential construction fell 2.9 percent and nonresidential activity dropped 4.3 percent, the biggest decline since January 1994.

The department also said that consumer spending rose in January after falling for a record six straight months, pushed higher by purchases of food and other nondurable items. Consumer spending rose 0.6 percent, even better than the 0.4 percent gain that economists expected, though the rebound was viewed mostly as a blip and not a sign of extended recovery.

President Barack Obama last month signed into law a $787 billion stimulus package in spending and tax cuts, but U.S. manufacturers are getting hammered by a global recession that is sharply cutting demand for domestic products and sinking American exports.

General Motors Corp. last week reported an annual loss of $30.9 billion. The Detroit automaker, which shed 10,000 jobs in February alone, has said it may need up to $30 billion from the government to keep it afloat.

Thousands more job cuts were announced last month by a variety of manufacturers, including Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., welding products manufacturer Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., flash memory maker Spansion Inc. and makeup company Estee Lauder Cos.


Megladon® Announces New Product Release of LGX Fiber Distribution Panels

Megladon issued a new product release of standard LGX Fiber Distribution Panels to compliment its HLC® SCRATCHGUARD™ patch cords and trunk cables.  Also in the new product line is a full suite of cable management products including fanning panels, storage and combination shelves.

By incorporating HLC SCRATCHGUARD patch cords and trunk cables into the distribution product line, Megladon is able to deliver the most robust turnkey solutions of any company in the marketplace.  These solutions can be shipped pre-tested and pre-populated for installation time-savings and increased network performance.  Megladon has experience in making complex fiber networks simple, and the versatile LGX Fiber Distribution System products create value within our customer’s networks.

“The addition of fiber distribution products is exciting and allows Megladon to diversify our product portfolio.  Being able to offer turnkey solutions with our HLC cables assemblies increases our value to the marketplace”, stated Daniel Hogberg, Product Group Manager at Megladon. He continued, “A mated pair of matched HLC connectors at the distribution panel provides the highest level of performance in a fiber optic network.”

Why is the ScratchGuard™ technology a big value in this new product? This patented new technology really delivers Durability and Dependability. For example we found out that the ScratchGuard technology has already made a big impact on portable fiber optic testing performance. Incredible but true: Test results showed that over 1000 insertions of the Megladon Scratch Guard™ Fiber Optic test cables used on the Fluke Networks amazing DTX CableAnalyzer™ showed virtually no degradation or scratching.

Richard Brammer, Special Projects Manager for Communication Planning Corporation (a communications contractor based in Jacksonville, FL), told us that this new product has added a significant boost to the value of CPC’s solutions package. “We really save time and deliver a better installation with the Megladon LGX Fiber Distribution System products. Any reconfiguration is easier for field technicians.”  The Megladon product line supports the technician with terminations, connections, splices and convenient access within fiber optic networks.  

Megladon Manufacturing Group Ltd., a subsidiary of TyRex Group Ltd.®, is recognized as a leader in the fiber optic marketplace. Founded in 1997, Megladon made it their mission to provide customers with fiber optic products that far exceed industry standards. As technology innovators, Megladon created the HLC (Hardened Lens Contact) termination, which has changed the market and taken it to the next level. For additional information on Megladon and their patented processes please visit the company’s website at or respond by email to


New Support for ADC Jacks Make JackRapid The Most Versatile, Fastest Punchdown Tool Available

Support for more jacks, redesigned ergonomic handle help installers complete punchdowns 8 times faster than single punch tools, with less effort and at lower cost

Fluke Networks today announced new interchangeable blade heads for the JackRapid™ termination tool that support ADC TrueNet® KM8 and Copper Ten® style cable jacks.  JackRapid now supports the vast majority of jack styles commonly used by cable installers.

The groundbreaking JackRapid™ termination tool lets technicians install jacks up to 8 times faster than with traditional punchdown tools.  Users can terminate and trim all eight wires in a jack at once with one easy squeeze, reducing the time spent on the job and saving labor costs. 

JackRapid's new ergonomically designed handle requires less effort when performing the punchdown process, reducing hand fatigue and allowing more jacks to be punched down faster.  The handle also includes a built-in wire jacket stripper.  With JackRapid's jacket stripper and the ability to precisely trim all 8 wires without separate snips, installers need fewer tools at the job site.  The built-in stripper and consistent punchdown action also combine to improve the overall quality level of the job while time to completion goes down.

In an installation of 1000 jacks, a standard single-wire punchdown tool may require 29 labor hours at an average project cost of approximately $1,445 USD.  The same installation job utilizing JackRapid requires 10 hours at an average project cost of approximately $500 USD.  Compared to the traditional single-wire punchdown tools, JackRapid can cut installation time and cost by 2/3. 

JackRapid’s patented design features an interchangeable termination head that holds the jack in place.  Different style heads accommodate jack styles from most popular manufacturers.  The termination head uses a wall-friendly design to that makes close-to-wall installations far easier than with other types of tools.

JackRapid increases accuracy and reliability.  Fewer reworks are needed, which increases client confidence and further time savings for the installer. JackRapid is also safer, reducing the risk that technicians will punch into the palms of their hands or through drywall when terminating jacks.

Product Availability

The JackRapid™ Termination Tool with punchdown capability for the C6a CopperTen® UTP RJ45 jack and the C6 TrueNet® KM8 UTP RJ45 jack for category 6 and is available for immediate delivery through Fluke Networks’ sales channels worldwide.  Interchangeable blade heads and replacement ergonomic handles are also available separately.  For a full list of blade heads and jack compatibility visit

About Fluke Networks

Fluke Networks provides innovative solutions for the testing, monitoring and analysis of enterprise and telecommunications networks and the installation and certification of the fiber and copper forming the foundation for those networks. The company's comprehensive line of Network SuperVision solutions™ provide network installers, owners, and maintainers with superior vision, combining speed, accuracy and ease of use to optimize network performance. Headquartered in Everett, Washington, the company distributes its products in more than 50 countries. More information can be found by visiting Fluke Networks’ Web site at or by calling (800) 283-5853.



Nortel Networks, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, said today it will eliminate another 3,200 jobs in the coming months as it re-organizes. The company currently employs about 30,000 people around the world, a number which itself is less than one-third of what the company's total payroll was back in the late 1990s.

Nortel will not pay severance to the employees who lose their jobs, an Associated Press story says. Neither will the company be paying management bonuses for 2008, after the Nortel board approved a management recommendation to eliminate the bonuses. Nortel has been busy since filing for bankruptcy protection, agreeing late last week to sell its Alteon application delivery systems unit to Radware.


Good things happen when GREEN meets SAFETY

Increasing we are seeing cabling specs and designs in the USA calling for the use of LSZH RoHS (Low Smoke Zero Halogen + RoHS compliant) in place of traditional non-plenum cable constructions. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is guiding the way to better and safer practices. Most of the major cable manufacturers product lines include RoHS compliant LSZH (Low-Smoke Zero-Halogen) cables that they market in Europe and the UK. Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive or RoHS) was adopted in February 2003 by the European Union. Note: the RoHS directive is not a requirement in the US codes.  RoHS compliant cables are a voluntary decision by the US consumer.

EUREKA: new cabling design recommended = LSZH RoHS

For a safer design, specify Low Smoke Zero Halogen + RoHS compliant cables for all non-plenum cable applications. This is particularly important in HOMES, HOSPITALS and SCHOOLS.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED addresses all building types and emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Brendan Owens, Director-Vice President, LEED Technical Development USGBC Non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable building design and construction and developers of the LEED building rating system.  (, stated that the goal of MR Credit 4:1: PBT Source Reduction: Dioxins and Halogenated Compounds, is to “ Reduce the release of persistent bioaccumlative toxic chemicals (PBT’S) associated with the life cycle of building materials.”  The LEED Green Building Rating System ™, which is run by the USGBC, is a voluntary program.  Under it, project credits can be earned to qualify for LEED certification.  The USGBC is not the only “green” building body, but it is a prominent on, with nearly 14,000 member organizations, including nonprofit associations, architects, facility manager, engineers, interior designers, construction managers, lenders and others.

It is interesting to note, that the Canadian and U.S. Military departments avoid the use of CMP cable, opting for safe alternatives, such as the EU - European standard low-smoke, zero-halogen (LSZH) cabling. All the major domestic manufacturers are making LSZH cable. It’s the standard across Europe. It’s accepted by stringent military specs here but isn’t suitable for installation in our buildings?

The PVC & FRPVC jackets and the FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene – known by the trade names of Dupont Teflon® FEP & Daikin - America Neoflon® FEP) insulation used in CMP Plenum cable are some of the most common materials used in cabling constructions in the USA. All of these materials are Halogenated. Not only are Halogenated materials under scrutiny but also the use of heavy metals (such as Lead & Cadmium) in the PVC compounds.

The RoHS Directive stands for "the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment".  This Directive bans the placing on the EU market of new electrical and electronic equipment containing more than agreed levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants.

Manufacturers need to understand the requirements of the RoHS Directive to ensure that their products, and their components, comply.  

What’s next?

We applaud the efforts of the US Green Building Council to pursue safer and more environmentally friendly solutions for the home and workplace. We can expect lots of “selective voodoo science” to emerge as arguments against the halogen reduction. The chemical companies have deep pockets and lots of “friends”.


As if there weren’t enough dire health warnings bombarding us daily, here's another - some cabling may be hazardous to your health.

What is plenum cable? Safer or cheaper than conduit?

For more than 40 years, building construction utilized "return-air plenum" design for the heating and air conditioning systems.

In typical commercial real estate construction, "Plenum" is the technical term for the space above a suspended ceiling or below raised floor when it is used to return air from ventilated spaces such as offices to heating and air conditioning equipment.  In the USA, Plenum cable installed in building return-air plenum spaces for voice and data circuits is filled with hidden dangers and often represent both environmental and health dangers.

In the early 1970's New York City approved the use of plenum rated cable under Local Law 5. The National Electrical Code  (NEC) recognized plenum cable in 1978 (CMP listed).  This offering gained quick acceptance because of reduced costs.  The installed cost of plenum rated cable was substantially lower (usually more than 50%) than the cost of cable and metal conduit.  In 1978 virtually all plenum cables were insulated and jacketed with DuPont® Teflon FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene).  Competitive pressures and high market demand spawned numerous other constructions using materials that could also meet the test requirements for the NEC code (CMP listing).


What is the most commonly installed


The most commonly installed horizontal cable in the plenum is:

  4 PR  24 AWG  CMP  UTP CAT 5e (or 6) -  PLENUM CABLE.

A typical plenum cable for data or voice transmission has two main components: (I) a cable core made up of insulated copper wires twisted in pairs and (II) a jacket. The industry standard cable is 4-pair UTP, with four twisted pairs of insulated wire, with "U" meaning "unshielded" and "TP" meaning "twisted pair".  

FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) is the most common insulation.  FEP is a stable and fire resistant material. The jacketing material for plenum cables has usually been FRPVC (Fire Resistant Polyvinyl Chloride) or PVC for non-plenum.  Both plenum & non-plenum PVC jackets have been compounded with stabilizers and plasticizers. For many years, these additives often contained LEAD and some harmful phthalates. Significant amounts of hazardous plasticizers (such as DEHP - a phthalate) can be released, leading to persistent contamination of the house dust or ambient air. Today, we have new choices that are free of heavy metals and harmful phthalates. .


In response to growing demand, almost all cable manufacturers have introduced RoHS compliant LEAD-FREE cables that are NEC (National Electrical Code) approved for use in the return air plenum. 

The best way to get the LEAD out is not to put it in

Many PVC products have been stabilized using LEAD compounds.  LEAD compounds are controlled by regulations that cover workplace exposure, water and air pollution, and water disposal. There are increasing demands on a global scale for alternatives to heavy metals like LEAD.

Many cables contain high levels of LEAD in the PVC jackets.  The good news is the companies that supply compounded PVC materials have developed alternative LEAD-FREE PVC compounds, and they are available at no additional cost   There is no reason to continue purchasing and installing cables that contain LEAD.

In The Pharmaceutical Basis of Therapeutics, (the "bible" of chemical therapeutics in medicine), LEAD (Pb) is defined in Latin as, "materia non grata," or, an absolutely unwelcome compound, of absolutely no value and causing great harm to human health. Physicians and observers of industrial disease have sensed the danger of LEAD for generations, but never quite understood the low-dose risk.

LEAD has long been recognized as a harmful environmental pollutant. There are many ways in which humans are exposed to LEAD: through air, drinking water, food, contaminated soil, deteriorating paint, and dust. Airborne LEAD enters the body when an individual breathes or swallows LEAD particles or dust. Before it was known how harmful LEAD could be, it was used in paint, gasoline, water pipes, and many other products.

Low levels of LEAD can cause adverse health effects on the central nervous system, kidney, and blood cells. Blood LEAD levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter can impair mental and physical development.  EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) profile on LEAD and LEAD Compounds -

Flexible PVC can harm Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

On average, we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, where pollutant levels are often higher than those outside. Indoor pollution is estimated to cause thousands of cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of respiratory health problems each year. "  (Healthy Buildings, Healthy People: A Vision for the 21st Century)

PVC products can release heavy metals into the building environment. Metal stabilizers, particularly LEAD, cadmium, and organotins, can be released from PVC products. Significant quantities of LEAD have been found to be released from PVC window blinds into air and from PVC pipes into water. Toxicological effects of these substances include neurological, development, and reproductive damage.

Installed return-air plenum approved UTP cable, which contains LEAD, may have an impact on IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) and IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) in the building. LEAD dust is a known health hazard for building occupants. LEAD Dust may be released from some PVC products as they deteriorate over time and through exposure to heat or sunlight.


Stabilizers are added to the PVC compound to help slow down the degradation of the PVC polymer.  Stabilizers found in PVC may include LEAD and other potentially toxic heavy metals.  Both the stabilizers and the plasticizers (to make the material more flexible) additives are not chemically bound in the PVC.  They can be released over time resulting in a range of potential exposures    and raising risks from endocrine disruption, to asthma; and even from LEAD poisoning to cancer. 

A new analysis by the Environmental Working Group  ( found many studies in the peer reviewed literature that showed toxic effects at doses below those considered to cause no effects by regulators.  Dr. Christina Thayer of EWG says, " Traditional testing misses important toxic effects at very low doses."

For more Info: Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Building Materials - A briefing paper for the Healthy Building Network by Joe Thornton, Ph.D.

Installing cabling that contains LEAD and other health hazards is an avoidable health risk.

In response to growing concerns over LEAD, the vinyl industry developed a LEAD-FREE PVC stabilizer compound.  It was introduced to the manufacturers on a trial basis.  Subsequently, this safer compound was improved and offered to the cable manufacturers on a widespread basis.   Today, you have a choice.  There are LEAD-FREE cables readily available. 


When PVC is incinerated in medical waste and garbage waste disposal furnaces, it is among the largest single sources of dioxin in those burners.  The United States Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) suggests that there is NO SAFE level of dioxin exposure.   Extremely toxic heavy metals in PVC, such as LEAD, cadmium, and chromium, are also released from the stacks and end up in the ash of these incinerators. Virtually all of the products made of PVC have safer substitutes available, making the risks posed by PVC completely unnecessary and unacceptable.

Currently, cabling may be removed and disposed of in normal construction & demolition (C&D) waste disposal methods.  In the near future, the cables that contain LEAD and other heavy metals may be reclassified to require special handling as HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials).  The general disposal costs of HAZMAT are higher than normal C&D disposal.  Toxicity is a major concern in decomposition and disposal.

PVC is extremely difficult to recycle.

Very little PVC is recycled, and this situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Because each PVC product contains a unique mix of additives, post-consumer recycling of mixed PVC products is difficult and cannot yield vinyl products with equivalent qualities to the original. Even in Europe, where PVC recycling is more advanced than in the United States, less than 3 percent of post-consumer PVC is recycled, and most of this is merely “downcycled” into other products which means there is no net reduction in the production of virgin PVC. By 2020, only 9 percent of all post-consumer PVC waste in Europe is expected to be recycled, with a maximum potential of no more than 18 percent.

PVC containing LEAD cannot be readily RECYCLED

The multitudes of additives required to make PVC useful make large-scale post consumer recycling nearly impossible and interfere with the recycling of other plastics. The LEAD cannot be removed in a cost efficient recycling process at this time. 

In 1999 almost 600 Million pounds of PVC was used in wire and cable applications.

 Many communities and numerous countries are assessing costs to the full life cycle of products.  Products that contain materials which present costly challenges in safe disposal or recycling, may be front end loaded on price.  Changing the material selection to "green" products may have big dividends in cost avoidance downstream.  PVC in cabling is cheap and plentiful.  Downstream problems and life-cycle costs for PVC may be very expensive and widespread. 

Buying a safer tomorrow - Green Procurement

Designing for the future will include choices in materials and components that can be reused or recycled. The materials that you choose to include in your building will make a significant contribution to its overall impact on the indoor environment. Avoiding unnecessary indoor air pollution sources is the most obvious method to improve indoor air quality. There is strong support to design low-polluting buildings and recommendations on low-polluting building materials. Advocate safe, energy-efficient, and long-lasting products and services. Things that last and are useful are the greatest hedge against waste and are better than reuse or recycling.

Most consumers are unaware of the toxic materials in the products they rely on for word processing, data management, and access to the Internet like the LEAD that may be present in your PVC jacketing data communications cabling.  Many companies are “going Green”. Purchasing agents are looking to safer alternatives.  Requesting LEAD-Free data communications cabling is one way to ensure a safer purchase.  What is Green Purchasing? It’s considering the environmental impacts of a product when you make purchases. These products should have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environmental when compared to competing products that serve the same purpose. 

Avoiding stabilizers, containing LEAD, in flexible PVC cabling materials and using safer, nontoxic materials may be the best way to eliminate potential downstream hazards and liability. 

LEAD phase out is coming

The European Commission is considering a proposal to restrict the use of LEAD in electronics and electrical equipment: "Member States shall ensure that new electrical and electronic equipment put on the market after 1 January 2006 do not contain LEAD...."

Major corporations, particularly those in Japan, are setting phase out dates for LEAD. Sony has already implemented the use of LEAD-Free solder in most printed wiring board soldering processes, and has set a target of 2005 year-end to be using LEAD-Free solder in all products. LEAD, when dissolved by acid rain, may pollute groundwater and other parts of the environment. Sony is forging ahead with the reduction and elimination of PVC, which may release toxic substances when burned, from products. Sony has already developed and commercialized PVC Free headphone cords. PVC has also been eliminated from the POP (Point of Purchase) advertising for electronics products handled by Sony Marketing of Japan.


This accumulation of abandoned cable is particularly evident in commercial real estate due to continual tenant turnover.  Some plenum spaces have begun to look like an explosion of multi-colored spaghetti. The plenum space in some older multi-tenant buildings have become so packed with active and abandoned cables that there is no room to install new without removing old. A tour of the telephone and cable rooms will give you preview of the volume cable that is installed. 

After years of discussions and proposals, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) voted and approved a change into the National Electrical Code - NEC 2002. The NEC 2008 Code Book requires that abandoned cable be removed for both copper and fiber.  [Note: there are approximately 4,200 different Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) that may adopt all or part of the NEC 2008] 

The abandoned cable is anything but a goldmine.  Unlabeled and undocumented inactive cable is almost impossible to re-use without a substantial investment in a cable management program. Often the removal of the inactive cable is the least expensive method to comply with the NEC code requirements.       

NEC 2008 - requirement for removal of abandoned cable

The National Electrical Code (NEC) contains the pertinent mandatory Codes.  These Codes are rules intended to ensure the safety during installation, use and/or disposal of materials, components, fixtures, and systems.  The Codes ensure minimum construction quality and ensure safety of life, health and property.

The safety provision to require the removal of abandoned cable was the first major change to cabling requirements in the National Electrical Code in more than 20 years. In 1978, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) made an exception to NFPA 90A - Standard for the Installation of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems, which requires any materials installed in a plenum space to be  “non-combustible”. The exception, which allowed cables tested and rated as CMP to be installed in the return air plenum, was drafted more than 30 years ago.  In the 1970's, no cables were available which could meet the requirements of non-combustible. 

The NEC is revised on a three-year cycle.  The next revision of the NEC will be in 2011.  The NEC code (when recognized and accepted) is enforced by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction), which includes state, local, county and city code authorities.  Each AHJ can adopt the NEC code in whole or partially.

 Some cities may elect to adopt the entire or partial current NEC code on a timetable not included in the attached schedule.   

The current NEC 2008 requires that accessible "abandoned" cable be removed for both copper and fiber.

The accumulation of miles and miles of cabling left in the ceilings and walls of facilities has become a major concern for life safety. In a Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) presentation at the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) National Conference (January 16, 2002), TURI conservatively estimated that there is over 45 billion feet of plenum cable in place.  Cables that are abandoned in ceilings, riser systems, and air handling systems are a source for fueling fire, smoke and sublethal toxic fumes that can incapacitate.  The buildup of layers upon layers of cabling has become a major concern to life and safety over the past 10 years.

RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1976. RCRA's primary goals are to protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal, to conserve energy and natural resources, to reduce the amount of waste generated, and to ensure that wastes are managed in an environmentally sound manner. In 1984, Congress enacted the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) which significantly expanded the scope and requirements of RCRA.          

The definition of abandoned cable, as found in paragraphs 800.2 and 770.2 of the NEC 2002 Book, states "....Installed communications cable that is not terminated at both ends at a connector or other equipment and not identified "For Future Use" with a tag."  Admittedly, this definition of abandoned cable in the NEC is somewhat vague.  There is a concerted effort in the NFPA to draft a set of clearer definitions for this portion of the NEC 2002.  The definition clarity problem associated with the NEC 2002 - removal of abandoned cable - does not make the code invalid.  Hopefully, the local authorities will use good judgment    and discretion in the application and enforcement of this code when accepted by the AHJ. For copper cable, paragraph 800.52(B) of the NEC Code states "...The accessible portion of abandoned communications cables shall not be permitted to remain.." Additionally, paragraph 800.52(1) states that abandoned cables in vertical runs shall not be permitted to remain. Article 770 states the same requirements for optical fiber risers and horizontal cables.

the incapacitation factor

The FEP insulating materials used in most CMP plenum approved cable are subject to heat decomposition and the emission of sublethal toxic fumes. Some of the fumes can incapacitate (by blinding and choking) building occupants. Current and proposed testing makes no provision to recognize toxicity or emissions that are essentially colorless (i.e., hydrogen fluoride, which converts to hydrofluoric acid upon contact with any moisture).

FEP (Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene) [known by the trade names DuPont® Teflon FEP and Daikin-America® Neoflon FEP] materials are normally stable. But, when they burn or are heated, the halogens separate and become highly reactive - forming toxic and highly corrosive gases that can significantly damage organic, inorganic and metallic materials. Hydrogen fluoride is one of the gases produced from heat decomposition of FEP.

Hydrogen fluoride vapor causes severe irritation and deep-seated burns of the eye and eyelids if it comes in contact with the eyes. If the chemical is not removed immediately, permanent visual defects or blindness may result. Hydrofluoric acid is a severe irritant to the nose, throat, and lungs. Severe exposure causes rapid inflammation and congestion of the lungs. Death may occur from breathing this chemical.

There are major areas of concern that remain un-addressed in the NEC 2008 (National Electrical Code). As the building industry is besieged with litigation revolving around the mold toxicity issue, we asked the question: "Does the testing process for fire safety measure the TOXICITY of the cables when overheated or burned?" The answer is shockingly "NO".

Most of the cabling industry participants understand the meaning of terms like: fire, smoke and fuel load. The testing for the current code measures only flame spread, and smoke index. The testing does not measure heat decomposition, thermal toxicity, toxic gases or the incapacitation factor.

Many safety experts feel that the NFPA revision of the scope that defines the safety issues should include sublethal toxicity and the incapacitation factor. If the testing does not recognize these other areas, then the full safety factor is not included. As a simple example: imagine chaining your legs to a large anchor and dropping to the bottom of the pool. The chain and anchor won't kill you, drowning will.

Communications infrastructure (cabling & connectors) is focused on two major areas - performance and safety. Typically, performance is placed in the arena of standards (EIA/TIA) and safety is related to codes (NFPA/NEC). Most of the information provided by the manufacturers deals with performance and interoperability. The information about safety is usually described in relationship to meeting certain codes.

Remarkably, fire safety performance SUSTAINABILITY is not measured. Who wants a product that is safe today and useless tomorrow? You should know how long these products maintain their fire safety performance. This important aspect of safety is also completely absent from the criteria of the current of the NEC (2008) and the proposed criteria of the upcoming NEC (2011).

Cables that are listed and approved for use in air spaces (CMP - UL 262 ) should be tested and monitored to determine if the safety performance falls below the minimum code threshold. Fire safety equipment such as sprinkler systems and extinguishers are periodically monitored to assure performance that meets a code requirement. Fire safety performance is required over time. Currently the cable fire safety performance is only tested once.

During the past several decades, you may have seen the effect of product “toxicity” on various industries and the victims. No one can ignore the echoing repercussions from tobacco, asbestos, and lead. The finger pointing and lawsuits continue to be prominent in the news. One common area of the litigation over these products seems to be the failure to warn the buyers/users about the dangers.

In the commercial real estate world, cable removal is a hot topic. Most building owners can work with existing tenants to comply with the NEC 2008 mandate for the removal of abandoned cable. The tenants may minimize the downstream costs associated with cable removal by maintaining proper labeling and keeping good cable management records. By working with the building owners the new tenant might accept your cabling infrastructure. The old tenant and the new tenant will both save money.


The tragedy at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, has burned an image into almost everybody's conscious thoughts.  Safety in the commercial and office building environment is a renewed priority. 

Modern office buildings use open, concealed spaces for return-air plenum as well as pathways for data and communications cabling. Ceiling cavity plenums (the space between the top of the finished ceiling and the underside of the floor or roof above) or raised floor plenums (the space between the top of the finished floor and the underside of the raised floor) are spaces used to return environmental air and often contain large amounts of data and communications cabling, sometimes several generations.  Because of the volume of airflow in these spaces, they are particularly vulnerable to the spread of toxic gasses yet are virtually free of detection systems.  Investigation reports have shown that toxic gasses in these concealed (plenum) spaces can travel rapidly, be very difficult to locate and remove from the building.

We should select materials that have low smoke generation characteristics, and reduced toxicity (how harmful the smoke is to human beings).  Smoke and toxic fumes from wires and cables installed in air handling spaces should be minimized.  US codes only address two (2) of these criteria.  The NEC (National Electrical Code) is silent when it comes to toxicity. 

If there is a fire, heating and air conditioning ducts could become conduits for hydrogen fluoride and other gases, which can cause fatalities.  Halogen in the insulation and the jacketing of CMP cables helps prevent the cables from catching fire, but if the cable jackets overheat, the fumes may drive up the death toll.  

important note: Many cable manufacturers have added RoHS compliant, LEAD-FREE cables to their product lines.  Remember to request:  RoHS compliant LEAD-FREE cables.


CAT 5e LEAD-FREE Non-Plenum           CAT 6 LEAD-FREE Non-Plenum

CAT 5e LEAD-FREE Plenum (CMP)       CAT 6 LEAD-FREE-Plenum

CAT 5e+ LEAD-FREE Non-Plenum         CAT 6+ LEAD-FREE Non-Plenum

CAT 5e+ LEAD-FREE Plenum (CMP)     CAT 6+ LEAD-FREE-Plenum (CMP)


The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) - Technical report No. 51 - ‘Environmental, Health and Safety Issues in the Coated Wire and Cable Industry’

The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI)

Environmental Challenges in the Coated Wire and Cable Industry Meeting Summary, June 2002

EPA Issues Powerful Indictment Of Chemical in Teflon

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection - News Release on Teflon Pollutant 

State DEP Underestimates Health Hazards of Teflon-Related Chemical

West Virginia DEP and related news Releases on Teflon Pollutant

Environmental Working Group (EWG) e-clips

“Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Building Materials’

A briefing paper for the Healthy Building Network by Joe Thornton, Ph.D.

US Environmental Protection Agency-Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics  - LEAD COMPOUNDS   

PVC - A Primary Contributor to the  U.S. Dioxin Burden

Pat Costner, Charlie Cray, Gail Martin, Bonnie Rice, David Santillo and Ruth Stringer 

The LEAD Education and Abatement Design Group

Green by Design - Daniel Williams, AIA 

Comments on the Commissions Green paper on environmental issues of PVC 

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  - ‘LEAD and Human Health’

The Alliance For A Clean Environment 'PVC  The Poison Plastic - There are SAFER ALTERNATIVES '

"What is Extended Product Responsibility? " By David Haskell Grassroots Recycling Network

Healthy Building Network

ASTDR - Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry -ToxFAQ’s ™ for LEAD

NFPA's Research Foundation examines how quickly smoke incapacitates
Study aims to assure escape from burning buildings
NFPA smoke toxicity 

International Study of the Sublethal Effects of Fire Smoke on Survivability and Health  - Phase I final Report

Combustion atmosphere toxicity of materials intended for internal cables - white paper by Borealis

Hydrofluoric Acid MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) by DuPont

Occupational Health Guideline for Fluorine 

Occupational Health Guideline for Hydrogen Fluoride  

Hydrofluoric Acid MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) by DuPont  

UL limited combustible cable testing program revised: 

Link to article on critical cabling safety issues:
"Cabling what you don’t know can kill you" article by Stephen Saunders

Association News


ACUTA’s April 19-22 Annual Conference

Addresses Technology Successes, Challenges

Speakers representing 28 different colleges and universities will bring their expertise and insight to this year’s Annual Conference of ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, April 19-22 in Atlanta.

In addition to the many campus professionals sharing their knowledge, successes, and challenges in educational sessions, the conference will feature an extensive lineup of industry expert speakers. Topics range from wireless implementations to unified communications and convergence, green computing and networking to emergency alert systems, and from project management and leadership to addressing funding challenges.

Keynote speaker for the event will be Miles O’Brien, former chief technology and environmental correspondent for CNN.

“This year’s Annual Conference sessions are designed not only to address emerging technologies and technology strategies, but also to provide expert guidance on how our members can increase their performance and that of their staffs,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. “Most importantly, the conference itself offers the ideal opportunity for our members to network with their peers. This sharing of strategies and experiences provides a great benefit to our members and their schools.”

This is the 38th Annual Conference for ACUTA, the only international association dedicated to serving the needs of higher education information communications technology professionals. Representing nearly 2,000 individuals at some 780 institutions, ACUTA’s core mission is the sharing of technology and management information, and its Annual Conference is its largest event of the year. The 2009 conference is the first ACUTA annual gathering held outside the summer months, as the organization moved the conference earlier in the year in an effort to make it more convenient for more members to attend.

ACUTA’s Annual Conference runs concurrently with its 13th annual Forum for Strategic Leadership in Communications Technology, a two-day assembly of senior attendees, with intensive sessions taught by higher education leaders and expert consultants. The forum’s focus this year is on the challenges presented in a time of great financial and technical change and technology’s role in addressing those challenges.

The Annual Conference also features an exhibit hall with companies showcasing the latest campus-focused technology products and services. During the event, at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, ACUTA will announce the winners of its annual leadership and institutional excellence awards. More information about the Annual Conference and the Strategic Leadership Forum can be found at

ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, is an international non-profit educational association serving colleges and universities. Its core purpose is to support higher education information communications technology professionals in contributing to the achievement of the strategic mission of their institutions. ACUTA represents nearly 2000 individuals at some 780 institutions of higher education, with members ranging from small schools and community colleges to the 50 largest U.S. institutions. ACUTA’s Corporate Affiliate members represent all categories of communications technology vendors serving the college/university market. For more information, visit or call 859-278-3338.

Contacts: Pat Scott, ACUTA, 859-278-3338, ext. 221, or

Kevin Tanzillo, Dux PR, 903-865-1078 or


BICSI U.S. South-CentralRegional Meeting was a hit

BICSI U.S. South-Central Regional Meeting (February 26th in Houston, TX) was a real value for the attendees. Networking plus lunch and learn (CEUs included) was the order of the day.

These regional meetings bring the value of the big conferences at a fraction of the cost and a big reduction in travel time. We tip our hat to Michael Collins and the other regional directors for their contributed time and successful efforts.

U.S. South-Central Region Director
Michael Collins, RCDD
Technical Sales Manager - AT&T
6500 W. Loop South, Zone 4.8
Bellaire, TX 77401
Tel: +1 713.567.1234
Fax: +1 832.553.8047
Cell: +1 713.306.6134

One of the educational presentations at this meeting included the inside scoop of a new technology that will revolutionize how we connect fiber optic cabling.

Extending the Lifecycle of Fiber Optic Cables

Power Point Presentation …will be on

Fiber Optic cable lifecycle is a challenge within fiber optic networks because of the inherent fragile characteristics of fiber optic cables.  Fiber performance is drastically reduced when there are scratches or contamination present on the fiber, and also over the course or multiple matings and improper installations. 

This presentation outlined these characteristics by focusing on how they are caused, how they deteriorate performance, and how they can be prevented. 

Industry best practices can contribute to extending the lifespan of the fiber optic cables, but are limited in their ability to actually safeguard fiber cables from damage.   An introduction to Megladon Mfg. SCRATCHGAURD™ technology shows how existing technology can help strengthen optical networks through more robust connector technology.

By John Culbert, President – Megladon Mfg.

BICSI Region Meetings are the perfect setting for personalized networking with industry professionals in your local area. Offered throughout the year, these one-day meetings also provide up to four continuing education credits (CECs).

BICSI Region Directors are continually working to add new and exciting programs where you can view vendor showcases and attend technical presentations on some of the latest innovations in the ITS industry. The cost of attending a BICSI Region Meeting is $25 for BICSI members, members of related organizations and anyone interested in learning about BICSI. Students may attend region meetings for free. Expand your knowledge by coming to the next meeting in your region!

Click here to download the Region Meeting Sponsor Application. 
Click here to download the Region Meeting Presenter Application. 

Breakfast Clubs

[ Download Breakfast Club guidelines ]

BICSI Breakfast Clubs fill you in on what's happening in your area and frequently offer unique technical presentations and vendor exhibits. These informal meetings are increasingly popular as they offer brief, informative morning gatherings that provide CECs and allow you time to head to the office and continue your day.

Upcoming Region Events

Southeast Region Meeting
March 5, 2009
Dulles, VA

Connected Buildings
March 10, 2009
Bayamon, OC Puerto Rico

South-Central Breakfast Club Meeting
March 17, 2009
Albuquerque, NM

Canadian Regional Meeting
March 19, 2009
Moncton, NB

Northeast Region Meeting
March 26, 2009
Breinigsville, PA

Canadian Region Meeting
March 27, 2009
Cagary, AB Canada

Western Region Meeting
March 31, 2009
San Diego, CA

North-Central Region Meeting
April 2, 2009
Cleveland, OH

Northeast/North-Central Breakfast Club Meeting
April 7, 2009
Pittsburgh, PA

Energy efficiency for Data Centers - in row cooling
April 16, 2009
Bayamon, OC Puerto Rico

Canadian Region Meeting
May 28, 2009
Toronto, ON

Northeast Region Meeting
June 26, 2009
New York, NY

Northeast and Noth-Central Breakfast Club Meeting
July 28, 2009
Pittsburgh, PA

Northeast and North-Central Breakfast Club Meeting
October 6, 2009
Pittsburgh, PA

Northeast Region Meeting
October 15, 2009
Sturbridge, MA USA

Canadian Region Meeting
October 22, 2009
Ottawa, ON Canada

South-Central Region Meeting
December 15, 2009
Dallas, TX

Sunday - April 19, 8:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Steal My Project Management Office

Brett Coryell (Emory University)

This session has everything, and we mean everything, you need to set up a fully functioning project management office

Sunday - April 19, 8:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Wireless Trends

Sunday - April 19, 1:15 PM - 4:30 PM

Financial Models to Support Converged Technologies

Sunday - April 19, 1:15 PM - 4:30 PM

Infrastructure Needed to Support IPTV

Walt Magnussen (Texas A & M University) a

Chris Norton (- Texas A & M University)

This seminar offers a description of the infrastructure required to support IPTV (multicast). The instructors recently installed an IPTV head end at the Texas A&M University ITEC. The plan is that the programming is being evaluated for Internet2-wide distribution.

Monday - April 20, 10:45 AM - 11:45 AM

Corporate Presentation: Replacing Legacy Voicemail Solutions with Unified Communications

Monday - April 20, 10:45 AM - 11:45 AM

ROI for VoIP? Yep, We Struggled

Faye Snowden (University of the Pacific)

After funding to implement VoIP for the Stockton campus was approved and the deployment completed, an eye was turned to Pacific’s Dugoni School of Dentistry. Should a currently functioning switch be replaced? Should perfectly working handsets be replaced? Telecom together with Dugoni began work on the traditional ROI. See how Pacific moved from the traditional ROI to a cost comparison which allowed them to understand the costs of staying with the current system versus moving to VoIP.

Monday - April 20, 10:45 AM - 11:45 AM


Mary Lou Emmons (Indiana University)

Chair of ACUTA’s Membership Committee, the presenter will take you through the conference events and the organization's history and objectives and leave you with resources that can be useful when you return home.

Monday - April 20, 10:45 AM - 11:45 AM

Campus Experiences with Recent Environmental Emergencies

Brian Nichols (Louisiana State University and A & M College)

Mark Zuber (Kirkwood Community College)

The panelists represent campuses that experienced natural disasters over the past year. They will discuss what was done to deal with the emergencies and lessons learned along the way.

Monday - April 20, 10:45 AM - 11:45 AM

How to Deploy Identity Management without Busting the Budget

Brad Alexander (- Wellesley College)

Higher education institutions have unique requirements of identity management solutions and the capabilities of commercial off the shelf software packages are typically pushed to their limits. The presenters will discuss the challenges involved and will present some of the key findings and recommendations culled from working with a number of institutions, including Wellesley College.

Monday - April 20, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Corporate Presentation: Converged Network Solutions Enhance Campus Communications

Monday - April 20, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

ACUTA Organizational Collaborations with Internet2 and ITERA

James Gantt (- Murray State University)

As a part of a strategic initiative, ACUTA has established collaborative relationships with Internet2 and ITERA. These two organizations represent the higher education research community and the faculty that teach telecommunications classes on our campuses. This session will consist of a moderated panel discussion with members of the two associations as they describe what their associations do and how ACUTA members can take advantage of these relationships.

Monday - April 20, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

DMCA – Policy and Enforcement on a Campus Environment

Brian Nichols (Louisiana State University and A & M College).

Terry Doub (- Louisiana State University and A & M College)

The RIAA is cracking down on college campuses more today than ever before. Additionally, new peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing mandates outlined in the reauthorized Higher Education Act (HEA) are making it harder for universities to remove themselves from the line of fire. In this session, you’ll learn what the issues are surrounding illegal file-sharing and the new legislation affecting DMCA policy.

Monday - April 20, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Campus Cabling and Termination Solutions

Monday - April 20, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

The Road to Unified Communications at UCLA

Janice Bundy (UCLA)

Bundy will discuss UCLA’s RFP and award process, their implementation plan, and their communications strategy to transition 17,000 MSM voice mail subscribers to the AVST system.

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 4:45 PM

Corporate Presentation: Dual-Band Mobile and Hosted Services

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Bringing Effective Operational Leadership to IT

Carol Gray (University of Southern California)

The presenter will teach attendees to become better leaders and communicators with emphasis on improving their overall leadership abilities.

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Designing and Deploying 802.11n Wireless on a College Campus

Sandra E Roberts (Wellesley College)

Most schools have now deployed 802.11a/b/g wireless technology in some manner on campus; Wellesley College has taken the plunge into a campus-wide design and deployment of an 802.11n network

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Siemens User Group

User Group Leader: John Stier, Stony Brook University,

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Users' Perspectives on Unified Communications

Mark Reynolds (University of New Mexico.

Serge Razafindrakoto (Louisiana State Univ and A & M College).

Carolyn Trail ( Roanoke College) 

Representatives of three universities will discuss their experiences with unified communications. Why are they doing it? Pros and cons? ROI? What is UC bringing to the table? How will they market it? Will it improve productivity?

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Aastra User Group

User Group Leader: Diane McNamara, Union College,

Monday - April 20, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

NEC User Group

User Group Leader: Hardy Kail, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio,

Tuesday - April 21, 8:00 AM - 9:15 AM

Where is Telecom in the Convergence Sea Change?

Bill Clebsch (Stanford University)

Tony Mordosky (- Rowan University)

This lively discussion about the big ideas in information communications technologies will make you think. The panelists will banter about their views on convergence, telecommunications, and other technologies that are transforming higher education.

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Corporate Presentation: Are You Totally Prepared?

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Illinois Network Upgrade Project

Beth Scheid (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Paul Lucas (- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

It took five years to secure campus funding to upgrade legacy Cat 3 buildings to a Cat 6 infrastructure, with a 100 Mbps connection to each desktop and a 1 Gbps connection to each building. The presenters will discuss how they prioritized their work, partnered with other campus units, contained costs, and dealt with pressures to increase the scope of the work as technologies evolved.

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Pinnacle User Group

User Group Leader: Mark Herro, Texas A&M University,

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Polycom User Group

User Group Leader: Donna White, Georgetown University,

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

AVST User Group

User Group Leader: Scott Claverie, California State University, Chico,

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

How to Go Green

Bill Clebsch ( Stanford University) 

Joyce Dickerson (Stanford University)

This session will focus on sustainability and green computing in higher education, using Stanford’s efforts as an example of what is possible. The presenters will provide an overview of the topic, focusing on how sustainability needs to be an integral part of IT engagement and planning for campus initiatives, from new buildings to new system implementation to broader initiatives driving towards an environmentally sustainable world.

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Design and Deployment of a Campus-Wide VoIP System

Kevin Sebolt (Franciscan University of Steubenville)

In 2005, Franciscan University made a strategic decision to embrace the convergence of voice and data on a single network with results that continue to pay dividends. By August 2006, the University had successfully deployed 1,800 VoIP stations (for administration AND students)

Tuesday - April 21, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Financial Models: Different Approaches to the Same Result

Angel Wingate (Duke University)

David Mixon (Sr. Business Manager – Duke University)

Brett Coryell (Deputy CIO – Emory University)

Susan Crochet (IT Human & Financial Resources Officer- Louisiana State University)

Michael Palladino (- University of Pennsylvania)

The panelists will focus on their IT funding models, how they determine the costs that need to be recovered and the amounts to be charged, how their budgets are structured, and their visions for the future of IT funding over the next 3-5 years. The audience will have an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Tuesday - April 21, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Corporate Presentation: Delivering Next-Generation Telephony Applications

Tuesday - April 21, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Slippery Rock Intros RFID Payment System for Mobiles

Henry Magusiak (Systems Engineer, IT – Slippery Rock University)

Beverly Lumley (Slippery Rock University)

Contactless technology came to the students at Slippery Rock University with the replacement of its ID cards with cards based on an RFID system that includes a 13.56MHz contactless token to affix to a cell phone, PDA or other portable device. The complementary tag can be used to pay at vending and laundry machines; check out library books; buy meals; receive financial aid, tuition reimbursements, or refunds; or make contributions to the university.

Tuesday - April 21, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Where Have All the Women Gone? Were They Ever Here?

Marilyn Drury (- University of Northern Iowa)

Attracting and retaining women in higher education IT and providing them with opportunities to move into leadership roles provides individuals and organizations with an expanded pool of talent and skills along with new perspectives. This session will share recent research findings from women leading higher education IT organizations. This session will provide fresh ideas as to how your organization or institution might attract and retain women in IT positions.

Tuesday - April 21, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

 Going Green: Mobile University

Tuesday - April 21, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

IT Funding from the CIO Perspective

Carolyn Lightfoot (Lee College); As Interim Dean of Administrative Services Lightfoot oversees an annual budget of more than $5M for the operation of Administrative Services. As

John K. Mullin (Georgia Institute of Technology)

William Gruszka (CIO - Southern Polytechnic State University) .

Ric Simmons (Louisiana State Univ and A & M College)

This session will focus on the current structure of each school’s IT budget and how is it funded; their proposals for funding over the next 2 years; their expectations of success; and their visions for the future of IT funding over the next 3-5 years and beyond. The audience will have an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 4:45 PM

Corporate Presentation: UC Migration Done Right- Avoid the Pain

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Legislative and Regulatory Issues Overview

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Cisco User Group

User Group Leader: Wendell Barbour, Longwood University,

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Looking Back on Massive Wiring Upgrades

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Connecting Your Campus Wirelessly

Kevin Roberts (CIO – Abilene Christian University)

Kayvon Beykpour, Aaron Wasserman, Ben Cunningham, and Pablo Jablonski (Team Stanford University)

Mobility solutions are becoming more prevalent in higher education, both in and out of the classroom. They will discuss their unique needs, factors they considered, challenges they overcame, opportunities the solutions provided, and the growth potential. They will also discuss how the solutions have enhanced the educational process and the student life experience.

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

T-Metrics User Group

User Group Leader: Dave Wirth, Princeton University,

Tuesday - April 21, 3:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Verizon Business User Group

User Group Leader: Deb Duncan, Texas A & M University,

Wednesday - April 22, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM


Reta Pikowsky (Georgia Institute of Technology.

We’ve all heard of FERPA. But do you really know what it is? The presenter will discuss FERPA and some things IT professionals need to know when considering how we transport information on and off the campus.

Wednesday - April 22, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

 Navigating through the 'TDM to VoIP' PBX Minefield

Wednesday - April 22, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

Corporate Presentation: Network Security Myths and Secrets

Wednesday - April 22, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

Marist College Implements Clean Access

Christine Mulvey (Marist College) Eric Kenny (Marist College)

Implementing a new Network Access Control system can be a long process fraught with challenges. Marist College had a set of requirements that no single vendor supported completely. With a little ingenuity and touch of home-grown code, they implemented Cisco's Clean Access campus-wide. The presenter will outline their requirements, vendor selection, limitations they overcame, notification methods, manpower needs, and deployment of a full-blown NAC.

Wednesday - April 22, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM

Project Management: Can you Walk the Walk?

Melanie Leggett (Texas A & M University) Walt Magnussen (Director for Telecommunications – Texas A & M University)

Project management is not practiced as often as it could or should be. While there is a cost in implementing a good project management plan, the cost of not doing so is projects that are not delivered on time and under budget. The presenters will review the PMP certification process and will demonstrate how project management has enhanced efficiency and timely completion of projects, not to mention the increased camaraderie at their institution.

Wednesday - April 22, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Corporate Presentation: Productivity Powered by the Human Voice

Elwyn Hull (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)

Wednesday - April 22, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

 Implementing a Mobile UC Solution

Wednesday - April 22, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Geekwork and Bean Counters

Jerry W. Smith (Director, Office of Information Services - Pittsburg State University)

This session will consider how the mindset and approach to work differs between technical and administrative staff

Wednesday - April 22, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

 Leveraging Existing Copper Networks to Meet Campus Safety Requirements

Wednesday - April 22, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

 Cyber Threats & Identity Theft

Terence B. Fisher (Supervisory Special Agent of the Atlanta, Georgia Cyber Squad – FBI)

Wednesday - April 22, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

 Corporate Presentation: 3G Wireless Solutions

Wednesday - April 22, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Managing your Institution's Wireless Bubbles

Andy Hulsey (Director Telecommunications - University of Central Florida)

Institutions could benefit by considering radio communications spectrum management that includes WiFi and beyond. Licensed radio frequencies are a precious commodity and need management.

Wednesday - April 22, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

 How Shared PC Computing can Change Teaching

Wednesday - April 22, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

Limitations of Third-Party EAS over Cellular Text Messaging

Patrick Traynor (Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science - Georgia Institute of Technology

Emergency alert systems  -  This talk will focus on the limitations of cellular networks as the basis of emergency information disseminators.

Wednesday - April 22, 1:15 PM - 2:15 PM

 Gaining Buy-In and Support for Technology Initiatives

Wednesday - April 22, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM

Re-FRESH Your Perspective, Re-charge Your Batteries and Re-plenish Your Spirit

Kirk Weisler (Chief Morale Officer) Recognized internationally for his demystifying approach to building effective teams and creating great culture with what he calls “Culture Building," Kirk travels around the world speaking with IT and support professionals on things they can do without permission, and without a budget to grow themselves, their people, and create an outrageously cool cultures in the process. Kirk began his personal cultural revolution and leadership training programs in the low morale, low pay, high turnover world of outsourced call centers Now he shares his evangelical message around the world…encouraging, inspiring and inviting them to create the culture they want, to take ownership of their environment and to stop having “a job” and start having a life!

Chief Morale Officer Kirk Weisler will inspire you to wrap up the FRESH IDEAS you gained at the Conference and return to work invigorated.

Whether you are a strategic visionary, a technology guru, a problem solver, or a worker bee, you should take time to replenish yourself to keep your leadership spirit fresh and your perspective positive. At this closing session, Kirk will show you how to:

Abilene Christian University)

Duke University)

Emory University) 

Franciscan University of Steubenville)

Georgia Institute of Technology

Indiana University) 

Kirkwood Community College) 

Lee College

Louisiana State University and A & M College) 

Marist College)

Murray State University)

Pittsburg State University)

Roanoke College) 

Rowan University)

Slippery Rock University)

Southern Polytechnic State University) .

Stanford University) 

Texas A & M University


University of Central Florida)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

University of New Mexico.

University of Northern Iowa)

University of Pennsylvania)

University of Southern California)

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)

University of the Pacific) 

Wellesley College) 


CABA New Research Papers are now online and searchable

Networking science is the foundation of the 21st century.

If you were arrested for being informed and knowledgeable, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

CABA - the Continental Automated Buildings Association has New "Research Papers" that are now online and searchable. Join today.

CABA continues to provide timely research and information on integrated systems and home/building automation. We are pleased to announce that one hundred and fifty four (154) research papers were added in 2008! Below are some of the latest research papers that have recently been placed in the CABA Research Library at:

Only CABA members have access to the full CABA Research Library! Individual contacts within CABA members will now have their own username (their personal email address) and password. Therefore, if any contact would like to be added to your account, they need to email either Rawlson O'Neil King ( or Susan Martin ( with their full contact information and we will gladly set them up. The registration won't be instantaneous, but should be completed within one or two business days.

Logging into the system will allow CABA members to access private member sections and will also provide registered users with the opportunity to access new, integrated online discussion forums.  If you ever forget your password, enter your email address in the top right hand section of the CABA web site ( and select "Forgot password" and an email will be sent on how to change it.

CABA non-members can access the CABA "Public" Library at: to view the full Reports that have been featured in the Friday CABA SmartBriefs. Please contact Ken Gallinger,(; 613.686.1814 Ext. 229 or call the "Member Hotline" - 888.798.CABA (2222) for additional info.

Are you aware that CABA research subscriptions/membership fees start at $600. See for additional details on the CABA research subscription/memberships.  As a non-member, you can obtain these reports by entering the CABA eStore (, selecting "Research Reports".  

CABA SmartBrief

This online news publication from the Continental Automated Buildings Association  delivers leading news and research about integrated systems and automated homes/buildings industry information to your inbox each day.  If you haven't already, you can view a recent issue and sign up at:   It only takes a minute to subscribe and it's free.   

You may also want to circulate it to others in your organization or your customers. CABA members are encouraged to send there breaking news stories and video clips so they can be added to the SmartBrief.

CABA Research Library:

(IS-2009-24) UPnP Technology - The Simple, Seamless Home Network 

This brochure from the UPnP Implementers Corporation is a promotional piece for UPnP.  It provides an overview of the UPnP Forum and the UPnP Implementers Corporation, and announces that UPnP has been approved as an ISO/IEC standard.  A very brief overview of the UPnP networking and control method is included.

(IS-2009-23) Automated Demand Response Cuts Commercial Building Energy Use and Peak Demand

This summary from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory describes AutoDR.  AutoDR is a demand response system for buildings that delivers data about a supply event requiring energy reduction.  Energy management systems in building query a utility server for event notices.  They then manage local energy consuming equipment, such as air-conditioning equipment and lighting in response.  The objective is to shed load so the utility can tailor the demand to the available supply of electricity.

(IS-2009-22) CES 2009 - Top 10 Trends 

DIGDIA presents a summary of key innovation at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held January 2009 in Las Vegas.  Among the products noted are LCD TVs that are back lit with LEDs for improved contrast, 3D TVs, and TVs with on-screen short cuts (widgets) to Internet-based information.  Many products promoted "green features."  Computer projectors small enough for embedding in a phone are coming.  Flash memory is replacing tape and disks for camcorders.  Digital photo frames are becoming a very competitive market.  Netbooks, sized between a laptop and a PDA, are seeking market share.  Mobile TV is growing.

(IS-2009-21) A Recent Whitestone Study of Energy-Saving Retrofits has Lessons for Other Green Projects

This overview of a report from Whitestone Research examines how to achieve U.S. federally mandated energy savings in older buildings.  A key issue is initial investments versus life-cycle costs.  A detailed analysis showed that a high initial investment saved money over 40 years.  It included such features as a roof garden, triple-glazed windows, and a heat recovery chiller.  Not all investments have the same or even positive returns.  More research is needed.

(IS-2009-20) A U.S. Innovation Strategy for Climate Change Mitigation

This report from the Brookings Institution proposes fiscal and government investment policies for reducing greenhouse gasses (GHGs).  Recommendations include establishing a price for GHGs, research and development tax credits, and public support for university and private sector research.  An expenditure of $8 billion per year through 2016 for this research is proposed.  The U.S. government currently funds 59% of the basis research in universities, non-profits, and government labs.  The cost to stabilize GHG emissions is 0.2 to 5 % of global GDP, depending on the targeted GHG level.  The U.S will bear about 25% of this cost.

(IS-2009-19) ZigBee Resource Guide 

This guide from the ZigBee Alliance is a promotional magazine for ZigBee.  It includes ads from ZigBee suppliers and summaries of market potential for ZigBee products.  Applications of ZigBee for energy conservation and energy management are described.

(IS-2009-01) 10 Best Practices for Online Merchandising 

This brochure describes how to create an effective web site for retail merchandising. Two techniques are described: user navigation and user search.  About half of shoppers prefer to navigate through a site, while half prefer to search for a particular product.  A search technique needs to help customers who do not provide enough specificity so they can locate the desired product.  If a search fails, alternate products should be offered.  Merchandizing zone techniques on a Web site are discussed for moving selected products, product lines, products with high inventory, or products with high margins.


What’s next? The NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) Annual Conference & Exhibition

Mark your calendars for NECA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition.

NECA Convention and Trade Show - Sep 13, 2009 - Sep 15, 2009 in Seattle, WA. This event rivals BICSI and has a host of different buyers with very substantial budgets. The Electrical Contractor is definitely in the IBS business.
In fact, here are just a few interesting statistics from the 2008 Electrical Contractor Magazine profile study:

-66% of electrical contractors did work in Communications/Systems Connectivity, and almost 6 in 10 worked in CII Automation & Controls in 2007.
-57% do work in Residential Automation/Controls

-57% do Structured Wiring / Cabling work

-46% of the electrical contractor’s revenue now comes from their involvement in Design/ Build projects. 
-Overall, electrical contractors make brand substitutions/decisions about 70% of the time.

Industry Experts will discuss the latest solutions for the Integrated Building Systems including: Power – Communications – Control -Security - Life Safety systems plus wireless backbone infrastructure. Change is happening in their world.

"NECA provides solutions and educational assistance for nearly all the issues that Electrical Contractors face.  Foundation research and NECA's educational programs at the convention and show are addressing our existing problems and working diligently on paving the way for future growth in our industry.”
Ron Autrey, Miller Electric 

NECA Offers “CEU’s or Contact Hours” for Licensing Requirements during NECA Convention & Show.  NECA is an authorized CEU provider and complies with the guidelines and requirements established by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). Participants in many of NECA’s workshops and seminars satisfy state and local licensing requirements. NECA Convention & Show attendees will be scanned at pre-convention workshops, management seminars, and technical workshops. A certificate of contact hours will be available for pick-up on-site.

”Milspec Industries exhibits at 20+ shows a year and we find that NECA does a fantastic job of reaching all segments of the electrical industry.”
William Clary, Milspec

Plan to attend the 2009 NECA Convention and NECA Show in the Emerald City on September 12–15, 2009. Bring your key staff with you. Budget to bring your key people and educate your staff in today’s electrical industry. NECA promises to give you the educational tools that you need to effectively compete in this work environment.

September 12-15, 2009 - Washington State Convention & Trade Center - Seattle  More information and specifics to follow next month.

We fight poverty the old fashioned way. We work hard and deliver the products and services that you need.


Telecommunications Project Management Association – News March 2009

Change is coming!

Surviving in tight financial times requires a willingness to change. TPMA has a new Website, newsletter format, new classes and new class options. We are adding new internet classes and new ways to share information. All of our programs are being updated to conform with the new (December 2008) PMBOK 4th. edition which has been recognized by ANSI as the standard for Project Management. We will soon offer test preparation programs focused on the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Customers demand professional project managers who can bring their jobs in; on time, meeting budget and exceeding stakeholder expectation. They have no margin for error.

Your Project Management team should develop a “typical project” binder.

It should include:

  • Scope of Work (SOW)
  • Quality Plan & lessons learned
  • Safety Plan
  • Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS)
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  • Gantt/milestone Charts
  • Earned Value Cost/schedule tracking
  • Value Engineering
  • Network Diagram/PERT/CPM Charts
  • Project Calendar
  • Timeline
  • Communications Plan

Your Sales Team should understand the plan, and be selling it as a value added to current and potential customers.

You should be selling the plans to your upper management (the value added you bring)!

Remember: Perception is reality!

Upcoming Telecommunications Project Manager (TPM) Classes

  • Tampa – April 20-24, 2009
  • Baltimore – May 6-10, 2009 (BICSI Conference)
  • Tampa – May 18-22, 2009
  • Tampa – June 29- July 3, 2009

For more information visit our Website at

Article Contributions


25 Changemakers in 25 Years

A celebration of ambition, drive and follow-through

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the RCDD® (Registered Communications Distribution Designer) Program. Over  the  years, we have witnessed the contributions of many influential individuals who, through their vision and drive, have revolutionized the information transport systems (ITS) industry. The group of Changemakers featured in this article are educators, mentors, spokespeople and leaders who have left their footprint in a constantly evolving world. You’ll read about individuals who revitalized cities by developing IT Zones and updating water and power facilities. You’ll discover RCDDs who have co-authored  books on industry subjects never before addressed. You’ll learn about folks who have initiated industry standards and educational events—even those who helped introduce BICSI to areas outside of the United States. In fact, you may even recognize some of the names on our Changemaker list! BICSI pays tribute to these 25 exceptional

Our Changemakers

Although there are countless individuals to recognize as changemakers, the professionals featured in this article have effectively helped to shape the course of the ITS industry. This core group of individuals is empowering in their ability to share what they’ve learned to make a difference.individuals.

John Bakowski, RCDD, NTS,


Owner and President, ITS Design and Audit 

St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Stephen Banks, RCDD

Director, Nightlake Limited

Birmingham, United Kingdom

Betty M. Bezos, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, PE, PMP, TPM

President and Owner, Bezos Technologies

Miami, Florida

Eugene Botes, RCDD, NTS

Chair, BICSI Middle East and Africa District

Dubai, India

Jerry L. Bowman, RCDD, NTS, CISSP, CPP, TPM

Managing Director, CommScope Global Services

Columbus, Ohio

Colin Browitt, RCDD,

Technical Officer

Retired Technical Representative

Templestowe, Victoria, Australia

Catherine Dunn, RCDD

Business Development Manager,

KITCO Fiber Optics

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Robert S. Erickson, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, MMIS

Owner, Communications Network Design

Haysville, Kansas

Robert Y. Faber Jr., RCDD, NTS

Global Accounts Manager, The Siemon Company

Watertown, Connecticut

Brian Hansen, RCDD, NTS

Spec Engineer, Leviton Network Solutions

Rosemount, Minnesota

Ray Keden, RCDD, ITS Technician

Development Manager, Telecommunications, ERICO

San Leandro, California

Christine A. Klauck, RCDD, NTS

Manager of Technical Support, Leviton Fiber Connect Group

Brookfield, Connecticut

David P. Labuskes, RCDD, NTS, OSP, CSI, CTS, CPHIMS

Vice President, RTKL Associates Inc

Baltimore, Maryland

Tom Larsen, RCDD

Retired, AT&T

Buford, Georgia

Dennis Middleton

Managing Director, DESA Australia Pty. Ltd.

Fairfield, Australia

Gary Mormile, RCDD

Manager, Telecom Project Engineering

Bank of America

La Mirada, California

Carol Everett Oliver, RCDD

Marketing Analyst, Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company

New Holland, Pennsylvania

Harry Pfister, RCDD

Retired, GTE

St. Petersburg, Florida

Vic Phillips, RCDD, OSP,

ITS Technician, RITST, MI

President, Information Transport Systems Designers International (ITSDI)

Florence, South Carolina

David M. Richards, RCDD, NTS, OSP, ITS Technician

Owner, DR Consulting

Tampa, Florida

Ron Shaver, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, TPM, ITS Technician

Master Instructor, BICSI

Tampa, Florida

Greg Sherry, RCDD, NTS, WD

Managing Director, Data Centre Standards Ltd

London, United Kingdom

Richard S. Smith, RCDD, NTS, OSP
Manager, Bell Aliant Cabling Solutions,

Bell Aliant Regional Services

Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Ron Z. Symolon, RCDD, TLT

Retired, Southern New England Telephone

Cheshire, Connecticut

Tony Whaley, RCDD, NTS, WD

Vice President, RTKL Associates Inc.

Baltimore, Maryland

A little history

While telephone giant AT&T was being dismantled following a government antitrust suit in the early 1980s, Tampa, Florida-based BICSI, serving less than 480 members, was developing a credentialing designation for individuals in the communications and building industries.

The idea for an exam-based registration originated with a group of building industry consultants (BICs) from Bell Canada. These BICs were familiar with BICSI through the annual BICs (and later BICSI) conferences that took place in Kentucky in the early ‘70s. Prior to deregulation, BICs worked with  building owners and designers to ensure that new buildings were correctly designed to incorporate telephone distribution systems. BICSI President Jim Alexander recognized the need for a formal registration program that would educate and test individuals in the proper design, integration and implementation of telecommunications and their related infrastructure. He and Executive Secretary Larry Romig (later named Executive Director) initiated the development of the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) Program.

The RCDD registration was created in 1984 to promote economical, efficient and flexible tele-communications in commercial and multi-family buildings. The program was intended for architects, electrical engineers, interior designers and telecom personnel from both the regulated and deregulated sectors. Today, the RCDD is an internationally recognized credential for the telecommunications cabling industry and has evolved to include voice, data, video, security and other low-voltage systems. The RCDD credential is achieved by passing a rigorous exam based on the Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual (TDMM), and is maintained by meeting continuing education requirements and by frequent interaction with other members of the ITS community.

John Bakowski, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD

Owner and President

ITS Design and Audit

St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

BEGINNINGS: John’s love for telecommunications developed early. He began his career designing building networks for Bell Canada in the BICS group. In 1976, John met Larry Romig, then BICSI Secretary, at a Canadian BICS conference hosted by Bell Canada. Larry, impressed by John’s coordination of the event and his passion for the industry, invited John to become a member of BICSI.

SUCCESSES: John is credited with bringing an international focus to BICSI. As the former Global Region Director for BICSI, he was the voice for countries outside of the United States. During early inter-national expansion efforts, he traveled to Australia with President Richard Reed and Executive Director Jay Warmke to advance the country’s efforts in becoming the Australia/New Zealand District—the first district for BICSI. When John was named BICSI President in 2006, he continued to focus on the international membership. Through his efforts, members in the South Pacific, Japan, Columbia, Europe and the Middle East had a direct connection to the Board of Directors, resulting in a more diverse and intense membership.

Giving Back: Retired from Bell Canada, John continues to stay very active within BICSI and the ITS community. He now provides audit and design consulting on a global level. In addition to his work on the BICSI Registration and Specialties Supervision Committee, John also works with BICSI Cares, the Speakers Bureau and the Past Presidents Council.

John also enjoys proctoring BICSI exams. It’s an opportunity for him to talk to others involved in BICSI courses and programs. “I reach out to people all over the world and share successes I’ve had in the industry. We learn so much from each other.” John often offers words of encouragement and support to those who have struggled taking their RCDD and Specialist exams.

Forward Thinking: What began as a vision to increase the talent pool brought to BICSI has materialized into the NxtGEN Program. While working with international membership, John realized that a growing number of people in the ITS industry were eager to work for and achieve BICSI specialties, but didn’t necessarily need or want the RCDD credential. With that in mind, John presented his idea of allowing individuals to become BICSI Specialists without first having to become an RCDD.  A committee, initially referred to as the Inverted Funnel Project, was developed to review this task. After substantial research, the committee presented their findings and a strategic plan was put in place. The BICSI NxtGEN Committee, under the appointed leadership of Jerry Bowman and Bob Erickson, was created, opening the door for those seeking specialized industry experience and elevating the status of the RCDD credential globally. 

ADVICE: “I believe the ITS industry will continue to grow regardless of the financial blip our economy has recently experienced. But with fewer jobs out there, it’s essential to bring a higher level of service to all your clients. Listen to their needs so you can help your clients grow. BICSI is the ideal platform to network, learn and share your expertise and knowledge—a very rewarding atmosphere unlike any other venue in our industry!”

Stephen Banks, RCDD


Nightlake Limited

Birmingham, United Kingdom

BEGINNINGS: At the age of 16, Steve began as a technician apprentice, and he entered the ITS field straight out of school. Toward the end of his apprenticeship at General Electric Company (GEC) of the United Kingdom, he was involved with a newly formed computing group that was developing the digital telephone exchange solution for what is now known as British Telecom. Steve remained at GEC for 20 years, moving through the organization and becoming a design authority for major government and defense projects. Throughout his career, Steve has experienced the electromechanical, electronic, digital and optical aspects of the ITS industry. He took a job at Alcatel, during which time he was involved with the introduction of BICSI to Europe. His involvement at BICSI has been focused on the internationalization of its processes and its core documents, such as the TDMM and ITS Installation Methods Manual (ITSIMM). He also sits on many of BICSI’s committees and co-chairs the Standards Committee.

SUCCESSES: Having been nominated twice as one of the industry’s top 10 ITS influences in the U.K. press, Steve believes all of his accomplishments are great successes. “We have a good client base, good contacts

and good friends. I don’t see anything as a failure. Everything is a success, because it will allow you to move on to the next level.” Coming from a man who has worked in every aspect of the ITS industry and now runs a highly respected consulting company, these words certainly ring true.

Forward Thinking: Since Steve works in a technical industry, he feels that all of what he does is forward-looking, based on sound engineering and experience. “Technology advancements are always breaking ground in one area or another, and there isn’t a problem that you can’t find a solution for,” he says. “So much of what we do is continually changing, with the development of the next generation of products and solutions.” Steve believes that one of the things that makes BICSI stand out in advancing the industry is the creation of

standards and educating people to deliver useable solutions both now and for the future.

ADVICE: “The day that you believe you know all about what you’re doing is the day that you stop learning. There’s a whole lot more to the subject than what you think you know.”

Betty M. Bezos, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, PE, PMP, TPM

President and Owner

Bezos Technologies

Miami, Florida

BEGINNINGS: After finishing college with a degree in civil engineering from the University of Miami, Betty was hired by Southern Bell to work as an outside plant engineer in South Dade County, Florida. She later transferred to the BICS group in Miami, and obtained the RCDD credential in 1990. With that in hand, Betty moved on to become a building LAN manager. In 2000, she started her own consulting company and became a BICSI Master Instructor.

Mentors: Betty believes that anyone can become a mentor at any age and at any point in their career. She credits a number of mentors in her life, including a wonderful high school history teacher who taught her that teaching (and learning) could actually be fun. Professionally, Betty has been fortunate to always have mentors present in her life at the right moment in time. Referring to the RCDD credential, Frank Mazzotti was a mentor who sent her to Tampa to take “an exam that one day could probably mean a lot in your career.”

Giving Back: Betty enjoys offering professional guidance, career path information and talking to students about the opportunities that lie ahead. Before her job involved almost 100 percent travel, she volunteered at her church to work with teenagers and young adults. Professionally, she continually connects with students who have taken her courses at BICSI or in university settings. She feels extremely proud to receive e-mails from students telling her they received a job offer after having applied the knowledge acquired in one of her courses.

ADVICE: “Take every opportunity to enhance your knowledge and experience. You may feel that a job is monotonous and does not challenge you, but just by learning a new technology or methodology, you can expand your point of view.” Betty notes that she read Who Moved My Cheese when she was going through challenges in her job. It made her realize that the ITS industry was a field that required the ability to “always be with our tennis shoes around our neck, and to keep moving to the next opportunity. Always be an element of change!”

Forward Thinking: “I am very lucky to be involved in a field that has experienced incredible changes in so few years. As I meet young engineers and designers, I share their excitement and interest for what the future will bring to this field. Technologies such as WiMAX have become competitive and will assure connectivity to remote areas and developing countries throughout the world.”

Eugene Botes, RCDD, NTS

Chair, BICSI Middle East and Africa District

Based in Dubai, India

BEGINNINGS: Eugene’s ITS story began right after school, when he went into telecommunications with the South African Air Force. After that, he went into the private sector, working for a company that likely installed the very first structured twisted-pair cabling solution in South Africa. Gradually, Eugene progressed through the ranks, from installation to sales, with some consulting work as well. He got to hear about BICSI in the mid-1990s, and in 2000, Eugene became the first RCDD in Africa. He became an NTS Specialist shortly after that and took further training in 2003 to become a BICSI Master Instructor—the only one in the Middle East and Africa at that time. He has trained nearly half the RCDDs in the Middle East and Africa and is now serving as the Chair for BICSI’s Middle East and Africa district.

SUCCESSES: Eugene believes that a part of his success can be attributed to support from BICSI Headquarters and other BICSI members in Southern Africa and the United Kingdom. “Without support from others, tasks become more difficult.” 

One successful initiative Eugene has been able to spearhead, with the help of a Steering Committee in Dubai, is the growth of BICSI members in the Middle East and Africa district. Over the past year, the number of conferences held in that region has been increased from one to three—one in South Africa, one in Dubai and one in Saudi Arabia. Because of the geographic size of the area, Eugene felt it would be easier for BICSI to go to the members, rather than people having to travel to BICSI. Therefore, it has been much easier for interested people and members to gain knowledge through attending local conferences.

Membership has increased by at least 130 since 2007, and Eugene has helped to regain lost members, as well as attract new members in the Middle East and Africa—an amazing feat in these poor economic times. “BICSI is consistently growing in the area,” Eugene says. “Yes, the economic crunch has now reached this part of the world too, but as an RCDD you’ve got this global qualification, and if there’s anything I can do to help someone get a better job or a better career, whether it’s in Dubai or somewhere else, that’s what I want to help with.” At the same time it is equally important that knowledge be transferred by those that have it to those that need it—a vital aspect of BICSI’s vision that can be achieved by conferences and training.

ADVICE: Eugene sees life in general this way: “You cannot do what you want to do until you’ve done what you have to do.” Reaching goals may take hard work, but if there is something to believe in, it’s best to dig in, keep believing in it and see things through.

Jerry L. Bowman, RCDD, NTS, CISSP, CPP, TPM

Managing Director

CommScope Global Services

Columbus, Ohio

BEGINNINGS: Jerry became involved in telecommunications as an IT management professional back in the late 1980s. As the industry embraced distributed computing and the speeds began to increase, he began to train technicians in the emerging TIA standards and best practices. During one of those training sessions, Jerry had the opportunity to talk with the instructor, who was an RCDD. He was so impressed with the instructor’s knowledge of telecommunications that, after completing his company’s design training, he began to design the structured cabling systems for the company’s facilities using the newly published TIA-568 standards and the BICSI TDMM. Shortly after the first project, Jerry began to study the TDMM and obtained his RCDD.

SUCCESSES: Jerry experienced his most successful projects after becoming involved in BICSI. He is most proud of the opportunities that he’s had to contribute to the various BICSI manuals and standards. While the design and construction of new factories, high-rise and special-use facilities is exciting, he feels it’s more stimulating to be able to work with a team of professionals and create a document that serves an entire industry. He encourages all ITS professionals to get involved in a committee and write their name in BICSI’s history.

ADVICE: “You are entering this business at possibly the most exciting time in its young history. With technology systems and supporting ITS infrastructure now emerging as pillars of the construction design process, I would encourage those entering this industry to obtain their RCDD and get as much training and additional specialties as they can. The future holds great promise for these emerging professionals, providing they have the breadth of knowledge required for ITS and technology systems and can assume leadership roles within the design and construction process.”

Giving Back: Giving back allows Jerry to repay the debt he owes to those people who took time to teach him during his early years in this business. He pays it forward by ensuring the industry has a new generation of “givers” who will replace those in service now. Surprisingly, when Jerry finds new volunteers, their reason for not having stepped forward before has little to do with the time or energy commitment, but has more to do with their being unsure about how to help. Jerry encourages anyone with doubts or questions to simply ask how they can get involved.

Forward Thinking: “The next biggest changes will occur when we overcome the turf wars and the last few remaining technical challenges and really embrace the 4th utility idea. Once IP data networks finally overcome the last few speed bumps, the RCDD of the future will have an increased responsibility

for the successful construction and operation

of tomorrow’s technology-rich workplace and can take their rightful places next to the architects, engineers and others who are recognized as the foundation of the design and construction industry.”

Colin Browitt, RCDD,

Technical Officer

Retired Technical Representative

Templestowe, Victoria, Australia

BEGINNINGS: Colin gained his basic knowledge and understanding of the industry while in technician training school, where he later earned a diploma in electrical engineering, with a specialization in electronics. Profession-ally, Colin spent much of his career with Telecom Australia, Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company. During his years with Telecom Australia, Colin saw great change in the industry, which reflected change with the company. When Colin first joined Telecom Australia in 1969 it was known as the Post Master General’s Department and later Telecom Australia. After Colin left Telecom Australia in mid-1990, it later became known as Telstra.

For the following 13 years, Colin also worked as a technical representative for three major telecommunications manufacturers specializing in connectivity solutions. He later became a traveling instructor. Through his teaching, he helped to elevate the quality of ITS professionals in Australia.

SUCCESSES: Working with other associations and companies in Australia, Colin helped create a lobbying group consisting of BICSI members and many other individual organizations. This consortium is working together to bring industry issues to the government. More specifically, the group is working to elevate government policies and create a more strict compliance policy in regard to the quality of ITS design and installation projects.

ADVICE: Colin advises young professionals to first become generalists before specializing in a specific area of ITS. By gaining a fundamental understanding of all things that relate to communications, young professionals will be better equipped to work on more specialized projects later in their career. Colin believes everyone should have experience as a technician, or an equivalent position, and work toward the RCDD credential.

Giving Back: Colin has actively worked in conjunction with others to promote BICSI South Pacific and create recognition of BICSI in the credentialing program area. In the past, he has helped coordinate the speakers and topics for the annual South Pacific Conference, as well as work on the TDMM and volunteer on the local Steering Committee.

Catherine Dunn, RCDD

Business Development Manager

KITCO Fiber Optics

Virginia Beach, Virginia

BEGINNINGS: Cathy’s entry into the structured cabling market was pure happenstance. With career experience in city planning and commercial real estate, she moved from Virginia to Connecticut in 1990. When she couldn’t find a job in real estate, Cathy began working for a temp agency. Through one of her assignments, she interviewed for a job at Hubbell Premise Wiring and her ITS career began. Working with the sales team, product managers and engineers, she learned about structured cabling products from the ground up.

SUCCESSES: With a career focused on sales and marketing within the ITS industry, Cathy is proud of her work on strategic initiatives with a variety of major manufacturers, distributors and end users. Successful projects that stand out include product development and sales management with major structured cabling manufacturers, distributors and national accounts; marketing collateral design and production including catalogs, training manuals and Web site development; product training and curriculum development; and work with the BICSI Membership and Marketing Committee for the past four years.

Mentors: Cathy feels very fortunate to have worked with Brian McGlone, Kevin Thom and John Szupiany of Hubbell Premise Wiring. They have always been strong proponents of BICSI and have encouraged their staff to obtain certifications and get involved. She counts Maureen Selfridge, Carolyn Venceslau and Sharon Uricchio as three of the hardest working and most successful women she knows and views them as great role models when she entered the industry. “They proved that you can establish a career in a predominantly male marketplace while raising a family!”

Giving Back: Cathy believes that giving back is one of the greatest privileges we can exercise, both in our professional and personal life. She enjoys her committee work at BICSI immensely, as well as opportunities to mentor newcomers, network with other members and participate in BICSI Cares at each conference. She’s a firm believer that whatever we give away comes back to us.

Forward Thinking: “We have talked for years about increased bandwidth and conver-gence, and I believe that we are in the midst of a transition from legacy communications structures to true next-generation networks. Fiber optics provides the logical means to meet this exploding demand and I think we will see great strides in the next 5-10 years in this technology, particularly in areas such as health, media, business and government.”

Robert S. Erickson, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, MMIS


Communications Network Design

Haysville, Kansas

BEGINNINGS: Bob began his career working as an electrician on communications towers in Vietnam. While in college, he accepted a job with Southwestern Bell where he was introduced to telecom. For 30 years he worked as an OSP supervisor, OSP design engineer, and customer sales and support engineer. For more than 10 years he has shared his knowledge with students in the Master’s program for Data Communications at Friends University. Currently, Bob is the owner of Communications Network Design.

SUCCESSES: Throughout his career, Bob worked on many successful projects—but one job in particular stuck out to him. Bob worked on a team hired to network a school district in Kansas. The budget was very restricted, but through hard work and strategic planning the system was every bit as good, if not better, than other school districts with much higher budgets. The school district soon became the fastest growing district in the state and their communications network is now among the most advanced in Kansas and the surrounding states.

ADVICE: Bob believes it is most important for young professionals to always be open-minded and look for different and innovative ways of doing things. “Always try new methods and don’t be afraid to fail. Become involved and take ownership in something you feel strongly about.” Bob believes there are three types of people in the world: ones who make things happen, ones who watch things happen, and ones who wonder what happened. “It’s your choice as to which one you represent. Be proactive and make things happen. Never be afraid of change, embrace it, the ride can be exhilarating and rewarding.”

Mentors: Many mentors helped shape Bob’s vision and outlook, both personally and professionally. He’s a positive thinker and helps others around him stay positive and be creative. Negativism will almost always lead to failure. He recalls being told that the best solutions have not yet been developed and never be timid about your ideas. When you voice your opinion, do it in a positive, constructive and enthusiastic way.

Forward Thinking: “ITS is a vibrant field that will continue to grow for the foreseeable future,” says Bob. He suggests pursuing a career in the evolving and rapidly changing communications industry.

Robert Y. Faber Jr., RCDD, NTS
Global Accounts Manager

The Siemon Company

Watertown, Connecticut

BEGINNINGS: Bob graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in the early 1980s with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. Rather than seeking employment in that field, he was pulled in a different direction to join a small start-up cabling installation company and never left the telecommunications cabling industry. Bob’s initial knowledge of the ITS industry included installing 1A2 key systems, electronic key systems and private branch exchange (PBX) telephone systems. He has continued to acquire immense knowledge working for Siemon the past 25 years.

SUCCESSES: Bob lists his two sons, Rob and Chris, now 16 and 14 respectively, as his most important contributions to the world. He believes the RCDD credential, which he attained on his first attempt, is his most significant professional milestone. He has fond memories of the many hours involved in reading and reviewing the TDMM and the friendship that he developed with George Thorning as they studied for the exam.

ADVICE: “The best advice I can offer is to expect the unexpected, immerse yourself in your profession and seek out opportunities to learn that which is unknown to you as you plan to succeed. Seek knowledge and you

will find success.”

Giving Back: Bob spends countless volunteer hours finding ways to innovate and improve the content published in the BICSI reference manuals and BICSI standards. He feels it’s necessary to get directly involved in order to improve the content for those who study these manuals for future exams. Bob is very proud of the continual improvements that he and his colleagues have offered to BICSI and challenges everyone to realize the satisfaction that comes from making important contributions to BICSI and the industry.

Forward Thinking: “In a couple of words, technology and convergence. Today’s ITS professionals use converged applications and appliances as tools to improve efficiencies in the workplace. The next generation of ITS professionals will interact with these voice, data and video applications and appliances like never before. Already, we are beginning to see all modes of information continually adapt to the emerging demands of new technologies. In the future, we will use these converged applications and appliances utilizing Internet-based, artificial intelligence networks.”

Brian Hansen, RCDD, NTS

Spec Engineer

Leviton Network Solutions

Rosemount, Minnesota

BEGINNINGS: In the 1980s, Brian had a job selling security systems when he met an owner of a cable manufacturing/distribution company. “After I tried to sell him for two hours on a security system, he sat down with me for two hours telling me why I should work for his company,” Brian recalled. That start brought Brian into the ITS industry, where he has been working since.

Mentors: Boyd Uppman, a long-time member of the BICSI Registration and Specialties Supervision Committee, served as Brian’s mentor and got him involved with BICSI. Boyd told Brian about the RCDD program and encouraged him to work toward getting the credential. “I really appreciate what Boyd did for me,” Brian says. “Boyd mentored a lot of people in our industry and our organization. I give a lot of credit to him and what he did in getting me involved with BICSI.”

Forward Thinking: Besides becoming the president of BICSI in 2010, Brian looks forward to writing technology credits for the LEED/Green Building Rating System. LEED/Green building is a very hot topic, and there are no technology credits for it as of yet. Brian believes that writing these credits will not only be a benefit to BICSI members, but for anyone involved in the ITS industry. Once these technology credits are complete, Brian plans to focus on building relationships with other organizations in the industry.

ADVICE: Get involved in ITS and BICSI early. In conjunction with BICSI’s NxtGEN program, Brian wants to involve more colleges and technical schools with BICSI to bring the youth back into BICSI and the RCDD program. “We all know the benefit of the RCDD and how it benefits us in the industry. It can only help young professionals to get their RCDD while they’re in or coming out of college to get them a better position in the industry. The more students and schools we can get involved, the more beneficial it is, not only to them, but to BICSI, our membership and our fellow RCDDs.”

Ray Keden, RCDD,

ITS Technician

Development Manager, Telecommunications


San Leandro, California

BEGINNINGS: Ray’s love for telecommunications began straight out of middle school in Frankfurt, Germany, when he enrolled in a three-and-a half year apprenticeship as a telecommunications technician. After earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering, Ray began work at a large, private German telephone company, Telefonbau und Normalzeit, where he remained for 14 years. In 1984, Ray came to America and established Keden Consulting. Working in UL, CSA and NEMA committees, he gained a great deal of experience in North American codes and standards. For the past 14 years, Ray has been employed at ERICO®, where he is currently the development manager for telecommunications.

SUCCESSES: Ray considers his greatest professional achievement to be the introduction and adaptation of the J-Hook. The first non-continuous pathway system to emerge in the ITS industry has become one of the most widely used pathway systems in North America. Ray presented the CADDY® J-Hook to BICSI, TIA and ISO/IEC, where it now plays an important role in both domestic and international standards. What began as a low-cost installation option has developed into a smart choice to help achieve green building solutions.

Giving Back: During his 30 years of participating in standardization, Ray has worked closely with many major standards organizations. An active member of the BICSI Codes and Standards Committees for 12 years, Ray also sat on the German Standards Association (DKE/VDE) from 1978-84. He has represented BICSI since 2002 as a principal in Panel 3 of the National Electrical Code (NEC®). With extensive knowledge in grounding and bonding, as well as cabling standards, Ray is working within ISO/IEC on the Cabling Implementation Task Group (CITG). Their objective is to meld European CENELEC standards and North American TIA standards into a new ISO/IEC 14763-2 Implementation and Operation of Customer Premises Cabling – Part 2: Planning and Installation.

“You don’t contribute to an industry association to garner recognition,” says Ray, “but when BICSI bestowed the 2006 Harry J. Pfister Award for Excellence in the Telecommunications Industry on me, I was humbled, proud and speechless.”

ADVICE: “Get involved, share knowledge and make a commitment to help further the ITS industry,” advises Ray. “You will experience personal rewards along the way. Contractors recognize those affiliated with BICSI as individuals serious about proper knowledge and education. In particular, the RCDD credential opens many doors that might otherwise remain closed.”

Forward Thinking: “There is a better solution out there” is Ray’s working principle. “Working with cables, conduits and other materials was once a relatively static science. As we face the environmental challenges of today, we need to focus on creating products that are more efficient…products that save our resources.”

Christine A. Klauck, RCDD, NTS
Manager of Technical Support

Leviton Fiber Connect Group

Brookfield, Connecticut

BEGINNINGS: Chris originally never aspired to work in the ITS industry. Chris wanted to work as a physical education instructor and planned on studying it after high school. Though supportive, her parents stressed the importance of learning a trade as well. Before studying to become an instructor, she received a certificate in drafting. After completing both programs, Chris began searching for a job and realized there were no openings at schools for instructors. She began drafting for IBM and eventually learned to draft on computers.

SUCCESSES: One of the largest projects Chris worked on was the Price Waterhouse building in Manhattan, New York. The building had more than 1,800 cable drops, with 6 cables per drop and 18 change orders per day. The installation took two years to complete and Chris worked as a project manager and designer throughout the project.

Giving Back: Chris has been an active volunteer within BICSI and other associations for many years. She previously held the position of U.S. Northeast Region Director, currently serves as the Chair for the BICSI Cares Committee and was recently elected to the Board of Directors as Secretary. Through her work with  BICSI Cares, she has had the opportunity to research and select the charities that benefit from attendee donations at the BICSI conferences. With her help, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been donated 

to charity.

Forward Thinking: Currently, Chris works with structured cabling within data centers. She explains it as complicated but exciting. “Looking into the future, there is no doubt data centers are going to play a major role in all designs,” said Chris. With the increased speed of systems, manufacturers are capable of doing a tremendous amount toward the 40 Gb/s applications that are not yet written.

David P. Labuskes RCDD, NTS, OSP, CSI, CTS, CPHIMS

Vice President

RTKL Associates Inc

Baltimore, Maryland

BEGINNINGS: At the start of his career, Dave held the position of chief information officer at a credit and collections finance firm. He later worked as executive vice president with Accelerated Payment Systems, the first offered service supporting payment by check over the phone. For the five years following, Dave owned his own consulting firm named Premier Technology Services, which focused on information technology solutions for businesses and specialized in both the retirement community and financial software industries. Dave began working with RTKL, an international design firm, in 1999 to start a consulting division that worked specifically on low-voltage, voice and data cabling design. Currently, Dave’s division at RTKL employs 60 people who work on ITS projects with specialties in wireless, voice and data, audiovisual, acoustics and security design.

SUCCESSES: Through BICSI, Dave volunteers as the chair for the Technical Information and Methods Committee. This committee is responsible for writing and updating the BICSI technical manuals, as well as the development of additional technical publications. Through his work, he has helped to shape the direction of BICSI and has been actively involved with the NxtGEN initiative. Professionally, Dave takes great pride in the people who work within his division at RTKL. Through his team of talented individuals, the Special Systems Design Group has made great contributions to the value of the RTKL brand.

ADVICE: Dave believes you should focus on giving, not taking, and become involved as a volunteer. “Take the opportunity to meet talented people, learn new skills and help your business grow. Whenever or whatever you give will provide a sense of ownership and affect change in the industry.” Dave has spent as much as 30 hours per week on volunteer work. He believes volunteering is a great way to contribute to BICSI and the industry as a whole.

Forward Thinking: Looking ahead, Dave believes that wireless technologies are going to take center stage in the industry. “Ignore wireless technologies at your own risk,” he warns. He also advises professionals to throw away all assumptions, as the industry will likely undergo a massive shift that requires ITS professionals to create new relationships. Businesses will begin sharing more information virtually and partnering with other businesses to provide new opportunities. The move, he believes, will be global. New challenges will arise and new solutions will be created.

Tom Larsen, RCDD

Retired from AT&T

Buford, Georgia

BEGINNINGS: His first job out of college, Tom joined the sales department of New York Telephone, which was then part of the “Bell System.” In 1980, Tom moved to Atlanta and joined BellSouth’s BICS department. Soon after, Tom was promoted to head up BellSouth’s BICS staff. He then joined BICSI and began a long history of close involvement in BICSI activities.

SUCCESSES: Tom played an integral role in the evolution of BICSI conferences. Back when corporate co-sponsors helped conduct the conferences, BellSouth co-sponsored the Winter Conference for more than 10 years. As the conference co-sponsor director, Tom worked closely with Carol Eisman (then BICSI conference manager) to advance BICSI conferences from homegrown overhead projector presentations to the professional

format that exists today. “Working as the conference co-sponsor director was particularly rewarding for me because new ground was always being plowed. BICSI’s membership numbers soared, especially internationally.”

Giving Back: Tom spent much of his professional career giving back to the industry. Throughout the years, Tom chaired the Education and Training Committee, the Engineering Committee and the Governmental Relations Committee. He won BICSI’s Member of the Year Award in 1986 for establishing BICSI’s first Engineering Committee, the TDMM format and BICSI’s initial design training courses. His continuous involvement during BICSI’s formative years helped the association grow into a leading educator of telecommunications design skills.

Advice: “Get involved in the leadership of BICSI. Lend your expertise and help shape BICSI’s future.”

Dennis Middleton

Managing Director

DESA Australia Pty. Ltd.

Fairfield, Victoria, Australia

BEGINNINGS: As a young man in Scotland, Dennis was always pulling apart clocks, bikes and anything else he could get his hands on. He wanted to be a motor mechanic, but it was suggested that Dennis become an electrician because it was cleaner, more respected and was the way of the future. He got an apprenticeship at the age of 16, and a year-and-a half later, when his family moved to Australia, even more opportunities opened up for him.

After studying one night a week for 10 years at night school in many subjects, Dennis was included on a team that installed the power for some of IBM and ICL’s largest computers in Melbourne. He was highly recognized as someone who understood the stringent grounding requirements for those company’s mainframes, so he continued to be included in major installations all over Australia, New Guinea and Bougainville copper mines.

As computing migrated from the computer room to the desktop it was natural for Dennis to be included in the complex cabling require-ments to the desktop, and he has continued in that aspect of the industry to this day.   

SUCCESSES: Dennis believes that, rather than having a single big success, he has had a series of many small successes. One of these successes was starting his business, DESA, from scratch in 1989. Currently he supervises a staff of more than 300 full-time employees. He was also instrumental in bringing BICSI to Australia, and he uses the RCDD qualification as the cornerstone of his company’s technical team. In doing so, Dennis has set a precedent for other Australian companies to follow suit.

Advice: Dennis was told many years ago that “there is no luck in business; it’s all about preparation.  Prepare for an opportunity when it comes along, because when one is prepared and the opportunity comes, others will call that luck.”

Giving Back: “I feel that I will never give back enough to this industry,” Dennis says. However, since starting DESA, he decided that one of the key success factors for his company would be employing apprentices. Over the past 20 years, he has employed thousands, and watching how the young men and women grow and enjoy the benefits of the ITS industry is fantastic. “Most of our project managers who hold RCDD qualifications have completed their apprenticeship with DESA.” 

Forward Thinking: “Our industry is secure with the good, young people I see coming through, and it is important for folks around my age to believe in these people and help them along the way as others have helped us.”

Gary Mormile, RCDD

Manager, Telecom Project Engineering

Bank of America

La Mirada, California

BEGINNINGS: Gary began in the industry in 1968 working for Pacific Telephone. There he performed a variety of technical and supervisory tasks and eventually became involved with their BIC engineering group. Under recommendation from George Loveren, a fellow BICSI member and RCDD, Gary sat for the RCDD examination and passed. He was among the first group of individuals to take the exam. Since then, he has been a constant contributor to the ITS industry and has urged many in the industry to become BICSI members and work toward receiving the RCDD credential.

SUCCESSES: Gary recalls a project in the early 1990s for the Department of Water and Power where a team from his organization was tasked with updating the Department’s facilities. One of their main multi-story buildings in the San Fernando Valley needed to have a complete infrastructure installation of voice, data, systems, wiring and communications systems. His team was able to build the entire infrastruc-ture and complete the job within the given time line and to a very high standard of installation, especially for that time. It was a very large, very expensive project that Gary was proud to manage. Gary was also one of the managers of an engineering and construction group that worked on design and construction buildout for the Southern California Metrolink System.

Forward Thinking: At the 2008 Fall Conference, Gary was able to attend a presentation regarding NxtGEN and what the program will do to further specialize the structure of the RCDD and Specialist programs. He is very encouraged by this move. He compares it to medical degrees and specializations. “It’s hard for a doctor to know everything. That’s why there are specialties. In the same way, with complex technology, it is very difficult for one RCDD to know every single aspect about every single technology and be 100 percent current. It’s just too much to digest. The further specialization will help to alleviate that.” He believes that NxtGEN expands the importance of BICSI as an organization and the importance of training, and it gives more focus and more credibility to a certification. “Being one of the original RCDDs,” he notes, “I really think it’s a good move.”

Advice: “Stay involved with the organization and support it,” Gary says. “I think, in the long run, BICSI provides many benefits to engineers. Companies I work for today acknowledge my background and acknowledge the organization and what it stands for. The RCDD is my ‘badge of honor.’ It really shows how well-rounded you are.”

Carol Everett Oliver, RCDD

Marketing Analyst

Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company

New Holland, Pennsylvania

BEGINNINGS: Carol began her career working in marketing and advertising. After several years of working with clients in the ITS industry, Carol was urged by a mentor to start her own firm. In 1996 Everett Communications was established. For the past 3 years, Carol has been working for Berk-Tek as the marketing analyst.

SUCCESSES: As a contributing writer to Cabling Business Magazine, Carol has a monthly column called Reel Time. She believes it is important to publish technical information in an easy-to-read format. “I try to explain technical items in the simplest of terms,” says Carol. With more than 100 articles published in many trade journals, it is clear that she has helped to advance the industry with her column, case studies and white papers through education and exposure.

Advice: Carol recalls studying for the RCDD exam. At the time, she was overwhelmed with the amount of information. After asking her Master Instructor for further explanation on some of the topics, she realized it was easier to understand the material by approaching each section individually. After putting her life on hold for three months, Carol achieved the RCDD credential in 2003. She now promotes the RCDD and advises ITS professionals to peruse the credential and embrace the evolving industry through training.

Giving Back: In 1996, Carol attended her first BICSI conference. Since then, she has attended them regularly and currently sits on the Nominating Committee and the Exhibitor Liaison Committee, which she helped to establish and served as its first chair. Through this volunteer work, Carol has helped evolve the Exhibit Hall into what it is today. Working closely with each exhibitor, the committee brings suggestions back to BICSI and proposes policy changes based on the exhibitor feedback.

In addition to her volunteer work with BICSI, Carol also works with ASIS International, an organization for security professionals, as their subject matter expert for structured cabling on their Education Council. “I’m working to create a bridge between the structured cabling and security worlds.” 

Forward Thinking: Looking ahead, Carol predicts that all network services will soon be going into one telecom room, including the security industry and building automation. Smart buildings mean more structured cabling, and the need for ITS professionals to become multidisciplined.

Harry Pfister, RCDD

Retired from GTE

St. Petersburg, Florida

BEGINNINGS: While studying pre-engineering at St. Petersburg Junior College, Harry saw a job posting for an osp engineer at General Telephone Company. Over the next 32 years he held several management positions, promoted to senior and later systems engineer. Harry learned a great deal on-the-job with the AT&T/Bell Telephone Training Manual leading the way. Little did Harry know that attending educational Systems Seminars put on by the University of Kentucky in old tobacco barns would be his first step in helping to establish BICSI.

SUCCESSES: Harry was a regular attendee of the biannual Systems Seminars that offered architects and engineers hands-on learning opportunities and lectures. In time, Harry noticed that more telephone employees were attending the seminars than architects and engineers, changing the dynamics of the event. Representing General Telephone on the Planning Committee, Harry came up with the idea to develop a new conference tailored to individuals in the communications field. In 1973, the University of South Florida and General Telephone sponsored the first BICs conference in Tampa, Florida. As attendee numbers rose, Harry, along with BICSI Executive Director Larry Romig, saw the need for a professional telecommunications association, and in 1974 BICSI was born.

In addition to helping establish BICs conferences and later, BICSI, Harry is also credited for developing the GTE Telephone Standards Manual. The manual was a compilation of many different technical resources from all over the world. When the publication was completed, Harry presented it to BICSI, and it was used as a primary resource for the development of the TDMM.

Giving Back: Harry is extremely active in both his home community and the ITS industry. He shares his knowledge of outside plant and building design in the many committees and organizations he has sat on. Harry has been president of Construction Specifications Institute, as well as local chapters of both the Electrical Council of Florida and the Producers Council (educating architects and engineers). In addition, Harry has been a member of IEEE for 50-plus years and was a member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association for 30 years.

Advice: Harry’s philosophy, not surprisingly, is if you’re able and active, you should participate. Get involved in the industry. Volunteer to sit on a professional committee, then work hard to make a difference.

FORWARD THINKING: How can we make our industry better? How can we improve our community? For Harry, our community and our industry work hand in hand. By requiring proper codes, we can avoid problems down the road and focus on improving technology and making our world a safer, technologically smarter place to live and work.

Vic Phillips, RCDD, OSP, ITS Technician, RITST, MI


Information Transport Systems Designers International (ITSDI)

Florence, South Carolina

BEGINNINGS: Vic started out as an Aviation Electronics Technician for the U.S. Navy. After four years, he moved on to Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and later the Southern Bell Telephone Company. He began as a groundsman with PG&E and worked his way up to journeyman lineman. Vic graduated under the G.I. Bill with a degree in business administration and industrial management. After 10 years with Southern Bell he was promoted as an OSP engineer. Two years later he became the building industry consultant for the Florence District.

While working for Southern Bell as a BIC, Vic was invited by Bill Milam, the BICS Staff Manager for South Carolina, to attend the 1978 Tampa BICSI Conference. Vic was so impressed that he asked to return the following year. When his company was unable to pay his way, Vic paid for himself.

SUCCESSES: As the 75th member of BICSI, Vic became very involved in the association. In 1980, BICSI President Dunn Harvey asked Vic to chair the Engineering and Standards Committee (today known as the Technical Information and Methods Committee), where he served until 2002. Vic worked with this group to create BICSI’s first technical document, the BICSI Engineering and Standards Handbook. Published by GTE, this book outlined the technical specifications for running pathways in commercial buildings and was used throughout the industry. In addition, Vic became part of a joint working group with GTE to produce and publish the BICS Handbook, the first comprehensive document to address distribution design. The BICS Handbook would later evolve into the TDMM. Vic was also instrumental in developing BICSI’s Installation Program as one of the three SMEs asked to write the BICSI Cabling Installation Manual.

Giving Back: After serving as BICSI President from 1988-89, Vic was ready to retire, which he finally did in 1991. “The industry was good to me. I felt it was my personal responsibility to give back to those starting out in the field.” In 1996, Vic became a BICSI Master Instructor so that he could pass on his knowledge and experience to his students via “brain dumps.” To this day, Vic teaches classes in both distribution design and outside plant. In addition, Vic is helping to expand the availability of BICSI credentials as vice chair of BICSI’s NxtGEN Committee.

Advice: “Treat BICSI as YOUR association. Take entrepreneurial ownership and help BICSI continue to grow and become the world’s premiere ITS association.”

FORWARD THINKING: Back in 1987, Vic and BICSI Executive Director Larry Romig began the process of creating an educational program that enabled individuals out of high school to go as far as they wanted in the telecommunications industry. Today we’ve seen that goal materialize with BICSI’s ITS Installation Program and Distribution Design Program. Now individuals have all the resources they need to become professionals and specialists in the ITS industry.

David M. Richards, RCDD, NTS, OSP, ITS Technician


DR Consulting

Tampa, Florida

BEGINNINGS: Upon finishing high school in the mid-eighties, David was introduced to the industry by a neighbor who was a retired Pacific Bell instructor. The electrical, as well as mechanical properties of telecom instruments for that time were very fascinating to him, so David attended Western Technical College and received a diploma in telecommunications. His first position was as a repair technician for telephone/answering devices and fax machines. The use of cellular telephone technology was in its beginning stages, and he was involved in the inception of a cellular phone installation and repair department for the first company he worked for following school.

SUCCESSES: David’s success has come since his discovery of BICSI during a 10-year service as the vice president of technical training for PCC Network Solutions. He has volunteered as the BICSI U.S. Western Region Director from 2005-06, the BICSI Board of Directors Liaison for the Education Advisory Council and Installation Committee and is a BICSI Certified Trainer and a Master Instructor. He was involved from start to finish with developing the current BICSI strategic business plan, and served with the National Science Foundation Consortium of Volunteer Instructors from 2001-06. David continues to serve on the Installation Committee and was the driving force behind the development of the BICSI Cabling Skills Challenge.

Advice: ”Find your talent and passion in the industry. Develop a relationship with those who you feel are successful in those areas. Ask them how they got to where they are today and what would they do differently now that they are there. Accept that change is constant in this industry and continuously seek updated education to expand your knowledge.”

Mentors: Mentors have always played a big part in David’s career, and they are the reason for him discovering his passion for teaching. Mentors have helped him maintain his perspective toward his career, while at the same time helping him set benchmarks and goals to keep his curiosity and thirst for knowledge satisfied.

Giving Back: Being a volunteer for an association like BICSI has given David the opportunity to satisfy his passion for sharing knowledge and being a mentor in honor of those who have done the same for him throughout his career. He is honored to stand up in front of his peers and give them something practical to take back to their place of work. His never-ending goal is to keep finding new ways to provide a career path for those who started in the field and would like to expand their horizon in the industry.

Ron Shaver, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, TPM, ITS Technician

Master Instructor


Tampa, Florida

BEGINNINGS: Ron started out in the U.S. Air Force working in Airborne Communications. His early career also included work in the oil field industry, where he maintained electronic devices sent into oil wells. When Ron’s company purchased a computer business, EMR, Ron was excited for the opportunity to work with computers. In the late 1970s, cables supporting mainframe-to-desktop emerged. Since few companies were selling this new technology, Ron began making custom cables in his garage and selling them locally. In 1978, Ron began his own business. When competition grew and RFQs began requiring RCDDs, Ron earned his RCDD credential. In 1996, Ron became a contract Master Instructor teaching for BICSI. In 2000, he came to work for BICSI full-time as a subject matter expert. He was later promoted to manager of curriculum and instructor development.

SUCCESSES: What began as a love for computers developed into a homegrown business. Ron’s 1978 company, Custom Computer Cable Company, was in business for 18 years. Established at a time when there were no standards and twisted-pair didn’t exist, Ron used innovation to get computers and cables to talk to one another. Later, Ron’s experience allowed him to quickly adapt to twisted-pair cables as well. 

Ron also takes pride in the accomplishments of BICSI’s Professional Development (PD) department where he worked and managed for three years. He credits the entire group for greatly improving and updating many of BICSI’s distribution design and wireless courses, as well as BICSI’s entire installation program. These updates required a tremendous amount of effort and cooperation on the part of what Ron considers “an extremely talented PD team.”

Giving Back: Though Ron retired from BICSI in 2008, his love for teaching has brought him back to the classroom. Ron continues to teach as a Master Instructor, utilizing his knowledge to assist others in earning credentials and bettering the industry. With strong ties to BICSI’s PD department, Ron has also committed himself to doing “whatever it takes” to make the busy department’s job easier. He is currently involved in several BICSI projects, including NxtGEN and updating the next edition of the Network Design Reference Manual (NDRM).

Advice: “Allow people to do their jobs—what they know how to do. Everyone has their own areas of expertise, and we should respect that.”

Forward Thinking: “The Telecommunica-tions industry has always been a very dynamic industry. Even in today’s economy, technology continues to change. We should expect advancements in wireless and fiber-to-the-home. Products and services will likely continue to develop to meet the increasing demand for bandwidth to all facets of the private and public sectors. The insatiable thirst for knowledge throughout the world drives these advancements.”

Greg Sherry, RCDD, NTS, WD

Managing Director

Data Centre Standards Ltd

London, United Kingdom

BEGINNINGS: Greg began working in the industry more than 30 years ago when he was accepted into an apprenticeship program with what was then U.K.’s leading computer manufacturer. Greg’s father was an electrician and introduced him to the emerging industry.

Since his start, Greg has now become involved with data centers and currently owns Data Centre Standards Ltd, which audits, designs and builds data centers across Europe. Greg also serves on the BICSI Board of Directors as European Region Director.

SUCCESSES: Greg worked on the largest cabling project in Europe in 1997. As the Quality Control Consultant on the project, he worked to oversee the design and installation of more than 200,000 cables. As this was one of the first category 5e installations in Europe, the cabling was stringently tested. Not many other buildings have been tested to the same level since.

In addition, Greg takes great pride in his RCDD, NTS and WD credentials. At the time he passed the exam, there were less than 100 other RCDDs in Europe. Greg was also the third NTS Specialist and the first WD Specialist in Europe.

Greg was voted as one of the top 10 ‘movers and shakers’ in the U.K. cabling market and has also been appointed to be on the judging panel for three major European data center awards ceremonies.

Advice: “Staying current and up-to-date is key in the ITS industry because changes come so quickly,” says Greg. He also suggests that all ITS professionals should create and plan a training program and career progression path. It is important to keep up with emerging technologies and continue to receive training in the latest developments.

From firsthand experience, Greg realizes the importance of becoming involved with BICSI. With the development of the BICSI Data Center Standard, Greg was able to see a business opportunity within the industry. Staying current in the industry will not only prove to be individually rewarding, but could also translate into new business opportunities.

Giving Back: In 1998, Greg was introduced to BICSI. At that time, the U.K. had little to no guidance or quality control in the industry. Since then, he has helped to create more awareness of the organization and its credentialing programs. “I volunteer to make a difference,” says Greg. He currently sits on the Board of Directors and also volunteers on BICSI’s Ethics Committee, Membership and Marketing Committee and Registration and Specialties Supervision Committee. Additionally, he works with the European Country Chairs to continually encourage BICSI growth in the region and often presents at breakfast club meetings.

Richard S. Smith, RCDD, NTS, OSP

Manager, Bell Aliant Cabling Solutions

Bell Aliant Regional Services

Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

BEGINNINGS: Richard began in the industry in the 1970s, when he was hired by New Brunswick Telephone Company as an installation and repair technician, and he will celebrate his 34th anniversary with the company—now called Bell Aliant—this year. Impressed with BICSI and what the organization offers, he became a member in 1999 and subsequently earned his RCDD, NTS and OSP credentials. In 2006, Richard was elected as BICSI’s Canadian Region Director, a position in which he has been re-elected for the 2009-10 term.

SUCCESSES: Easily, one of Richard’s greatest successes to date is bringing the Canadian Region Meetings to community colleges and technical schools, rather than holding them in hotels or corporate buildings. The same information that is traditionally shared with members at Region Meetings is now also shared with faculty and students enrolled in ITS programs. Here, young professionals have the opportunity to learn what BICSI is and what the organization has to offer. Students and faculty also have the opportunity to interact with today’s ITS professionals to find out what skill sets they are looking for. 

Additionally, Richard worked with BICSI Headquarters to reallocate the money that would have been used to rent other facilities and created the BICSI Next Generation Scholarship. The award is presented to a deserving student in a college-level IT program. It represents the association’s focus to reach out to the next generation of IT, engineering and other ITS professionals to help them to achieve their knowledge-based goals.

Forward Thinking: “Today, universities and other post-secondary schools graduate students with a myriad of credentials, including graduate engineers. I would like to see the day when technical colleges graduate BICSI-credentialed Installers, Technicians and potentially, RCDDs or other BICSI accreditations similar to how the P.E. Program tracks today,” Richard says. “I would also like to see BICSI manuals—because of their timely, vendor-neutral, manufacturer-independent content—be used as resource manuals by students taking various ITS programs at technical schools.”

Advice: “The reward for good work is more work,” Richard notes, and he feels that access to information from BICSI has made that saying even truer. Richard encourages everyone planning a career in the ITS industry to get BICSI accreditations to ensure that they are equipped with the information to do good work.

Ronald Z. Symolon, RCDD, TLT

Cheshire, Connecticut

BEGINNINGS: As a young man just out of the U.S. Army, it seemed natural for Ron to follow in his dad’s footsteps and work at a telephone company, so he took a position at Southern New England Telephone (SNET). There he spent the next 30 years, the last nine of which he spent in the BICS group. After retiring from SNET, Ron began a second career as a telecommunications consultant with the State of Connecticut Department of Public Works. Over the years, Ron also served as vice president of marketing at Data Link Corporation, director of marketing at New England Insulated Wire Corporation and founder and past president of Communication Cable Consultants Inc. (CCCI), a subsidiary of a large architectural/engineering firm in Connecticut. During this time, Ron implemented many state-of-the-art planning and design standards pertaining to building communications distribution facilities.

SUCCESSES: While working at SNET, Ron was hand-selected to co-author a chapter in “High Tech Real Estate.” This was the first book ever published to comprehensively address essential information needed by professionals involved in commercial real estate and telecommunications ventures. Ron used his expertise to write the chapter entitled “Inside Wiring for the High Tech Building.” This chapter dealt with the importance of preplanning and managing high-tech buildings. Date Pro Research later selected this chapter as a technical reference in their own technical data publications.

Ron experienced another success when the City of Waterbury, Connecticut selected his firm, CCCI, to assist in the development of the state’s first “Information Technology Zone.” The purpose of the zone was to revitalize an old, failing industrial area of the city and pull it out of economic distress. After many months of research, CCCI developed a master plan and the city began marketing its new I.T. Zone to the public. They were able to draw many new and emerging businesses back to the city. The plan used technology as the main attraction.

Giving Back: As one of the first people to ever sit for the RCDD exam, Ron worked very hard to familiarize the industry with the benefits of the credential. In 2002, he introduced BICSI and Ron Provost, Government Relations Committee Representative, to the State of Connecticut Licensing Bureau. Connecticut ultimately became the first state to recognize the RCDD credential, and later the state-recognized Telecommunications Infrastructure Layout Technicians (TLT) License was established.

Advice: “Your reputation precedes you in this industry, so you must consistently provide quality workmanship. Gather all facts and figures and provide clients with engineered solutions. Listen to your client. When providing technical design documents, be accurate and clear with your requirements. Remain consistent from project to project so that your client, the contractor and you are in agreement as to what is expected.”

Tony Whaley, RCDD, NTS, WD

Vice President

RTKL Associates Inc

Baltimore, MD

BEGINNINGS: Tony started out in wireless communications as a radio repairman in the U.S. Army. He trained on telephone switches while stationed in Germany and was hired by the University of Cincinnati as a telecom foreman, overlooking the crew that performed moves, adds and changes for the university’s telephone system. It was during this time that Tony met some individuals working on the outside plant and data side who talked about BICSI and its programs. With piqued interest, Tony did some research, joined the association and attended his first conference in 1997. Following that, he studied for and attained his RCDD credential and realized the door had been opened to a whole new world of opportunity.

SUCCESSES: Tony counts many fortunate successes in his career. His first experience was working with the APEX group in Maryland to help design a collapsed fiber backbone system for the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C. Containing more than 75 telecommunications closets, it was a real teeth-cutter project in Tony’s career. More recently, he was part of an award-winning design team for the design of the new Communications Command Post at the U.S. Army’s Fort Stewart. Overall, Tony feels blessed to have worked with and learned so much from the talented individuals he has met over the years.

Mentors: Tony credits many mentors who touched his life. Bennie Lovette at the University of Cincinnati helped Tony get started in the industry and discover BICSI. Paul Kenny at APEX (now Vision Technologies) mentored Tony in pricing and managing projects. John Lynch pushed Tony to be detail-oriented in all that he did at Bell Atlantic. Eric Maxfield and Rick Stewart helped Tony to become a true designer and consultant. Finally, David Labuskes—also being recognized as a Changemaker—has become a friend and mentor who opened the door for Tony to be a leader and mentor to his fellow co-workers.

Giving Back: Tony is constantly involved in developing white papers and teaching classes on low-voltage systems. He works on BICSI’s Registration and Specialties Supervision and Technical Information and Methods committees to help provide quality products to the ITS industry. He truly believes in the power that BICSI credentials can have for a rewarding and successful career. Tony gives back to the industry because he feels it is important to pitch in and ensure the products and information BICSI produces continue to be top-notch.

Advice: “Take advantage of all the ITS industry has to offer. From basic telecommunications courses that can introduce you to this field to the more advanced courses that can allow you to become a communications designer, be sure to explore all the possibilities. I stand as an example of how BICSI certifications helped me to land better jobs, promotions and gain an overall better quality of life.” 

Reprinted with permission of BICSI News – 2009 – 


New Faces, New Opportunities

Many of you may know me from my years of writing in the ITS industry, and now I’m excited to continue contributing as the new editor of BICSI News. As challenging as it will be, I will do my best to fill the shoes of former editor Michael McCahey, who has been an invaluable asset and responsible for taking BICSI News from newsletter status to the flourishing publication it is today. Many thanks to Michael for helping me transition into this new role.

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding our economy, I’m optimistic about the future. First, I believe information transport systems (ITS) have reached the point where they are so critical to business success and growth, that ITS design and installation will remain high on the list of priorities. Furthermore, many of the initiatives due to come out of the new Obama administration could mean exciting opportunities.

In December 2008, the new administration announced plans to invest in transportation, make public buildings energy efficient, modernize schools and health care, and upgrade Internet infrastructure. So whether you voted for Obama or not, most of us can agree with his statements that “it is unacceptable that the U.S. ranks 15th in broadband adoption,” and “introducing electronic medical records could prevent mistakes and help save billions.” This will be the first time in history the U.S. has voted for a technology-savvy, Blackberry-using president and, in my opinion, that means good things for the ITS industry.

As businesses turn to alternative energy sources and strive to improve productivity and security, more doors will open for ITS than we thought possible. Intelligent buildings that monitor energy use and better protect people and property could increase the amount of cabling needed to transmit signals from more than just PCs and laptops. A transportation upgrade could mean outside plant fiber deployments for intelligent transportation systems. If electronic medical records become commonplace, healthcare facilities might need higher bandwidth, more connections, and expanded data centers. If the Obama administration keeps its promise to initiate “sweeping efforts to modernize schools and boost broadband access,” we could see a good deal of money pumped into our industry.

Even with these new opportunities, ITS professionals will need to be at the top of their game to make it through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It is therefore my goal to continue BICSI’s mission of providing relevant, vendor-neutral information to help ITS professionals improve skills and expand their scopes of work. In 2009, I plan to focus much of BICSI News on making the right choices, introducing new opportunities and deploying cost-saving strategies.

Please know that I am always just an e-mail away from discussing ITS technology, the going-ons in our industry, and any thoughts you have for future articles in BICSI News. Even if you’re unsure whether a specific topic is a good fit, I want to hear your ideas.

Reprinted with permission of BICSI News – 2009 –


Rising Need for Mass Notification Systems

Brief history, current status and future outlook for a growing opportunity. BY REECE J. MILLER, JR., P.E., RCDD

A Brief History

The rising need for mass notification systems (MNS) was driven by several attacks on U.S. government facilities across the globe. The June 25, 1996 bombing incident at the Khobar Towers Complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was the first time that a need existed to warn building occupants of impending danger. The August 7, 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa were accented by the injuries to embassy personnel from glass shards. Again a need existed to inform the embassy staff of the danger and direct a safe course of action.

On October 12, 2000, terrorists attacked the USS Cole, and the hardened damage control intercom on the ship allowed for directing movement of the crew to safe areas. From this, the Department of Defense (DoD) concept for mass notification was born–the ability to direct first responders and personnel about what to do and where to go during an emergency event.

The first effort in defining MNS was the DoD’s original Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) standard UFC 04-021-01 published in December 2002. After much effort the DoD working group had a better knowledge of what was required for mass notification. The group then coordinated with NFPA 72® committees and was successful in getting the requirements implemented in the 2007 edition of NFPA Fire Alarm Code® as Annex E. Annex E provides guidance for the interface of MNS with standard fire alarm/voice evacuation systems. It was the first time in the history of the fire alarm code that another signal would be permitted to override the fire alarm signal. In addition, this code implementation is the fastest that any fire code has ever been modified from concept to approval.

Current Status

Many years ago, my first position with DoD required being on a recall roster. Simply put, the boss would call the next level of supervisors below him; they would then call some of the employees who in turn would call a select group of coworkers. This was an elementary crude MNS system, however slow it might be. Today, we have electronic means to perform this function. A modern MNS simply provides an electronic method to efficiently notify a great number of people of an emergency event.

Recently, several incidents on college campuses and in shopping malls have further enhanced the need for a notification system in our daily lives. In some of the college incidents, and most particularly in the shopping malls, if an MNS had been in operation, the loss of life would have been significantly reduced by directing people away from the danger areas. It has become clear to both the general public and emergency responders that emergency communications must be provided on a larger scale.

Some communities are working on county-wide systems. Older civil defense warning sirens are being refurbished or upgraded by using modern speaker technology. Newer speaker technology allows for numerous tones to be generated in lieu of the siren. Additionally, these newer systems can be installed to support voice; however, the range is seriously reduced with voice due to intelligibility issues. Some communities, especially those with large coverage areas, are now using telephone dialing systems. These systems can easily be programmed to dial all numbers in a pre-established call group or geographic area of the city.

College campuses across the country are also installing various systems. Many are installing wide-area systems that use sirens or speakers to cover the larger open campus areas, along with automatic dialing to registered cell phones. As the result of an incident, a college in Texas recently announced it is working to upgrade their MNS system to better distribute warnings.

On Halloween day this past year, I was on a college campus when a couple of students dressed in costume came into the engineering building. The inappropriate costumes consisted of hockey masks and toy weapons. Campus security was quick to respond, and the MNS started warning staff and students in the building.

Unfortunately, the disadvantage to the dialing system is that it only notifies those that are in a position to answer the phone. In the aforementioned Halloween incident, as a visitor on campus who was not registered to the university call group, I was not notified of the incident but instead was informed by one of the professors in our meeting.

Future Outlook

In April 2008, the UFC 04-021-01 standard was revised to better reflect the DoD policy. The UFC document states, "Mass notification provides real-time information and instructions to people in a building, area, site or installation using intelligible voice communications along with visible signals, text and graphics, and possibly including tactile or other communication methods. The purpose of mass notification is to protect life by indicating the existence of an emergency situation and instructing people of the necessary and appropriate response and action." 

NFPA is now helping to refine the MNS systems as they relate to and interface with fire alarm systems. The NFPA 72® committee is making major changes to the fire alarm code for 2010, which is scheduled for release in late 2009 and will be the largest revision of this code in many years. The code is being reorganized and updated to reflect today's needs for MNS. Both the UFC and the fire code provide technical guidance for installers and designers to deploy MNS, while UL is developing standards for MNS equipment.

Public interest in MNS became notable after the Virginia Tech Campus shootings and other college incidents, along with problems in shopping malls. Continued incidents in public places will only increase the demand for the ability to direct the public away from dangers on campuses and in shopping complexes.

It is highly probable that over the next few years all colleges, shopping complexes and public gathering places will deploy some form of an MNS. ITS designers and installers should therefore work to expand their knowledge of MNS systems, train their work force and consider this growing opportunity. While many areas are shrinking with the current economy, growth in this part of our industry is here and should continue to expand.

For more information, refer to the following:

BICSI. Electronic Safety and Security Design Reference Manual, Tampa, FL: BICSI, 2006.

UFC 4-021-01, Design and O&M: Mass Notification Systems, Department of Defense,
9 April 2008 (available at

NFPA 72®-2007, Annex E, National Fire Alarm Code®, National Fire Protection Association, 2008.

  Mr. Reece J. Miller Jr., P.E., RCDD

Mr. Reece J. Miller, Jr., P.E., RCDD (Jay) is a recognized subject matter expert in the field of fire alarm and mass notification systems. He has served in numerous engineering positions since joining Mobile District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 1981. He is currently manager for the U.S. Army Center of Standardization for Aviation (Vertical Construction) and C2F (Command and Control) Facilities. Mr. Miller authored the U.S. DoD Guide Specifications for MNS and assisted in writing the BICSI Electronic Safety and Security Reference Manual, 2nd edition. He can be reached at

Reprinted with permission of BICSI News – 2009 –


The Pros and Cons of Optical Fiber Termination Methods

The performance, installation, management, and cost considerations surrounding today’s primary optical fiber termination methods. BY CRAIG FLEMING

As bandwidth and storage requirements evolve, optical fiber links are more vital than ever for transmitting data to and from a large number of sources. As enterprises implement more optical fiber cabling to support the bandwidth and storage requirements in the data center and backbone infrastructures, termination methods are under intense scrutiny.

With so many types of optical fiber, connectors, and deployment strategies available, data center professionals have become increasingly concerned with making the best termination choice for their environment to ensure performance, rapid deployment, manageability, and reduced total cost of ownership, as well as scalability for future growth. Making an informed choice requires understanding the key performance, installation, management, and cost considerations surrounding the three primary optical fiber termination methods:

  • Pre-terminated plug-and-play multi-fiber push on (MPO) Solutions
  • Factory-terminated pigtails with splicing
  • Field termination

Preliminary Considerations

Every data center environment is unique with several aspects to be considered. Determining answers to the following questions will help data center managers as they explore the pros and cons of each optical fiber termination method:

  • What type of optical fiber and connector interface is required for bandwidth and equipment?
  • How many optical fiber terminations are required both now and in the future?
  • What is the overall insertion loss budget?
  • How quickly do systems need to be deployed?
  • Is expertise and equipment on hand for termination and splicing?
  • Can cabling lengths be easily predetermined?
  • How much space is available for terminations, cable slack, and splices?
  • How frequently will moves, adds, and changes (MACs) need to be made to individual circuits?
  • What is the overall material and installation cost budget?

Option 1: Plug-and-Play MPO Solutions

The MPO connector is a high-density, multifiber connector that typically terminates 12 optical fibers in one connector approximately the same size of a one SC-style optical fiber connector. MPO plug-and-play cassettes include an MPO interface on one side broken out to12 individual optical fiber interfaces on the other side. These cassettes can be deployed in an optical fiber distribution frame for higher density applications or in optical fiber panels to connect the main distribution area (MDA) to the equipment distribution area (EDA) in the data center.

Plug-and-play trunk cables are round 12-fiber cables that are preterminated in the factory with MPO connectors on both ends. These trunk cables are purchased in predetermined lengths and are typically easier to manage than traditional ribbon cables. They can be quickly connected to the MPO plug-and-play cassettes at the cross-connect or interconnect in the MDA, EDA, or other areas of the data center. This method eliminates the need for onsite optical fiber termination and splicing. Consequently, customers can rapidly complete optical fiber connections in high-density applications.

Advantages to plug-and-play MPO solutions include:

  • Reduced labor costLess time is required for plug-and-play installation versus splicing or field termination. Less expertise and resources are required of installation staff.

  • Enhanced performanceMPO connectors are factory-terminated and tested in a clean environment with comprehensive quality control processes and documented test results that correspond to serial numbers stamped on each assembly.

  • Easiest and fastest installationMPO solutions offer the easiest and fastest installation because they are easily plugged in. MPO 12-fiber trunk cables are also more robust and easily pulled through pathways.

  • Better manageability and densityMPO cassettes offer the highest density for optical fiber connections, maximizing space savings in the data center. They are easily deployed in a cross-connect scenario for better cabling management.

  • More environmentally friendlyThe use of plug-and-play MPO solutions eliminates the waste and consumable associated with splicing and field termination and requires less packaging material.

  • Better prepared for beyond 10-gigabit (Gb)Speeds of 40 and 100 gigabit per second (Gbps) on multimode optical fiber will likely require parallel optical fibers where data is transmitted and received over multiple optical fibers. MPO connectors are more prepared for this technology because they already encompass multiple optical fibers.

Disadvantages to plug-and-play MPO solutions include:

  • Increased material costPlug-and-play MPO solutions are typically more expensive than other options.

  • Higher return loss and insertion lossThe additional mated pair increases the return loss and insertion loss. Insertion link loss with MPO solutions can account for an additional 0.5dB per cassette, requiring careful planning of the loss budget.

  • Limited access to individual circuitsWith 12-fiber MPO trunk cables, individual circuit access to backbone cabling is limited. However, when used in a cross-connect scenario, individual circuits should not need to be accessed once installed.

  • Predetermined lengths requiredMPO trunk cables are made to order in predetermined lengths, thus lengths and lead time must be part of the planning process. In addition, measurements need to be exact or slack storage will be required.

Option 2: Factory-Terminated Pigtails with Splicing

When cable runs are longer than 25 meters (m [82 feet (ft)]) or a degree of permanency is required, using factory-terminated pigtails at both ends and splicing optical fibers together offers an attractive alternative. With this method, a splicing unit can be located at one end of the optical fiber run or in a central location. At the patch panel, factory-terminated pigtails plug into the back of the panel. Some vendors’ intra-facility cables ship with the optical fiber panel and blocks, leaving a factory-prepared stub end ready for splicing to the individual strands of the cable.

Advantages to factory-terminated pigtails with splicing include:

  • Reduced material costFactory-terminated pigtails are less expensive than plug-and-play MPO solutions

  • Best performance and insertion lossFactory-terminated pigtails are prepared in an environmentally controlled setting with quality inspection and documented test results that correspond to serial numbers stamped on each assembly. The connectors are polished and terminated in an automated clean environment that is not as subject to human error as field termination. Splicing is also a low loss method of attaching two optical fiber strands together.

  • Easy and fast installationPreterminated pigtails are fast and easy to connect, and trained technicians can splice two strands of optical fiber together in as little as 5 minutes compared to 15 minutes per field-terminated connector. The efficiency of splicing becomes more pronounced when comparing splicing a 24-fiber cable to field terminating it – 2 hours versus 12 hours. Stub-ended cable is also more robust and easier to pull because there are no connectors attached.

  • Exact lengths and slack storage not requiredBecause backbone cable is cut to length before splicing, it is not necessary to predetermine a length, which decreases lead times. Cutting and splicing also eliminates the need to implement slack storage.

  • Individual circuit accessUnlike 12-fiber MPO solutions, preterminated pigtails and splicing enable access to individual backbone circuits.

  • Better flexibility and managementSeveral splicing solutions are available for managing and storing splices either at the equipment end or at a central location. Once the splicing is complete and backbone is in place, all MACs can be performed via patch cords at the cross-connect.

Disadvantages to factory-terminated pigtails with splicing include:

  • Increased labor cost and expertiseHigher labor rates are typically required for technicians with fusion splicing equipment and expertise. Fusion splicing equipment and expertise should be readily available.

  • Lower modularity and not prepared for parallel optical FibersFactory-terminated pigtails and splicing typically required 144- or 192-count optical fiber compared to the 12-count optical fiber used with MPO solutions. Because pigtails are broken out to individual connectors, it also is not as readily prepared for parallel optical fiber technology.

Option 3: Field Termination

When optical fiber is terminated in the field, the cable must be pulled between points and attached to patch panels at both ends of each run. Before it can be attached to the panel, technicians must attach connectors to each strand.

Advantages to field termination include:

  • Lowest material costTypically, purchasing cable and connectors is the least expensive material cost with no preterminated pigtails or assemblies required.

  • Exact lengths and slack storage not requiredBecause backbone cable is cut to length before adding connectors, it is not necessary to predetermine lengths, which can cut down on lead times. This also eliminates the need to implement slack storage.

  • Individual circuit accessUnlike 12-fiber MPO solutions, individual optical fiber connectors enable access to individual backbone circuits.

  • Easy cable pullingWhen using field termination, bulk cable can be easily pulled from either end of the circuit.

Disadvantages to field termination include:

  • Highest labor cost and slowest installationIt takes longer to install field connectors, increasing labor costs and requiring additional time for installation.

  • Termination quality concernsThe yield of acceptable connections is directly related to the skill level and experience of the technician, and reliability is jeopardized as field-terminated connectors can fail or perform below acceptable signal loss tolerances. This can require the cost of redoing work that has failed, as well as the cost of additional connectors. Field termination may be less expensive at time of purchase, but extraneous expenses encountered in the field can rapidly increase.

  • Least environmentally friendlyField termination results in more waste and consumables and typically requires more packing materials for individual connectors and cable.

Cost Analysis

Data center managers have continually faced the decision of terminating optical fiber in the field or purchasing factory-terminated solutions. With today’s struggling economy and budget constraints, the cost of the chosen optical fiber termination method now needs to be considered more than ever, as well as the total cost of ownership associated with each method. That requires considering material cost, labor cost, and potential costs incurred over the life of the network.

The following cost analysis was conducted for a typical data center optical fiber MDA cross-connect using laser-optimized multimode optical fiber and 8,000-fiber ports housed in optical fiber panels.

 The cost analysis clearly demonstrates that factory-terminated pigtails with splicing is the least expensive option. Because this termination method also offers the highest performance, it will likely ensure better reliability and bandwidth capabilities over the life of the system.

For those customers who do not have the capability or expertise to splice optical fibers, plug-and-play MPO solutions can be a better choice than field termination. While field termination is typically a total lower cost option, labor hours associated with the plug-and-play MPO option can be less than half that of field termination. Therefore, deployment can be faster, which can potentially lower the total cost of ownership. Plus, plug-and-play MPO solutions avoid the need for field termination expertise and redoing any field terminations that have failed.


Today’s business environment leaves little margin for error. In most instances, the cost savings and performance enhancement associated with using factory-terminated pigtails and splicing makes it the best choice in optical fiber termination methods. Plug-and-play MPO solutions are also an attractive option for those customers requiring extremely high densities and fast deployment in the data center.

Optical fiber termination in the data center has much to do with a customer’s overall preference and with the method the customer has traditionally been comfortable with. However, increased optical fiber links in the data center and backbone infrastructures may justify re-evaluation of optical fiber termination methods. Not only do factory-terminated cables and MPO solutions eliminate the labor costs associated with installing connectors in the field, they also eliminate the need to spend money on redoing work that has failed, potentially losing thousands of dollars associated with network downtime. It can truly be a situation of pay now or pay later.

Craig Fleming

Craig Fleming is a senior systems engineer for ADC Telecommunications, Inc. in Eden Prairie, MN. For more information, contact Craig at

Reprinted with permission of BICSI News – 2009 –

Cabling Installation & Maintenance

Multimode fibers rise to the challenge

An update on the current state of optical fiber in standards, including the definition of OM4.

This article was developed on behalf of the Telecommunications Industry Association’s Fiber Optics LAN Section ( by Sharon Bois, multimode fiber product line manager at Corning Optical Fiber; David Mazzarese, technical manager of fiber-systems engineering at OFS; and Olaf Storaasli, product manager for optical fiber at Draka Communications. FOLS members include 3M; Berk-Tek, a Nexans company; CommScope; Corning; Draka Communications; Fluke Networks; OFS; Ortronics Legrand; Panduit; Sumitomo Electric Lightwave; Superior Essex; and Tyco Electronics.

Multimode optical fibers have always offered users the most cost-effective choice to achieve the benefits of fiber-optic transmission in premises applications. The simple reason is that the electronics are less expensive than those used to power singlemode fibers. While TR-42, the User Premises Telecommunications Cabling Requirements Engineering Committee, has always recognized both multimode and singlemode optical fiber for private-network structured cabling, this was because a combined system has always provided the best value for the end user who might need singlemode fiber to support long distances or very high data rates.

The good news is that the newest generations of multimode fibers can support the same high data rates as singlemode, including 40 and 100 Gbits/sec, while retaining the cost savings associated with multimode fibers.

TR-42 initially recognized 62.5-µm multimode fiber in ANSI/TIA-568, The Commercial Building Cabling Standard, since it was the most capable fiber for the identified applications at that time. As newer applications and optical sources came along, the higher-bandwidth capabilities of 50-µm fiber became recognized as well.


As transmission speeds increased, the market shifted from 62.5-µm to 50-µm fiber and, more recently, to 50-µm laser-optimized fiber (OM3). This trend will be accelerated with the advent of 40/100-Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) because there is no OM1 or OM2 objective at these next-generation speeds.

The next speed generations

The current objectives for both 40 and 100 GbE are to cover a distance of at least 100 meters on OM3 fiber. The 100-meter value will allow for extremely low-cost transceivers, but is well short of the 300-meter distance allowed by TR-42 in the TIA-942 data center standard; and no one seems excited about having to use singlemode electronics and singlemode fiber for every link in their network that reached farther than 100 meters.

In a survey presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE; 802.3 meeting in July 2008, 20 end users were asked to consider three options. Customers represented a broad cross-section of end users: corporate accounts, school districts, banks, military installations, consultants, network integrators, and government users. (Note that OM4 is a higher-bandwidth multimode fiber that will be discussed in greater detail later in this article). The three options were:

A) OM3 to 100 meters (requires one optical module);

B) OM3 to 150 or 200 meters; OM4 to 250 meters (requires one optical module);

C) OM3 to 100 meters; OM3 to 150 or 200 meters; OM4 to 250 meters (requires two optical modules).

The survey results were overwhelmingly (16 or 20) in favor of Option B: OM3 to 150 or 200 meters and OM4 to 250 meters. A minority (4 of 20) favored Option C: OM3 to 100 meters. All survey participants believed the 100-meter transmission length limit suggested by 802.3 would increase the cost of data centers at 40/100-Gbit/sec speeds by forcing them to use a more expensive singlemode system to meet their link-length requirements.

An ad hoc subgroup within 802.3 is studying extended reach, and working on meeting the needs of these and other multimode customers by extending the multimode distance from the current “at least 100 meters on OM3” to somewhere between 150 and 250 meters. Technical feasibility for these extended distances has been shown. What remains is to identify the distance and technical path that will provide the best, lowest-cost solution for the end user. The goal is to ensure that multimode fiber customers continue to get the best bang for their buck.

One possible path to achieve the extended distance would be through the use of a higher-bandwidth fiber. Unfortunately, the transceiver specifications that are currently proposed for the 40/100-GbE standards are such that a higher-bandwidth fiber, on its own, doesn’t provide much benefit. The sources have such broad spectral widths that the effects of higher bandwidth may only extend the distance by a few percent. But a higher-bandwidth fiber, combined with tighter transceiver specifications or a chip added to the host board, could support link lengths of at least 250 meters on multimode fiber.

Developers of standards using the Fibre Channel (FC) protocol also have started talking about next-generation speeds. This set of standards has a different migration path, as it increases speeds by a factor of 2 with each generation. Standards are currently in place for 8-Gbit FC, with discussions around creating a 16-Gbit standard on the horizon. In a Fibre Channel meeting last year, the idea of a higher-bandwidth fiber was raised and participants agreed that a multimode fiber with significantly higher bandwidth should be developed/characterized to support 16-Gbit/sec serial transmission over 150 meters.

OM4 fiber standardization

Standardization activities of OM4 multimode fiber are active in two fiber standards groups: TIA and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission; Both the IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet) and Fibre Channel application standards groups have expressed interest in a higher-data-rate multimode fiber above and beyond the performance currently offered by OM3 fiber. This has prompted the ISO/IEC premises wiring cable committee to request the development of a new high-data-rate multimode fiber standard.

OM3 and OM4 are referred to as “laser-optimized” multimode fibers because they are specifically designed for use with high-performance, low-cost vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs). Careful processing to precisely control the fiber’s refractive index profile is paramount to minimize modal dispersion—a critical parameter of these fibers often referred to as differential mode delay (DMD).

By limiting DMD, all modes (light paths) in the fiber arrive at the transceiver at the same time, minimizing pulse spreading and thus maximizing bandwidth. Bandwidth is ensured by thorough DMD testing after the fiber is manufactured. Thus, these higher-bandwidth fibers provide a combination of longer reach and lower system implementation cost for current (e.g., 10-Gbit/sec) and more importantly, future higher-data-rate multimode fiber systems.

Standardized in 2002, OM3 fiber has a minimum effective modal bandwidth (EMB) of 2,000 Mhz∙km at 850 nm using VCSEL transceivers. This is sufficient bandwidth to operate a 10-Gbit/sec Ethernet system up to 300 meters. An OM4 fiber is expected to specify a minimum EMB of 4,700 MHz∙km at 850 nm—more than twice the bandwidth of OM3.

OM3 fibers are backward-compatible and can support legacy applications that use LED transmitters operating at either 850 or 1,300 nm. There is a general consensus among the fiber manufacturers that OM4 will also be backward-compatible; however, the standard is still in the early stages of development and the exact specifications have not been finalized.

TIA standards committee TR-42.12, Optical Fibers and Cables, is developing the specification to be named TIA/EIA-492AAAD “Detail specification for OM4 850-nm laser-optimized, 50-µm core diameter/125-µm cladding diameter class 1a graded-index multimode optical fibers.” This standard is scheduled to be ratified in mid-2009. In parallel, IEC SC 86A Working Group 1 initiated work on the OM4 fiber standardization in April 2008. The A1 MMF standard 60793-20-10 will be revised to include a higher grade A1a.3 (OM4) fiber.

While standards in both TIA and IEC are expected to be completed this year, fibers meeting the current proposed specification values have been on the market for more than five years and are offered by all major multimode fiber manufacturers. Because of the larger system budget offered, the primary use for these OM4 fibers has been in networks that operate 10-GbE or Fibre Channel systems with links beyond the specified maximum of 300 meters on OM4, with OM4 supporting lengths up to 550 meters at 10 Gbits/sec. OM4 fibers are also used in 300-meter or shorter applications with a high number of connections, such as data centers.

Critical future component

Multimode fiber has come a long way from its humble beginnings supporting 10-Mbit/sec transmission. As speeds continue to increase and bandwidth demand continues to grow, laser-optimized 50-µm fibers become a critical component for structured cabling systems of the future. Structured cable is designed to last through several generations of electronics, so it is important to think about future needs as networks are installed today.

Laser-optimized 50-µm fibers (OM3 and the future OM4) will support 10-Gbit/sec transmission over 300 to 550 meters. For 40- and 100-Gbit/sec transmission, they will support at least 100 meters, but efforts are underway to increase that distance to 150 to 250 meters. This longer distance would cover the majority of LAN and data center link-length requirements.

By enabling significantly lower-cost transceivers, multimode fiber systems continue to be the low-cost, future-ready solution for premises networks of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.


No one seems excited about having to use singlemode electronics and singlemode fiber for every link in their network that reached farther than 100 meters.

As speeds continue to increase and bandwidth demand continues to grow, laser-optimized 50-µm fibers become a critical component for structured cabling systems of the future.


Multimode fiber capabilities


Core diameter

Effective modal bandwidth @ 850 nm

OFL bandwidth (@850/1300 nm)

10G link length

40G/100G link length


50 µm or 62.5 µm



33 m



50 µm or 62.5 µm



82 m



50 µm



300 m

100 m**

* Fiber type is per ISO/IEC 11801

** 100 m on OM3 is the current objective in IEEE 802.3ba

Reprinted with permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – 2009


Using your infrastructure to support video applications

Smart applications require smart infrastructure. Is yours up to the task?

VALERIE MAGUIRE is global sales engineer with Siemon (

Today’s surveillance and broadband video applications are downright smart. Consider the following:

• Surveillance equipment boasting Internet Protocol (IP)-addressable interfaces and remote-control features offer significantly more security and flexibility than fixed analog devices;

• IP-based systems record images in digital format onto servers or hard drives, rendering the use of cumbersome tapes and cassettes for video storage obsolete;

• Community antenna television (CATV) will migrate to virtually interference-free, 100% digital broadcasting in February;

• Emerging Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) technology promises on-demand, interactive, high-definition viewing experience.

These applications are no longer suitably supported by generic coaxial cabling; they require smart cabling, too.

The number of design professionals and building owners choosing to support surveillance, broadcast, and other video applications with their telecommunications cabling infrastructure is climbing rapidly. For example, according to a report from Multimedia Intelligence ( entitled “Internet Protocol/Networked Video Surveillance Market: Equipment, Technology, and Semiconductors,” the market for IP/networked video surveillance cameras grew nearly 50% in 2007 to approach $500 million worldwide. The market segment is growing at more than four times the rate of the overall surveillance market.

In addition to replacing coaxial cables with slimmer and more-flexible balanced twisted-pair cables, the benefits provided by using a structured telecommunications cabling network to support video applications are numerous, including:

• Digital image quality;

• Ability to support high-definition (480i/p SDTV and 720p and 1080 i/p HDTV) applications;

• Active surveillance area motion, audio, and tamper detection with advanced security alerts;

• Pan/tilt/zoom and remote-powered devices, eliminating the need for separate power and control cables;

• End-user ability to communicate and interact with “smart” video devices;

• Compact and highly efficient storage and retrieval capabilities;

• Convergence of voice, data, and video applications over a single common infrastructure;

• Full support of standards-based cabling distances and topologies;

• More-effective infrastructure management, service, and scalability;

• Simplified troubleshooting;

• Improved asset management via IP-addressability;

• Neater pathways and improved pathway fill-ratios;

• Ability to upgrade to future applications;

• Lower total cost of ownership for many IP-based versus analog-camera implementations.

Planning for video

If you are not sure you need to support video now, the recommendation is to include in your cabling plans additional twisted-pair channels specifically targeted for video applications to accommodate future system needs. While you may not currently anticipate the need to support surveillance applications with your infrastructure, you cannot ignore that, with increasing safety and security requirements worldwide, the surveillance industry is growing rapidly. According to the RNCOS Industry Research Solutions study “Global CCTV Market Analysis,” (, the global CCTV market, including analog and IP-based CCTV, grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.28% in 2007 over 2006. The same study forecasts the market to grow at a CAGR of approximately 23% between 2008 and 2012.

Planning now for video-applications support makes good business sense as well. According to a total cost of ownership analysis recently published by Axis Communications (, IP-based video systems always have lower implementation costs than analog-based systems if the cabling infrastructure is already present.

All surveillance and broadband video applications, when appropriate amplification is used to boost CATV signal levels at higher-frequency channels, are capable of operating over lengths of twisted-pair cabling greater than 100 meters. But maintaining the TIA/EIA- and ISO/IEC-specified generic maximum 100-meter, 4-connector horizontal channel topology has numerous benefits and is strongly recommended for video-applications support. In particular, adhering to the generic topology ensures that upgrades to future video applications will occur seamlessly, while also providing the flexibility that channels originally designed for high-speed data support can be used for video if necessary, and vice versa.

Video-deployment planning is simple: bring video-ready twisted-pair cabling, in addition to data cabling, to each work area or multi-user telecommunications outlet assembly (MUTOA). For support of surveillance applications in areas where wireless coverage is provided, it may be convenient to juxtapose video access points with wireless access points in the coverage area. (See sidebar, “Juxtaposing surveillance-equipment and wireless access-point coverage.”) The advantage to this approach is that the telecommunications outlet is conveniently located in the ceiling space where cameras reside, and video-equipment positioning is more flexible.

[INSERT PIC1…place side-by-side]

IP-enabled video devices are preconfigured to accept the 8-position modular plug interface and offer pug-and-play capability with structured telecommunications cabling. Generic analog devices, such as CCTV cameras, monitors, and television sets, are typically configured with coaxial BNC or Type F connectors and require the use of video baluns to enable transmission over twisted-pair cabling.


Video baluns are used in pairs to convert a 75-Ω unbalanced (i.e., coaxial) signal at the video-equipment interface to a 100-Ω balanced (i.e., twisted-pair) signal and then back to a 75-Ω unbalanced signal at the telecommunications room (TR) or floor distributor (FD). Video baluns are application-specific, such as for CATV or CCTV, and may be configured as single-port converters for use at the device interface, as single-port converters located in breakout boxes for use at the work area, or in 8- and 16-port video-distribution hubs for use in the TR. Video baluns may also be integrated into high-performance Category 7/7A patch cords.

CCTV surveillance applications

Video security can be an effective defense in detecting threats as well as a deterrent against future threats. CCTV solutions are simple to deploy; consisting of fixed or remote-controlled cameras, cabling, a recoding device, and a monitoring device. While mandatory for highly secure environments, such as government buildings, prisons, and casinos, surveillance systems are now also commonplace in education, healthcare, industrial, and financial facilities.

Historically, CCTV systems were static and deployed as analog systems supported by coaxial cabling. Enhancements, such as the availability of cost-effective baluns and IP-addressable devices, now make surveillance solutions the perfect application for operation over twisted-pair cabling. IP-based surveillance systems have the added advantage that they are significantly more flexible and “intelligent” than traditional analog CCTV systems. A wide range of structured cabling solutions supports video surveillance applications.

The simplest analog video CCTV configuration is a static system consisting of a fixed camera, twisted-pair cable, a pair of video baluns, and a recording device such as a digital video recorder (DVR). The video baluns are BNC/RJ-45 connectorized devices that transmit back-and-white or color images over one pair (the pair terminated on pins 7-8) of the twisted-pair cable. Optional PTZ capability supports the remote-controlled operation of the camera and offers more flexibility than fixed camera systems.

Adjusting the focus, angle, and field of view without being present at the camera site are all benefits of a PTZ-enabled system. Structured cabling that includes PTZ-enabled baluns, which use only the 7-8 pair to transmit video and PTZ commands, easily supports this functionality. Because these solutions operate over only one pair of a 4-pair cable, they represent an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the cable sharing capability of category 7/7A fully-shielded solutions. (For more information on cable sharing, see “In commercial buildings, cable sharing makes cents,” June 2006; that article is based on the white paper, “Cable Sharing in Commercial Building Environments: Reducing Cost, Simplifying Cable Management and Converging Applications Onto Twisted-pair Media.”)

Note that power must be provided locally to each camera in both traditional coaxial and balun-based twisted-pair CCTV camera deployments. Depending upon the camera location, providing separate power can range from inconvenient to practically impossible, and this need cannot be avoided in coaxial implementations. Emerging PVD (power-video-data) technology uses a pair of powered video transceivers to fully support CCTV applications and eliminate the need for external power cords by transmitting video (one pair), power (two pairs), and data (one pair) over one 4-pair telecommunications cable.

PVD devices are not IP-enabled and data is still collected on a traditional external recording device, such as a DVR. At this time, PVD transceiver solutions easily accommodate the operation of fixed position cameras, which typically consume less than 300 mA of power, over 100-meter structured cabling topologies. Be advised that the maximum distance supported by PTZ cameras, which typically consume at least 600mA of power, is manufacturer-dependent and may be less than 100 meters, causing these implementations to fall outside the scope of structured cabling. The good news is that power delivery technology “borrowed” from the emerging related IEEE 802.3at PoE (Power over Ethernet) Plus application Standard may result in an improvement in the operating distances associated with PVD support of PTZ cameras in the future.

In typical structured cabling implementation topologies for analog balun-based and PVD video transceiver CCTV surveillance systems, the video distribution hub or PVD video integrator is located in the TR and a coaxial cabling backbone is provided. For maximum infrastructure flexibility and to facilitate adds, moves, and changes, it is recommended to use an interconnect patch panel in the TR.

CCTV over structured cabling offers a distinct advantage over traditional coaxial cabling implementations in that scalability and flexibility are introduced into the surveillance infrastructure. With structured solutions, cameras can easily be added or moved as the system grows and needs change; however, this technology is not intelligent, meaning that while substantial data is recorded, it is unlikely that the video is being actively monitored. Events can be missed and suspicious behavior can go unnoticed when monitoring personnel are distracted or otherwise occupied.

It is also important to remember that images collected over analog surveillance camera systems are recorded on bulky cassettes or tapes that must be periodically changed and will wear out over time. Image quality can also be impacted by the limitations of the recording device. IP-addressable surveillance solutions overcome these hurdles.

IP-based surveillance systems

IP-cameras and IP-based systems represent the future of video surveillance. These solutions deliver superior image quality, intelligent monitoring capability, remote accessibility, and infrastructure scalability. Today’s fixed IP-cameras are all remotely powered, and the use of an IEEE 802.3af-enabled PoE switch is required. IP-cameras may be fixed or PTZ-enabled. Further enhancements, such as more powerful PTZ capability, will become possible when the IEEE 802.3at standard is ratified.

The advantage of an IP-based surveillance system is that the camera acts like any other device on the IT LAN. Images are transmitted via Ethernet or wireless networks and can even be accessed through the Internet. This means that video feeds from multiple areas at multiple locations can be monitored from one supervisory site. Furthermore, because transmission is digital, the picture quality of an IP-camera is superior to that of an analog camera. Audio transmission is also supported. These capabilities result in IP‑based surveillance solutions being increasingly integrated into the structured cabling network by companies with geographically dispersed locations, building access control systems, and point-of-sale applications.

Network intelligence can also be built into the IP-based surveillance system. Events can be monitored and alerts can be delivered to report suspicious behavior that would otherwise go unnoticed. For example, the activation of a motion detector, audio sensor, or anti-tampering mechanism could automatically result in a short message service (SMS) text or e-mail being sent to the security operator.

Instead of relying on external recording devices, IP-camera images are recorded in digital format directly onto servers or hard drives, thus eliminating the need for bulky and unreliable tapes and cassettes. Video data can be stored indefinitely locally or transported to a remote location via the LAN or the Internet. Real-time video transmission is highly compressed and several compression options are available to maximize the trade-off between image quality, bandwidth, and storage capacity. Commonly used compression techniques include MJPEG, MPEG-4, and the emerging H.264 format.

In what will be another advance for the IP-based surveillance market, three leading manufacturers of IP devices (Axis Communications, Bosch Security Systems, and Sony) have created the framework for a forum whose purpose will be to develop a standard that will specify interoperability requirements for video devices, such as cameras, encoders, and video-management systems. Once the framework was established in late 2008, the manufacturers opened the process to all interested parties. This step will go far in removing barriers, such as the perceived custom nature of IP-based surveillance and concern regarding specialized knowledge required to install these systems that have been a hindrance to the adoption of the technology.

In most cases, an IP‑based surveillance system is more cost-effective than an analog system. Furthermore, IP‑enabled equipment is expected to decrease in price faster than analog equipment. The previously referenced total cost of ownership analysis prepared by Axis Communications concludes that IP‑based solutions of 40 cameras or more have a lower cost to acquire, install, and operate than same-size analog-based solutions. In fact, while 32-camera systems are the break-even cost point between the two systems, the analysis finds that even 16- to 32-camera analog solutions are only “slightly lower” in cost than IP based systems.

The typical structured cabling implementation topology for an IP-based surveillance system is shown in the nearby illustration. For maximum infrastructure flexibility and to facilitate adds, moves, and changes, it is recommended that a full crossconnect be provided in the TR. A side benefit of IP‑based surveillance technology operating over structured cabling is that  cameras can receive centralized backup power from the server room, so they will continue to operate in the event of a power failure.

IP in focus

Advanced video systems now deliver the highest-levels of system performance, image quality, flexibility, and intelligence; capabilities that can only be realized with the implementation of IP-based technology and a structured cabling infrastructure.

Next month, I will have a companion article discussing the use of structured twisted-pair cabling infrastructure to support broadband video and IPTV applications.

Reprinted with permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – 2009


Increasing efficiency with unified Communications

A Voice over Internet Protocol system anchors the unified-communications project taking place at Cooper Industries.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

The name Cooper Industries ( may look familiar to many professionals in the structured cabling industry. The company, which derives most of its revenue from electrical products, also offers the Cooper B-Line brand of products including cable tray and firestopping products. Additionally, Cooper B-Line acquired GS Metals, also a provider of cable tray, a little more than a year ago. Cooper Industries’ footprint on the structured cabling industry is not an insignificant one.

As a manufacturing business, Cooper Industries has communications-infrastructure needs of its own and, like its clientele, it seeks quality and value when making purchasing decisions. Currently, Cooper is in the midst of a communications-system upgrade that is marked by the company’s geographical diversity, and geography has played a part in several of the company’s decisions.

A global solution

The previous telephone system was a traditional dial plan with handsets and standard voice messaging. The central network interfaced among the companies divisions in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, and the United Kingdom. Inter-office calling required the dialing of the entire long-distance number, so a critical need for the new phone system was the ability for eight-digit dialing among all its offices.

“Cooper wanted a phone system that would also enable continued global business growth,” says Jeff Taft, strategic partnership manager with CXtec (, a provider of new and certified pre-owned networking and technology equipment. Cooper Industries has been a CXtec customer for approximately six years, during which time CXtec has provided pre-owned “equal2new” equipment as well as its own OEM products, in addition to support services, Taft adds. In this situation, “Cooper needed to leverage its global network and embrace the age of the new telecommunications infrastructure,” he says.

CXtec recommended flattening, consolidating, and simplifying Cooper’s phone system so that core, necessary services could be available at all of the company’s locations. CXtec advised Cooper on a single, Internet Protocol (IP)-based unified global communications system that comprises best-of-breed technology with centralized management.

“When offering a solution to any customer, it ultimately boils down to the solid relationships we have with our partners and their strong product offerings,” Taft continues. “Our goal is to offer our customers the best solution for their individual needs without being committed to only one or two vendor offerings.”

Ultimately, Cooper adopted a system that includes expertise and equipment from two vendors: Cisco Systems ( and Netelligent ( Specifically, the suite of products includes Cisco’s CallManager 5.1 software clustered system with Cisco IPCC and cold-spare capability, and Netelligent Aware call recording.

The unified big picture

Unified communications as a technology is large and growing. In December, research firm Dell’Oro Group ( published a report stating the unified communications market surpassed $3 billion during the third quarter of 2008. According to Dell’Oro, the $3 billion figure was driven in large part by the market’s top two vendors, Cisco and Avaya ( The report indicates that unified communications is driving the enterprise-voice market from its hardware base, such as private branch exchanges (PBXs), to software.

“Functionality that has historically been confined to the core PBX hardware is moving into software applications that run on data servers and phones,” commented Alan Weckel, a director at Dell’Oro Group. “Previously unavailable features, such as graphical corporate directories and Web browsing, are becoming telephony features. At the same time, functionality that used to be tied to the phone at a person’s desk, such as caller ID logs or voicemail indication, is becoming available in cell phones and soft phones. More than ever before, the overall enterprise telephony market, from the PBX switch to the desktop phone, is shifting its emphasis toward software.”

Another research and analyst firm, Gartner (, identified unified communications as one of the top 10 strategic technologies for 2009. (See sidebar.)

While the implementation of this unified-communications system is still rolling out across Cooper’s multiple sites, the company has already realized numerous benefits from the project’s first phase, including several that Weckel mentioned in his comments. With the Contact Center platform, Cooper has been able to considerably improve its call-center efficiency, and the Netelligent Aware call-recording system has enabled employee coaching and training, which has improved customer service.

Additionally, the eight-digit dial plan has directly reduced the cost to make a call, and the soft phones from Cisco have allowed remote and mobile users to use the global IP network as opposed to building cellular-phone expenses. The Cisco Mobility feature has improved communication by having a single-reach number that can reach an individual regardless of that person’s location.

The increased communications efficiency required some Layer 1 infrastructure upgrades, reports CXtec’s Tim Duffy. “That is typically the case,” when a user transitions from traditional phone service to an IP-based system. “But it does vary by customer. Category 5e is the minimum cabling requirement,” he says. “Some already have it installed, but in most cases they do not—especially in older facilities.”

Throughout the deployment of cabling systems and the unified-communications equipment, CXtec worked with Cooper Industries to ensure the project ran smoothly. “We had an on-site presence throughout,” says CXtec’s Duffy, “from initial pre-sales interactions, we had a team that met with Cooper representatives as well as reps from Cisco. Once the project was established and deployment was underway, the interaction varied from weekly update calls to actually deploying the technology on-site.”

Because of Cooper’s dispersed locations, CXtec partnered with another service-providing company. Depending on the location being upgraded, either CXtec resources or those of its partner were on site.

Overall, Cooper Industries’ implementation of a unified communications system has been successful because of the ability of the technology vendors, CXtec, and Cooper to work together. A collaboration of Netelligent’s expertise, Cisco’s equipment and tools, and CXtec’s relationships with both resulted in a smooth implementation.

Reprinted with permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – 2009


Essentials of an 802.11y network

The recently approved standard will allow for high-powered Wi-Fi-enabled communications at distances of 3 miles or more.

STEVE SMITH is executive editor for Cabling Installation & Maintenance. The Wi-Fi Alliance ( contributed significantly to this article.

In late September of last year, the IEEE ( approved for publication the 802.11y wireless standard, designed to enable high-powered Wi-Fi equipment to operate in the mostly vacant 3650 to 3700 MHz band. In essence, the amendment to the 802.11-2007 standard allows for increased wireless operation for more users at a much higher power than via traditional Wi-Fi equipment—up to 3 miles or more—and, according to the FCC ( will “create a spectrum environment that will encourage multiple entrants and stimulate the expansion of broadband service,” especially in rural areas.

The Wi-Fi Alliance (, a global, non-profit industry association of more than 300 member companies devoted to promoting the growth of WLANs, recently published a white paper primer on the 802.11y standard, “A New Regulatory and Technical Environment for Wireless Broadband.” In its report, the Alliance notes that the key intentions of 802.11y include “to lower the cost of entry and compliance while allowing market forces to derive maximum value from the available spectrum through shared use.”

The standard emphasizes several interference restrictions, and the Alliance says that  “Wi-Fi technology is especially well suited to meet the requirements for avoiding interference…Because the contention-based protocol used by Wi-Fi technology senses and responds to a broad range of potential technologies, 100% of the 3650 MHz band is available to networks using the 802.11y protocol.”

The 3650 MHz band has been largely vacant due to the range limitations of radio waves and intentional frequency spacing to avoid interference, but the Alliance report notes, “The expectation is that successful deployment of [the Wi-Fi] model in the 3650 MHz band can and should lead to a much broader allocation of spectrum for lightly licensed networks utilizing a contention-based protocol mechanism—eventually including most of the known unused or underused radio spectrum.”

Light licensing means that licensees pay a small fee for a nationwide, non-exclusive license, and then pay an additional nominal fee for each deployed high-powered base station.

Potential installations include industrial automation and control, campus and enterprise networks, and public safety and security networks. In one scenario of a potential 802.11y installation, a fire station locates an enabling station (see description below) on its communications tower, and uses dependent stations on each fire truck and laptop. The incident commander controls the enabling station using a Public Safety band radio.

Key network elements

Through the courtesy of the Alliance, the following excerpts from their white paper describe the major elements and operation overview of an 802.11y network:

• Enabling stations. An enabling station is a high-powered fixed station with authority to control when and how a dependent station can operate. An enabling station communicates an initial enabling signal to its dependents over the air. The enabling station may then direct supporting enablement messages to be exchanged over the air, over another dependent station, or by mechanisms that rely on transport via higher layers. As with all high-powered stations, GPS coordinates and altitude information of enabling stations are registered in a public database to enable stations experiencing interference to locate interfering stations and seek interference mitigation. Enabling stations must include location information in every beacon.

• Dependent stations. Dependent stations are devices in the network that are not registered, but instead receive authorization to transmit from a registered enabling station over the air. Failure to receive the enabling beacon at regular, defined intervals requires a dependent station to suspend transmission until it is re-enabled. A dependent station may be fixed or mobile.

• Regulatory class information. Each device in a network must be able to operate within regulatory requirements of any channel available to it. Prior to 802.11y, channel switching only occurred within a particular band, where only transmit power limits may have changed. Future implementations will be able to move outside of the original band, complying with the regulatory requirements specified by the regulatory class octet in every beacon.

Together, these new elements support three significant new mechanisms defined in 802.11y:

• Dynamic Station Enablement (DSE). [This is] the process by which an enabling station grants permission and dictates operational procedures to dependent stations. The lightly-licensed structure of the FCC regulations for 3650 MHz calls for the creation of procedures to govern the use of the band and treatment of violations. DSE supports the lightly-licensed regulatory model by empowering the network operator to ensure appropriate operation of base stations and the dependent stations they enable. Beyond addressing the regulatory requirements for the 3650 MHz Order, DSE offers the promise of other channel management and coordination benefits1. For example, since the enabling station is not required to serve as the access point for each of its dependent stations, DSE can reduce the likelihood of a dependent station contributing to radio interference by allowing the dependent station to complete the enablement process via a geographically closer access point and ultimately through a channel other than the air (e.g., the Internet)1.

• Contention-based protocol incorporating regulatory class information. 802.11y devices can sense both 802.11 and non-802.11 devices and identify available spectrum as small as 5MHz. 802.11y access point beacons identify the country and the regulatory domain for their physical location. By incorporating both channel use and regulatory class information, 802.11y devices can identify available channels and adjust operating parameters to the laws of the country in which the access point resides.

• Extended Channel Switch Announcement (ESCA). A methodology to coordinate a move from one channel to another with less contention or to change channel bandwidth.1 Specifically, an enabling station can identify the channel with the least aggregate interference to all of the stations that are connected to it on a completely dynamic basis. This capability ensures the best signal-to-noise ratio and lowest power levels possible. ECSA also incorporates regulatory class information--if a channel switch moves the network to a new regulatory domain, the station shifts to the approved frequencies and channels for the new domain. ECSA originates in 802.11y, and is now being applied retroactively to 802.11n and the other proposed concepts across 802.11.

Network operation overview

The first requirement for establishing an IEEE 802.11y network is determining if the area to be covered is in an exclusion zone. If it is outside of the protected regions, the network operator must file for a license, pay a small fee, and register the location of the enabling station in a public database. Dependent stations, fixed and mobile, may then be added to the network based on their ability to receive and decode the enabling beacon. Once enabled, each dependent station continually tests its ability to receive and decode an enabling beacon. Failing this test, the dependent station attempts to reacquire the beacon, with a finite number of attempts before ceasing trying for a predetermined amount of time.

This requirement prevents congestion caused by stations that may be truly out of range of an enabling beacon. Enabling stations continually test for interference. If interference is detected, the enabling station must silence the network and search for a clear channel. When a new channel is identified, ECSA directs all of the devices in the network to move to the new channel, which may include a change in regulatory class, as specified by the regulatory class octet.

Low-cost chipsets and the capability to effectively manage interference through contention-based protocols make Wi-Fi technology an excellent fit for applications in this spectrum. The improved quality of service (QoS) made possible by higher power levels will make Wi-Fi technology more attractive for intensive applications like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Ed. note—The complete white paper may be viewed at the Wi-Fi Alliance web site.


1. Blue, Scott. 2008. The Sensible Guide to 802.11y. Sensible Radio Corp. (

Reprinted with permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – 2009


Cabling Networking Systems Magazine is never satisfied

Cabling Networking Systems Magazine is never satisfied. Canada’s leading publication for the Cabling and Networking Industry is on the move. We had the opportunity to meet with Maureen Levy, Senior Publisher and Paul Barker, Editor at the recent BICSI annual conference in Orlando, Florida. They were busy digging out volumes of information on new products and applications for their readers. CNS Magazine stays on top in Canada because they make the investment in researching the trends of the infrastructure industry and the business opportunities for the readership – in print and on-line.

Paul Barker, Editor said “These are challenging times. In the first quarter of 2009, we face an economy much different from a year ago – or even six months ago. People and business need help. CNS is committed to covering technical advances in the cabling, networking and telecom sectors that will allow both to improve their bottom-line.”

Maureen Levy, Senior Publisher told us to keep an eye on their website as many enhancements are in progress during the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2009. There will be many web-exclusive items with information to help the cabling community.

Trying times are no time to quit trying.

Frank Bisbee – HOTS monthly news column


Building Smarts

The highly sophisticated central management system developed by Manitoba Hydro is a paragon of high-IQ thinking. It joins a number of other organizations that are taking intelligence to the next level.

By Denise Deveau

If there were a Mensa society for buildings, then Manitoba Hydro's new headquarters in Winnipeg would be at the top of the list. The 22-storey LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold-certified building has more built-in intelligence than your typical operation.

"In a typical building you would have about 3,000 control points," says Tom Akerstream, energy coordinator for Manitoba Hydro. "A complex hospital would have environment would have about 6,000. This facility has more than 14,000 fully-integrated inputs that control the buildings air quality, heating, cooling, lighting, security mechanical systems and other functions."

He notes that getting up to the super-intelligence levels took a lot of human thinking. "The biggest issue in all of this was the control systems. It wasn't like what we wanted was an off-the-shelf feature. You can't go grab a control system that will open a window for example. There was a lot of custom design involved."

Interoperability was an essential part of the selection process he adds. "We had to make absolutely sure in the design stage that any systems relating to the control and operation of the building could be integrated. This was critical for maintaining an optimal indoor environment and energy consumption."

Another key consideration was the backbone. "There was a lot of debate whether to use one backbone for everything, or a separate one for the controls system." The decision was made to go with a dedicated fully-redundant backbone.

It goes without saying the management of this extremely complex "neural network" was of equal importance in the planning and implementation stages. The highly sophisticated central management system developed by Manitoba Hydro is a paragon of high-IQ thinking.

By way of example, the building's weather stations provide data to the building management system, which in turn communicates with different devices on each floor to tell the various spaces how to respond. If there is an extra amount of heat generated from sunlight in a specific area, the system will tell the blinds whether to open or close. Wind conditions will dictate whether windows or vents should be open or closed to vent air outside.

Depending on the programming configuration, lighting fixtures can respond dynamically to changing conditions. Lights run off photo sensors during the day, and adjust to changes in ambient light conditions, while at night they respond to occupancy sensors. The system can also identify which lights are to be left on for security purposes.

Ackerstream says that while the building control and management system it has in place today is impressive, future- proofing was always a driver in the network design and decision-making process. A big part of that was adhering to open standards all the way. "Having an open architecture was critical, since it allows us to refine the controls as we evolve for optimum performance. I'd say with all the groundwork we did, we got it about 90% right to start with, but you need flexibility in your control systems because you can always do better."

The fact is that building intelligence is moving far beyond basic monitoring and control of mechanical equipment. Now enterprises are finding a multitude of new ways to leverage existing resources so that multiple devices -- from access control devices and surveillance cameras to air quality and climate control systems -- can carry on intelligent conversations.

Adding more intellectual capacity to a building's IP infrastructure has been driven by a number of factors, not the least of which is the availability of much more sophisticated and affordable control systems that can do everything from managing heating controls to opening blinds.

Bandwidth and network infrastructures have the robustness and capacity to handle loads of extra traffic, and wireless applications are now secure enough to make the job of integration much easier and more cost-effective.

The rapid adoption of telephony has also had its effect. Those who have gone the VoIP route have proven that there are a lot of cost savings and efficiencies to be gained by putting voice and data on a single network. Now network managers are applying creative thinking to using the same IP backbones for even more applications.

The focus of intelligent applications has evolved over time as various political and economic forces have taken centre stage. The post 9/11 era spurred increased activity in improving security, as organizations used their IP infrastructures to ensure their surveillance and access control systems worked in tandem.

The last 12 months security has been surpassed by energy as building managers seek alternative ways to manage rising fuel prices and reduce their carbon footprint.

Bottom line thinking

"What is happening now is that people are looking at their buildings and saying we have telephony and data and have been able to drive savings, so why can't we do the same thing with building automation and light controls -- or any other (electronic) thing that we can put on an IP backbone?" says John Cowley, director intelligent building solution business unit for CommScope Inc. in Richardson, Tex.

Ronald Zimmer, president and CEO of CABA (Continental Automated Buildings Association) in Ottawa, says that the move to building intelligence is really more of an interest in reducing operating costs, creating better indoor air quality and increasing employee productivity. "It's very easy for example to reduce energy usage by 35-45% with technology. That's huge in terms of your bottom line and doing the right thing."

A CommScope study of a major building project in the Middle East, in which 100,000 devices were connected and controlled through a central management system, delivered a 33% up front savings in cabling costs and reduced IT support staff needs by 70%. "This demonstrates that by going intel- ligent you save on up front construction costs, as well as on back end operating costs to keep the facility running," says Cowley.

The operative word to achieving these gains is integration. As Jiri Skopek, managing director for sustainability for Jones Lang LaSalle, a Toronto-based global real estate services company notes, there have been plenty of control systems in place for some time that can provide intelligent data. However, they have often operated in isolation. "Typically, systems were installed separately, which meant dedicated wiring and a lot of redundancy. Now the move is to integrate all those legacy systems together to make a building intelligent."

Integration can ultimately lead to a great deal of enlightenment when it comes to how buildings operate, from understanding water and steam usage, to lighting controls and occupancy management, says Greg Turner, director of global offerings for Honeywell Building Solutions in Raleigh, N. C.

"Today's networks have made it much more cost-effective to reach out to a whole building from a sensing and control perspective and that's having an interesting impact on operational functions. It's not just having the ability to connect everything on a common network, but also extracting value from those facts and exchanging information to make the building more efficient. For example, you can understand what areas of a building are in use when, and adapt your lighting, heating or air conditioning to meet demand."

Upping the intelligence quotient of your building is not something that should be approached on an ad hoc basis. An important first step for many is getting a working understanding of your BIQ (Building Intelligence Quotient). This online intelligent building ranking tool is provided by CABA and BIQC (BIQ Consortium).

BIQ expert Tom Lohner, vice president of Peng & Associates in Chicago, says that in developing the certification, they first looked at traditional things people relate to intelligent buildings and typical automation systems. HVAC control was the most dominant, followed by lighting, security, intrusion protection and vertical transportation.

"For the most part these were standalone components, but we then looked at whether any of them could be integrated, as well as the additional features and benefits that could be gained from it," Lohner explains.

The last part of the process is looking at whether integration could reside on the corporate intranet and/or had the ability to logically connect to the corporate network in a secure fashion. "This last piece is more about the way a building is managed and maintained (at the enterprise level). We considered how using data from a building can be used to help improve ongoing operations and overall management of multiple buildings."

A strong proponent of the BIQ process, Skopek says, "By using the BIQ scoring system you can determine the quality of the systems you have, how well they are integrated, and the functionality you can bring to the building through linking those systems."

Once you know the lay of the network landscape, integrating intelligence doesn't have to be an "all-in" proposition from the get-go. According to Zimmer, "not every building requires that you network your entire inventory of control systems. It depends on the building's focus and your budget. A warehouse for example is far different from a courthouse or an airport. In many cases, you might just want to have the lighting and energy systems networked."

In addition, not all building management systems need to run on a network. Because many room-specific occupancy or CO2 sensors are small and low powered for example, they can easily be battery-powered wireless solutions. That said, building management systems actually put very little stress on a building's network. Even video applications, which initially required a great deal of bandwidth, can be managed more effectively on existing backbones.

"It's realistic to assume that if you put in a TCP/IP backbone in the last two years, you can use it for building automation purposes," says Turner. "Compression algorithms (for video) are so much better, and end devices much more efficient. Also, you now have the ability to allocate feeds between VPN tunnels which make for better network management."

The only exception to the rule in virtually all cases is the fire alarm/emergency system. These require special routers and standby routers in accordance with building code requirements.

Designing for intelligence

The Bank of Montreal for one has spent the last few years evolving its intelligent building initiatives for several of its office towers. The facilities management team has automated a number of lighting, fan and air flow systems to optimize energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

"We can manage our buildings floor by floor, zone by zone," says Mike Wells, director of facilities management. "As we learn how our occupants behave, we can automate changes in air flow and lighting to get as much savings as we can out of our office towers."

Access control plays an integral part in optimizing energy usage, which is why BMO's facilities team has also been standardizing its surveillance and security systems on IP networks in seven major buildings in the Greater Toronto Area.

A more recent pilot project is the implementation of a single, central monitoring system for two buildings, with a goal to increase that number over time.

For those working from a clean slate, getting the most out of intelligent integration on a new build has to start at the drawing board. Experts advise working with the architect and consultant at the front end of the project to identify what systems you want integrated, what are your electrical requirements, and whether you want to put everything on a single backbone.

In the interests of economy, many will opt for hybrid systems, since they have legacy equipment such as surveillance cameras that haven't depreciated enough to warrant replacement. "Even if you're keeping some systems, it's important that you are looking to your future needs when it comes to cabling," says Cowley. "That's one of the hardest things for people to get their head around."

A key component of any plan is ensuring interoperability and open standards. "It's very important to have a homogeneous network with one standard to manage," says Turner. When working with existing systems, there are devices such as the Building Network Adapter from Honeywell that will TCP/IP enable proprietary, serial network devices.

Interoperability also plays a key role in the security aspects that go hand in hand with convergence. Manfred Arndt, convergence solutions architect for HP ProCurve, notes that one of the management challenges is how to seamlessly deploy policies and securely authenticate users on the network.

"Depending on the users, you have to ensure ongoing proactive management of communications security. Adoption of interoperability standards is an important part of supporting that."

Mark Ascolese, chief executive officer at EDSA in San Diego, Calif., a specialist in power analytics for electrical system applications also points out the importance of applying intelligent software tools to enable real-time design changes and to keep tabs on your power infrastructure in a real-time setting.

"If you want to make better use of energy and reduce your carbon footprint, you need the model simulation tools to figure out how design changes will impact electrical usage before you spend money. That's a huge benefit."

Cat 6 cabling should be the absolute minimum for any new installation, since Cat 5e can lead to bandwidth and frequency response, says Cowley. "That cable will be bundled with 40 to 60 other cables running to offices and cubicles, and bundles can create noise."

Termination is another factor that deserves special consideration. Every time a transmission hits break, reflection happens. The higher the bandwidth and speed, the higher the reflection.

"You really have to pay close attention to crosstalk and termination issues," Cowley explains. "Most cable installed today is UTP, but when it's terminated at the jack, the wires are untwisted. If you're not careful, you've defeated the whole purpose of using UTP, which his noise cancellation. You wouldn't believe the number of calls we get about poor performance on a network, only to discover that they bought cheap patch cords. So make sure you test everything, including outlets, connectors and jumper cables, to ensure they meet specifications."

Redundancy is also a network design and installation essential. This can be achieved through both wired and wireless options. "It's much like looking at a power system when you have redundant power providers," says Lohner. "You should look at broadband services the same way and have redundant providers. You can accomplish that in a number of ways. Wireless and Wi-Max can be used as cost-effective alternatives."

Whatever the choices, according to BMO's Wells, building intelligence is a matter of applying sound technology principles, while keeping your business needs in mind. "The technology is available to do it now. The question is, whether it' economical to exploit it or not. You have to figure that out before you move to the next stage." CNS


Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –


Change Is On The Way

Thankfully, The Data Centres Of The Future Will Be Vastly Different Creatures Than The Power-Guzzling, Administrative Headaches Of Today.

By Laura Anderson


A computer, like anything else, works best when it is built and used for a specific purpose. Though far more complex than a hammer or saw, a computer is a tool just the same. And all tools must be designed to a task.

These days it is easy to forget this simple fact. As computer systems grow increasingly complex, particularly in the data centre, we find that many are being used in unintended ways -- for example, running software they were never meant to run, or being housed in buildings that were designed for other purposes.

As hardware and software additions to the data centre require more and more connections between new and old technology, eventually the industry will hit a complexity wall in which data centres become unmanageable. The result will be widespread power and utilization inefficiencies at a time when energy and efficiency are at a premium.

That is why we believe that the data centres of the future will be vastly different creatures than the power-guzzling, administrative headaches of today.

In coming years, the hardware systems that occupy these massive compute farms will be designed in concert with the software they are intended to run.

Indeed, even the buildings that house the data centre will be custom-built for the type of workload and processes the systems will handle. These new data centers will use less power, produce better results and require less administration.

When it comes to data centres, complexity is the enemy of efficiency. And at the moment, thousands find themselves in the midst of mind-boggling complexity. One technology that holds the promise of greatly reducing that complexity is virtualization, the process that pools disparate computing resources -- processors, memory, storage -- to appear as one. But so far virtualization has been mostly about consolidating servers. This is helpful, and it improves utilization, but it does not cut down on software complexity or significantly reduce administrative costs.

There are three technologies that are emerging that will radically alter the virtualization landscape. One is the concept of a Virtual Machine Image, or VM Image.

A VM Image is the bundling of the operating system, middleware and application into a self-contained, fully operational package.

These images have instructions attached to them (metadata) that enable them to simply drop into a data centre environment, find the necessary resources and execute.

The second technology is VM Scheduling. This is akin to system provisioning, in which an administrator can decide when and where to run a particular VM Image.

It allows for rapid scheduling and prioritization of shared resources among other VM Images on the same system, for more dynamic and efficient environments.

The third technology is VM Mobility, which is the ability to move virtual images around the data centre while they are actually running, without skipping a beat. Though there is still work to be done on the standards and licensing fronts, these technologies have the potential to greatly improve the dynamism and efficiency of the data centre. This new world of virtualization will require some significant changes to the data centre architecture itself. The major new concept that will emerge is something we are calling an "ensemble."

These ensembles are essentially collections of homogeneous hardware, or clusters that have systems management capability built in; everything from workload optimization to restart and recovery. The key to these ensembles is their autonomic abilities.

In other words, they will monitor their own utilization, heat production and power consumption, dynamically allocating re- sources as needed.

By using the principles of autonomic computing -- Monitor, Analyze, Plan, Execute (MAPE) -- these ensembles require very little by way of administration.

The goal of this re-architecting is to simplify the data centre. Though the dynamic scheduling of workloads is actually a fantastically complex process, the interface that is exposed to the administrator is quite simple.

By using the ensemble structure, managed by a service-oriented virtual machine interface, the data centre becomes a system of self-contained components that interact with each other on an as-needed basis. (see chart p. 22)

There is one more element that needs to be rethought before data centres can reach their full potential. Though it may seem sometimes that they exist only in the world of ones and zeros, they are actual physical structures that require tremendous amounts of power and cooling in order to operate.

In this way, data centres are not unlike factories. And the lease, maintenance and power consumption are all factored into the cost of finished goods.

Like a factory, there is an optimal efficiency that can be reached in a data centre by matching the machines to the building (or vice versa). By applying some of the same economic principles that measure the efficiency of factories to the economics of data centres, we have arrived at some surprising recommendations for optimizing data centres. For example, bigger is not always better. The cost benefits of scaling data centres begin to diminish if it is too large and requires too much electricity. Maximum efficiency points will develop based on the workload of the data centre and surrounding environment.

By optimizing all of the components that reside in this building block, and monitoring power and heat with sensors that feed back into the systems management capabilities discussed earlier, the data centre can attain maximum efficiency.

At a time when energy use carries heavy costs, both financial and environmental, every ounce of efficiency is highly valuable.

In short, the data centre of the future will be a much more integrated, purpose-built machine. The type of workload will dictate the design of everything from the software to the building itself.

And there may be a variety of different types of data centres, based on their respective purpose. Not as simple as a hammer, but just as efficient and effective. CNS

Laura Anderson is Program Director, Service Engineering, at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif.

Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –


Troubleshooting Industrial Ethernet Networks

Unlike office environments, slowdowns in industrial networks can quickly escalate into production nightmares. You definitely need some help.

By David Green

Ethernet is rapidly spreading across a wide range of industrial environments, but as frontline engineers are quickly realizing the hostile environmental conditions can play havoc with their networks.

This standardized, plug-and-play technology is easy to install and it works 99% of the time, but when it does not, it is not so easy to understand why.

With more devices being added to the network and fewer people on the factory floor, production and maintenance engineers are under growing pressure to ensure 24/7 network uptime. If they don't, the consequences can be devastating.

Unlike office environments, slowdowns in industrial networks can quickly escalate into production nightmares. As a result, production and maintenance staff are under increasing pressure to keep networks up and running at top speed, and when they're not, resolving any issues as quickly as possible in order to maintain or improve productivity and uptime.

In an industrial network, you may encounter cases of sensors in the network sending their information to multiple addresses instead of transmitting to the single, relevant address.

A pressure sensor in a bottling plant for example could be sending measurements to labeling, and capping in addition to the bottling machine, resulting in unexpected network traffic.

In addition, if the bottling line is not correctly segmented from regular network traffic, it may send the bottling-machine pressure information (a time-critical packet of information) at the same time as dozens of people in the corporate network are busily downloading a new network security fix, causing major ramifications on the production line.

On the industrial side there is also much greater sensitivity to delay or latency than in office environments.

When a forecast file takes 20 seconds longer to download than usual, a sales manager will not be too concerned. In the bottling line, the difference between 25 milliseconds and 2000 milliseconds could result in a run of bottles without labels -- and all the costs that go with that kind of mistake.

This article explores some of the basic design and installation issues for industrial networks, as well as troubleshooting tips to help you quickly recognize, locate, and solve problems in order to maintain or improve productivity and plant uptime.

Design and installation: As with any network, taking care of the basics when it comes to network design and installation can play a key role in improving overall long-term performance.

There are several things to consider when installing structured cabling in an industrial setting, these include:

Design to standards: Make sure to adhere to the TIA 568A installation guidelines (standards from the Telecommunications Industry Association that apply to structured cabling). When installing STP (shielded twisted pair) /fiber in a noisy and harsh environment, pay close attention to the cable length maximums and the quality of terminations.

Understand the performance characteristics needed in your specific production environment: In most cases, they tend to require much lower bandwidth than office settings. (Sending 2K of a communication command requesting a temperature reading is more critical than a receiving a complete 2 MB photo and being able to see it clearly). It is more important to focus on accommodating multiple data commands traversing a process system, rather than prioritizing bandwidth or network transmission speed.

Understand your communication priorities: With industrial Ethernet it is important to ensure that smaller commands continuously reach their end at exactly the right time. Cat 5e transmission requirements are usually sufficient to handle this type of traffic. Also gain a thorough understanding of the electrical noise generated by any nearby machinery when deciding upon UTP (unshielded twisted pair), STP or fiber optic components. *

Use the right components: Use protective cabling in any areas with repetitive motion or an area that a link might be stepped on or crushed. Many cable manufactures offer specific cabling with boots and/or advanced engineered material cable jackets specifically for harsh environments.

The basic troubleshooting sequence for any networking environment consists of these steps:

Document the network -- Create a diagram of the parts of the network, as well as the signal flow paths between various devices, using for example the EtherScope Network Assistant from Fluke Networks for discovery. This is enormously helpful in visualizing the problem and saving valuable time. A good practice is to start with the physical layer and work your way up the protocol stack (OSI model).

Collect all available information and analyze the symptoms -- Verify or recreate the problem where possible.

Localize and isolate the problems -- A good overall troubleshooting strategy is to divide and conquer; test and eliminate. Subdivide or isolate the problems into a smaller function sections to eliminate culprits one by one, removing the largest and/or most convenient section first.

The step-by-step process should include:

• Pinging or simulating signals to check for power and proper connections

• If the connections are okay, proceeding to the control or management device

• Looking at the PLC for error codes

• Document what you did -- As an important final step in troubleshooting, documenting of all the steps you took will provide a baseline which will be helpful in troubleshooting similar problems, prepare reports or train network support team members.

No matter what your cable type, it is important that you test and certify each link. Following are some of the more common issues you are likely to encounter when troubleshooting your network.

• Contaminated fiber optic cable end faces -- Microscopic fiber optic cable is particularly susceptible to contaminants clogging the ends leading to communication breakdowns. This will show up as errors in the transmitted data and could be catastrophic.

• Device installation errors -- A common and difficult-to-troubleshoot issue is misconfigured devices. The original installer must select the speed of the connection between the switch and sensor. In some cases, the sensor may be configured for half duplex, and the switch on the other end to full duplex in error. Duplex mismatch is very difficult to detect since standard testing will indicate that the cabling is fine and that both the switch and sensor are connected. The only clue will be extremely variable delay or latency so the network appears slow. A good tester can tell you the configuration of each device and will help you locate a mismatch.

• Device failures caused by a harsh electrical environment -- Electrical signals carried over the network are susceptible to the harsh electrical and climatic environment. Several factors can influence or degrade electrical signaling, including high-energy sources such as lighting systems and heavy-duty machinery. Monitoring the network, one segment at a time can capture these events so you can isolate their source.

• High-voltage electrical loads -- Transients, surges, and harmonics are the most common electrical phenomena found on high-voltage electrical feeder and branch circuits with breakers and non-linear loads. These and other phenomena like static discharge from rotating machinery can cause disturbances to electrical signals. Ground-loop currents are also notorious for creating erroneous equipment failures that are hard to diagnose. With attention to proper installation practices, minimizing sources of electrical disturbances, and using appropriately IP-rated devices you can mitigate many of these problems.

Although similar principles apply to installations in a data centre, Ethernet installations in dirty and noisy industrial environments require special consideration. To ensure your installation meets the customer and environmental needs you must design to standards, use the right components, and understand the appropriate troubleshooting techniques and equipment. As Ethernet continues to be deployed across industrial environments, new and specialized test tools are available to help isolate industrial Ethernet problems quickly and easily. CNS

David Green, P. Eng., is Director of Marketing for Fluke's AmPac Region, including Canada, Australia and LatinAmerica He can be reached by e-mail at

Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –


Standards Update

40 Gb/S And 100 Gb/S Ethernet

The IEEE 802.3ba Ethernet Task Force is currently working on an amendment that defines MAC, physical layers and management parameters.

By By Paul Kish

For this month's article you will find an update on the next generation standard for 40 Gigabit and 100 Gigabit Ethernet. What I have done is identify what technologies are being considered and what media types are needed to support 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s networking speeds.

The IEEE 802.3ba Ethernet Task Force is currently working on an amendment to the IEEE 802.3-2008 standard. This particular standards update defines the parameters for 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/ s operation, including media access control (MAC) parameters, physical layers and management parameters. The first draft of this amendment was issued this past October.

What are the different IEEE 802.3 physical layer implementations for 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s Ethernet? A brief description of these different implementations is listed below: Copper :

40GBASE-CR4: 40 Gb/s over four lanes of twin-ax cabling 100GBASE-CR10: 100 Gb/s over 10 lanes of twin-ax cabling

Multimode fiber:

40GBASE-SR4: 40 Gb/s over four lanes of, short reach, multi mode fiber

100GBASE-SR10: 100 Gb/s over 10 lanes of, short reach, multi mode fiber

Single mode fiber:

40GBASE-LR4: 40 Gb/s over four WDM lanes, long reach, single mode fiber

100GBASE-LR4: 100 Gb/s over four WDM lanes, long reach,

single mode fiber

100GBASE-ER4: 100 Gb/s over four WDM lanes, extended

long reach, single mode fiber

The copper based 40GBASE-CR4 implementation uses a special connectorized cable assembly with eight twinaxial pairs, 4 x 10 Gb/s in each direction, for an aggregate data rate of 40 Gb/s.

The 100GBASE-CR10 implementation uses a cable assembly with 20 twin axial pairs, 10 x 10 Gb/s in each direction, for an aggregate data rate of 100 Gb/s.

The transmission parameters for these cable assemblies are specified up to 6 GHz and are intended for equipment-to-equipment connections for distances up to 10 metres (33 ft). There are no physical layer specifications under development in IEEE 802.3 for 40 Gb/s and 100Gb/s transmission over 4-pair Category cabling, at least not at this time. Such a need may develop over time; however, it is not envisaged before 2013 timeframe.

The 40GBASE-SR4 and 100GBASE-SR10 implementations use four or 10 pairs of multimode fibers respectively, for a distance of at least 100 metres.

The data transmission rate for each multimode fiber is 10 Gb/s, for an aggregate data rate of 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s respectively. The connector interface is most likely the MPO connector, although this is not specifically defined in the current draft standard.

The reference is to the performance specifications of IEC 61753-1-1 and IEC 61753-022-2.

Another question to consider is why is the distance limit only 100 meters and not 300 metres?

OM3 fiber is capable of supporting a distance of up 300 metres at 10 Gb/s. After looking into this, it is my understanding that the parallel optics transceivers for SR4 and SR10 are a different specification than 10GBASE-SR.

The 100 metres distance is a minimum objective. It may be possible to do 200 metres or some longer distance yet to be determined.

Table 1 below shows the primary attributes of 40GBASE-SR4 and 100GBASE-SR10

The 40GBASE-LR4, 100GBASE-LR4 and 100GBASE-ER4 implementations use two single mode optical fibers and wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) to achieve an aggregate data rate of 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s.

The specified wavelengths and the data rate for each wavelength are shown in Table 2 below.

This is a brief overview of the cabling requirements in support of 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s Ethernet over specialized copper cable assemblies and optical fiber. This work is under development in the IEEE 802.3ab task force.

The plan is to complete this work by mid-2010.

Paul Kish is Director, Systems and Standards at Belden. The information presented is the author's view and is not official TIA correspondence

Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –

Communications News

Forecast 2009

Our panel of experts makes predictions for technology trends in the new year.

One point is clear in our 2009 Forecast report, return on investment has become the mantra of enterprise technology customers–and the vendor community has definitely received the message. Throughout this report from two dozen leading technology suppliers, the dreaded “recession” word is mentioned, as well as the need to get as much out of existing networks as possible. Our technology vendor panel here, however, still seems bullish on the new year, expecting customers to continue their IT spending–at least for products that enhance or improve their networks, while saving money and increasing productivity.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Better collaboration

by David Puglia

CTO, enterprise activities, Alcatel-Lucent

In today’s increasingly competitive economic landscape, the most successful business will be the most agile business, in which end-users have access to real-time information and knowledge necessary to make the right decision at the right moment. Unified communications (UC), or the ability to connect to the right person on the right media, based on factors like presence, will become instrumental for success.

The shift to UC solutions has been triggered by the rise of social software and networking services. These networks enable enterprises to extract value from UC, to leverage it and harness the most important asset of its organization–connecting the knowledge of its workers.

An estimated 80 percent of a company’s knowledge lies in the brains and on the desktops or hard drives of individuals. This key asset remains largely unavailable through traditional networks. Through the use of UC technologies, sharing of opinions, contributing to discussions and building wikis, employees transform untapped information into a knowledge base that can be accessed by anyone within the company, ideally to provide a competitive differentiation in business situations.

The true value of these Enterprise 2.0 technologies and social networks lies in the ability to harness knowledge in real time, connecting the right people to the right information, and allowing employees to rapidly react to business conditions with a competitive advantage, leveraging the brainpower of the whole company.

Real-time capabilities, supported by extended presence information (exposed by the SIP protocol throughout the entire network), will enable communications between end-users, either through private conversations or multimedia conferences, wherever they are and whatever the device–desktops, desk phones or mobile.

Pushed by both end-users and business imperatives, Enterprise 2.0 services are rapidly becoming the interface of choice for UC. By providing a platform for content and context-driven communications aimed to accelerate decision making, Enterprise 2.0 technologies can provide organizations with a competitive advantage, and supports end-users in achieving their business objectives while offering new collaborative tools.   

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


The next big wave

by Shabtai Adlersberg

Chairman of the Board, president and CEO, AudioCodes

Even with all the changes from analog to digital telephones, wireline to mobile and eventually to voice over IP (VoIP), one constant in the telephony market has remained consistent–limited audio quality. This is due to the limitations the public telephone network (PSTN) enforces on traditional analog and digital telephones. The adoption of VoIP and broadband networks have provided the opportunity to break through this barrier with a range of wideband and high-quality voice-coding algorithms that make communications more efficient, effective and natural.

High-definition (HD) VoIP implementation relies primarily on the use of a wideband speech coder. Several wideband speech coders have been developed for different networks, such as G.722, G.729.1 and G.711E for wireline applications, G.722.2 and EVRC-B for wireless applications, iSAC for the Skype application, and Microsoft RTA for the enterprise environment. HD VoIP allows carriers to differentiate their services with a much improved audio experience, creating customer loyalty and affinity. Enterprises can differentiate themselves with superior voice quality to their customers.

HD VoIP is expected to become a major factor in the improvement of business efficiency in the current global business environment. Today’s business globalization, with many different accents and languages, requires an improvement of voice fidelity. This is particularly important with conferencing applications. HD VoIP can bring about improvements in business productivity by encouraging effective collaboration, reducing errors and eliminating expensive travel.

HD VoIP technology enhances applications deployed in many industries, and can improve safety in critical environments. Industries such as banks and trading rooms, travel agents, military and homeland security, air traffic control all need intelligibility improvements that can be achieved with this technology. In the mobile environment, HD VoIP can help enhance the user experience by improving the voice quality. Internet applications like gaming, chat or streaming also can benefit from HD VoIP technologies.

In order to benefit from the sound quality that HD VoIP technology allows, the endpoints must support the technology itself. Currently, regular phones are limited by the handset, microphone and speaker technologies, which are unable to transmit the broad range of frequencies in human speech. Wideband IP phones solve this problem by supporting wideband coders, high-quality speakers and microphones. More employers will adopt the high-quality sound of HD VoIP technology.

This is expected to be the year when HD VoIP will become the natural choice for businesses and service providers implementing new VoIP networks. HD terminals such as HD-enabled DECT phones, wideband AMR-enabled mobile phones and wideband IP phones will become commonplace in the market.  

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


UC ready for stage

by David Levy

President and CEO, Objectworld Communications

Unified communications (UC) will be the big trend of 2009, but in ways that few expect. Vendors are racing to develop new and sophisticated offerings that drive business productivity for individuals and organizations. Prices on traditional hardware (phones, gateways and PBXs) are dropping so fast and so radically that many long-term incumbents may have to reinvent themselves by 2010 in order to stay competitive. New, low-cost devices are coming to the market quickly (everything from new mobile Internet devices, smart phones and voice-over-WLAN handsets) and reshaping how we communicate.

Considering today’s economic climate, the industry is ripe for merger and acquisition among incumbents and new entrants alike. Yet, customers are ambivalent about adopting UC. There is growing consensus that UC is good, if only it was clear what UC entails (and what it will entail six months from now). This will be the year that dynamic changes and, in turn, the way people communicate will be substantially different by 2010.

The big game-changers in 2009 will not be amazing new gadgets but rather a combination of market-disruptive offerings from software vendors, as well as widespread adoption of UCs in small and midsize businesses. Unified messaging with smart phone integration will become commonplace. These are not necessarily new technologies themselves, but their widespread adoption will reshape the practical techniques of how we do business with added mobility and the feature-rich applications that are made available to smart, wireless devices.

What is really set to reshape the market is that the price of UC is about to go way down and the time for return on investment will be measured in weeks not years. The cost/benefit will be reshaped in favor of low-cost, interesting and practical UC applications that help businesses do business.

That does not mean the PBX is going anywhere fast. In fact, with the economic downturn, we will see businesses making better use of the hardware and software that they already have (particularly trying to integrate disparate systems), and businesses thinking in greater detail about how they can respond more effectively to customers as an organization.

Prices will have to go down, and value will have to go up, or UC will not be going anywhere. Businesses want something better than low-cost dial tone, something more flexible, adaptable and, most of all, user-centric. They want applications. The ubiquity of these new, flexible and user-centric productivity tools will produce a rich and fertile ground for growth and change. The economic slowdown will drive some businesses to retreat into cost cutting, but it will spur many others into reaching out to customers in an effort to compete more effectively with faster and more intelligent responses to their customers.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Automation essential

by Tom Goldman

CEO, Uplogix

Unified communications has come of age as one of the best ways to foster collaboration, increase user productivity and save time and money. Under today’s economic climate, all costs are under scrutiny, making UC a strong candidate for CIOs. IP telephony (IPT) is the enabling technology that is driving this transformation from the phone company to the Internet. Achieving phone company quality of service at Internet pricing levels requires reliable underlying Internet infrastructure for UC to function.

Unifying communications, such as e-mail, voice, video, fax and instant messaging, across distributed locations requires a larger amount of bandwidth and stronger management control than traditional management tools can provide. Today’s users demand a high quality of service (QoS) from each corporate site, while management expects a UC project to reduce operating costs when managing risks during deployment and post-implementation support.

Customers are adopting a more strategic approach to manage UC across the distributed IPT network they depend on. While legacy network systems-management tools provide helpful overviews of enterprise infrastructure, however, they fall short for mission-critical remote locations and the cost and time required to serve those users with a UC-ready infrastructure. To compensate, secure remote management (SRM) technology acts intelligently as an IT administrator’s eyes, ears and hands to perform routine maintenance and problem resolution, and ensure remote network and system devices stay healthy and continue to function without human intervention.

An SRM platform uses its local physical presence to maintain a high QoS by rapidly and effectively resolving common issues with IPT environments. A few examples include: preventing network atrophy; ensuring an excellent end-user experience; streamlining maintenance tasks; and ensuring that carriers meet MPLS service-level agreements.

Organizations can make the leap to UC applications and IPT with confidence in the infrastructure. The risk lies in neglecting the basic investments in infrastructure management so the implementation is reliable, available and high-performing. Secure remote management reduces the risk, cost and complexity of UC and IPT, with the cost savings of the Internet.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Business accelerated

by Joel Hackney

President, Nortel Enterprise Solutions

The skills to engage in negotiations, conversations, knowledge sharing and ad-hoc collaborations in real time with partners halfway around the world are now becoming core competencies for today’s enterprise. The unifying of communications applications and technologies makes this possible.

Unified communications is not just about enhancing personal productivity. When made integral to business processes, it also can speed decision making, approvals and problem resolution, generally shortening the time to whatever the key operational objectives are.

Unified communications adds value at both the communications and business levels. The former comes from eliminating the barriers to effective communications anytime, anywhere over any device, by delivering a consistent user experience tightly integrated with desktop applications, including e-mail and calendaring. At the business level, value comes from hiding the inherent complexity of multivendor communications environments and delivering these as software services.

Embedding communications into business processes realizes the full power of UC. Research in mobile UC shows significant business improvements:

·         29 percent higher customer satisfaction;

·         27 percent higher employee satisfaction;

·         20 percent more time for mobile employees to do their jobs;

·         18 percent more sales as a result of shorter proposal cycle times; and

·         18 percent more time for desktop-based employees to do their jobs.

Leveraging the chaos of challenging times to simplify and accelerate human-to-human communications and business processes are high-multiplier investments. That is why UC presents senior executives with an opportunity to realize significant return on investment, while driving enhanced productivity and enabling ongoing total cost of ownership savings. UC solutions are capable of wringing inefficiencies from business processes and can more than pay for themselves in as little as six months.

In difficult and uncertain times, businesses should differentiate themselves by being faster, better and more efficient than their competitors. Saving money, while improving performance and focusing on the core business, is the bottom line.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  



IT and energy-efficiency

by Michael Zhao

President and CEO, Array Networks

Virtualization is a major trend that is revolutionizing IT, and will continue its rapid growth in 2009. Instead of dedicating an entire machine to a single application, several virtual machines on the same physical hardware can be used to run independent instances of different applications. Reducing servers will reduce not only the rack space and power requirements, but will also reduce the cooling and air-conditioning requirements, since fewer machines means less heat emitted, less need for cooling, and smaller, more-efficient data centers that ultimately cost a lot less to build and operate.

In 2009, virtualization will extend to the desktop. Replacing heavy-duty workstations with virtual desktops can reduce overall power consumption and reduce IT support load at the same time, since the desktops are hosted in a data center. Alternatively, with cloud computing, the desktop and applications can be hosted through the Internet.

Modern computers come with power-saving modes, such as sleep and hibernate, that allow machines to go to standby mode, which typically use only 3 watts to 5 watts of power, as opposed to the 150 watts or more used when idling. In 2009, the adoption of remote-access technologies will increase, turning on the machine when needed, thereby saving on power and cooling for the hours when the machine is not being used.

Remote-access technology will allow more people to work from home. There are obvious savings from getting workers out of their automobiles, but there are also savings in the data center. This trend will continue to pick up steam in 2009.

Today’s data centers consume 10 times more energy than buildings used to house people. Reducing the energy consumption of IT equipment in the data center can have an impact of a three to four times reduction in total energy and carbon dioxide footprint as the overhead for HVACs, chillers, power-distribution units, lighting and heat loss in conductors can be reduced.

Hybrid technology that uses compute resources at data centers, along with appropriate computing resources on the client side will eliminate the need to have more powerful servers in the data centers, or have less of them so that the cooling requirements can be reduced or eliminated.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Power supply and demand

by Kathy Mazzarella

Senior vice president, Graybar

In the year ahead, IT managers will turn to advancements in data center technologies to overcome a myriad of challenges. Topping the list of concerns: adding new applications and services, and keeping the data center running when power may be in short supply.

In the next five years, more than 90 percent of all businesses are expected to experience costly data center downtime due to power failures or limits, according to the data center trade association AFCOM. To avoid being part of this statistic, IT managers will need to secure critical power solutions. Among the solutions: adopting greater redundancy, maximizing energy efficiency and relocating to risk-adverse areas.

Operational redundancy helps keep data centers secure and accessible by replicating critical functions, such as power, data processing and storage, or by creating redundant facilities. Larger, more complex mission-critical data centers require more redundancy.

As IT managers implement redundant systems, they will need more power and cooling to support the additional equipment. Since redundant systems in data centers require more energy, many IT professionals will focus on managing costs through energy-efficient solutions.

Data centers consume more than 2 percent of all the energy used in the United States. With consumption expected to double in the next five years, many IT managers are working to maximize their efficiency now to avoid the higher energy costs associated with increased demand in the future.

For some organizations, data center renovations will not be enough to efficiently accommodate power demands. As a result, these businesses may relocate their data centers to areas of the country that provide less-expensive power. The need for critical power will also drive relocation to areas less prone to natural disasters.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


More remote access

by Jerry Chase

CEO, Lantronix

With the economy in turmoil and as companies pay more attention to their green initiatives, corporations will increasingly turn to technology to help reduce costs and deliver better service to their customers. Businesses will start investing in products and technology that require fewer human resources to implement, and allow employees to provide services and support via the Internet.

Current economic realities, such as the need to work more efficiently and cost effectively, and the need to conserve energy and reduce associated costs, are now a global phenomenon. This has a direct effect on the market for remote product services (RPS).

The RPS model allows companies to access firewall-protected equipment from anywhere, anytime, using the Internet. As more employees are working remotely and corporations are expanding globally, businesses will need to be able to manage and fix equipment that is located in remote locations and networks for which they may not have administrative privileges.

More electronic devices and office equipment, such as copiers or security systems, will be network enabled so they can be remotely managed via the Internet. As companies face mounting pressure to cut costs, technicians will need to have remote access to equipment, so they can diagnose issues from distant locations and, in many cases, implement solutions without the need to travel to the malfunctioning device. With advancements in security and ease of implementation of remote-access technologies, companies in 2009 will increasingly turn to these RPS solutions to lower the costs of providing service and maintenance.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Network Security

Back to the basics

by Rajat Bhargava

President and CEO, StillSecure

One area that will emerge in 2009 is a renewed focus on getting back to security basics. The unstable economic climate, coupled with an ongoing need for increased efficiency, will force security teams to excel more than ever by leveraging current investments.

Choosing the right security technologies to fit current needs, while meeting future demands is critical. With threats such as click-jacking and social engineering on the rise, many security professionals question what to focus on–new tools or already-implemented technology. Security teams should consider the following approaches to make better use of current security solutions.

Organizations will be looking for ways to leverage current investments for greater ROI. Network security initiatives have been traditionally comprised of multiple point products, all from different vendors. Moving forward, the focus needs to be on the cross-silo integration of security tools to do more with less. For example, organizations can leverage existing investments in IDS/IPS technology to implement post-connect network access control (NAC) instead of purchasing a separate post-connect NAC sensor.

Investing in security education so that administrators can learn to maximize existing tools is more cost effective than purchasing and implementing new technologies. Companies will have to maximize their current investments instead of being too focused on the latest and greatest tool to block attacks. Before moving forward with any new investment, companies should conduct a full review of current implementations to make sure they are being optimized.

Lastly, organizations should use this downtime to implement best practices for the existing workforce. There are many basic security best practices–such as being careful about desktop downloads, not opening e-mail attachments from questionable sources and locking computers when they are not being used–that are simple to institute yet preventative in defending against basic security issues.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Cabling Infrastructure

Optical in the LAN

by Clark Kinlin

CEO and president, Corning Cable Systems

Demand for higher bandwidth is stemming from several places, including IP convergence, virtualization, increased storage requirements and new video applications. This demand is driving the need for increased optical connectivity in the LAN and data center. Customers are increasingly deploying optical solutions to meet current and future connectivity requirements for solutions that provide data rate scalability, reliable transmission, enhanced pathway/space utilization and high-density electronics.

Advances in Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand speed projections are encouraging. These all point to a need for optical connectivity in networks built with the future in mind. Customers are now deploying optical connectivity solutions operating from 10 Mbps to 10-Gigabit Ethernet, which are also able to support future speed projections.

Optical solutions consume significantly less network and cooling power, in addition to providing superior performance when compared to electrical networks with copper unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable. An increasingly important benefit of optical media is reduced power consumption when compared to other solutions. Optical solutions also can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

 Finally, customers are seeing the possibilities created by IP convergence. Many are evaluating deployment of optical fiber with a telecommunications enclosure (TE) zone architecture. The TE architecture can offer significant material and electronics cost savings compared to traditional copper home-run architectures. The TE architecture also can reduce the volume of cable materials in the horizontal space to mitigate fire hazards.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Here comes FCoE

by Brian Protiva

CEO, ADVA Optical Networking

Enterprises want to converge all storage and local area network (SAN and LAN) traffic on one infrastructure–commonly managed, dependable, standards-based and powerful. That was the goal that resulted the development of Fibre Channel, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and InfiniBand.

Now comes Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Leveraging enhancements to conventional Ethernet in the areas of flow control, quality of service and packet loss, FCoE holds promise as one day serving as that cost-effective and unifying interconnect fabric.

The real-world data center of 2009 is still a long way from there. Mass adoption of FCoE remains years away, for several different reasons.

First, migration will not be instantaneous. The existing Ethernet infrastructure would require new low-latency switches for wide-scale FCoE deployment, and forklift upgrades of functional network cores are too disruptive and too expensive to undertake based on promise.

Second, today’s mature enterprise data centers manage a spectrum of protocols in addition to FCoE–InfiniBand, enterprise system connection (ESCON), fiber connection (FICON), Internet small computer systems interface (iSCSI) and others–that serve mission-critical purposes and will continue to need to be supported.

Third, there are significant behavioral, organizational and political questions to be answered if FCoE is to shoulder all of an enterprise’s SAN and LAN traffic. For example, are an enterprise’s server and storage groups to submit to the network group and turn over all of their various mission-critical applications to ride on relatively new and untested FCoE?

For the foreseeable future, data center managers will continue to match services with protocols based on various factors, such as cost, access options, technical requirements and the distances among facilities to be connected.

FCoE is one of the protocols that those data center managers will consider, and it might well prove to be the most compelling choice for green field opportunities or environments where low-cost connectivity is a greater priority than 100-percent uptime. With wavelength-division multiplexing at the heart of its network, an enterprise can cost-effectively, flexibly and simply converge FCoE, InfiniBand and the rest of its multiprotocol traffic on the same optical backbone–all performing at native speed.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


10GbE upgrade

by Russell Stern

CEO, Solarflare

This year is positioned to be the era of 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE)  integration and evolution, witnessing the widespread adoption of the technology to support advanced applications and an ever- increasing number of transactions and users. With companies facing greater demands than ever before and potentially strict government regulations on power consumption, a look at upgrading existing infrastructures is required. Adding in tighter IT budgets and an overall economic slowdown, organizations need cost-effective solutions that do not require a complete network overhaul.

The financial services industry, in particular, will be attracted to 10GbE. Financial service users are dealing with ever-increasing volumes at higher rates: an effect known as data-doubling. The trading institutions also need to reduce the latency in transaction processing time for end-to-end trading. To remain competitive and handle split-second financial transactions, institutions will implement 10GbE for high-performance, high-capacity networks.

New standards, such as IEEE 802.3 Energy Efficient Ethernet, will enable the matching of energy consumption to actual traffic loads. On track for a standard at the end of 2009, Energy Efficient Ethernet will introduce a low power idle, saving up to 80 percent of physical layer power by turning off components not needed when there is less or no data to transmit. At the system level, NICs and switches will make vendor-specific implementations to save energy based on operating at a lower link rate. Energy Efficient Ethernet will enable 10GBASE-T deployment beyond the data center and into workstations and high-end desktops.

Virtualization will move into its second phase as it matures in the marketplace. It will be deployed more pervasively and new models, such as virtual desktop infrastructure, will allow for the reduction of hardware costs and more cost-efficient manageability. This will have a direct impact on the push toward virtualization standardization.

The IEEE 802.1 bridging standards group will play a significant role in creating a standard virtual switch whose ports (or MAC address) can bridge or transfer with switch ports in the network, virtual or real. 10GbE enables enterprises and data centers to leverage existing copper cabling and deliver optimal performance in any virtualized environment.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Strategic surveillance

by Peter Strom

President and CEO, March Networks

The convergence of physical and IT security will continue to dominate the video surveillance landscape in 2009, as enterprise organizations seek the advanced capabilities and cost benefits of all-IP video networking. The rate of IP video adoption will vary by industry, however, and will be influenced by business requirements that drive the selective adoption of newer technologies, such as IP cameras and video analytics, as well as the desire to extend investments in existing CCTV infrastructure.

In the retail and banking industries, typically represented by numerous and widely dispersed smaller locations, the preferred solution will be hybrid systems that bridge the gap between the digital and analog worlds. As early adopters of CCTV technology, most retailers and financial institutions are heavily invested in legacy systems and eager to extend the capabilities of existing analog cameras and cabling.

Object tracking, direction-specific tripwires and perimeter alarms, occupancy sensors and other video analytics will continue to make their way into the marketplace and will become more attractive to all organizations as they demonstrate their accuracy and value. These intelligent applications enhance the effectiveness of IP and hybrid video surveillance systems by alerting staff to potential risks in real time and enabling informed and proactive responses. Video analytics, such as camera obstruction detection, that focus on monitoring the health of surveillance systems are also growing in popularity as they prove their ability to help ensure video quality and availability.

IP and megapixel camera deployments will increase significantly this year, as well, in both new and existing installations. As prices continue to drop and performance rises, organizations will deploy IP and megapixel cameras strategically in locations where images with high resolution and embedded analytics can deliver optimum ROI.

The pace of convergence will vary by organization and across industries. IT and physical security professionals in many enterprises have already begun working together to determine how best to support their immediate and longer-term security requirements. Some will turn to managed services models that are just gaining momentum in the facilities security industry. Others will continue to share domain expertise as they strategically transition their organizations to all-IP video solutions that meet their security, loss-prevention and operational objectives.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


No recession for video

by Stan Jaworski

CMO, VBrick Systems

Today's environmental factors and a rapidly fluctuating economy are causing organizations to rethink the way they communicate with their workforce. The global economy has led to a distributed organization. Good ideas and best practices can come from anywhere and the need for ongoing knowledge transfer, collaboration and feedback is required for an effective business strategy. Escalating travel costs have caused organizations to think of ways to save, while at the same time making sure critical information is disseminated to the distributed enterprise.

To meet many of these challenges, both large and small enterprises will turn to video to keep their workforce connected. The streaming-media market has grown steadily since 2000, but the overall weak economy is driving additional needs for video-based communications throughout the enterprise. Video can be the great equalizer within an organization–promoting distributed leadership and allowing for individual on-demand access.

As companies cut travel budgets because of higher costs and a softer global economy, they are increasingly adopting technology that allows employees to collaborate face-to-face without traveling. From CEO broadcasts to training to cross-functional skills transfer, video accelerates successful knowledge transfer between employees. Video has the power to motivate, inform and empower employees.

In today’s business environment, the timely dissemination of information both internally and externally is the key to staying competitive. Through video, companies are able to reach all personnel around the office or the world with executive broadcasts, product launches, emergency broadcasting, and TV and news distribution, to name a few applications. When employees need crucial, timely information, video allows companies to cost-effectively message, market and raise revenue, while stabilizing their business in this era of economic uncertainty.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Network Performance

APM for networks

by Scott Allen

Vice president, Fluke Networks

Until now, one key factor missing from performance-management tools is an end-user view to enterprise-wide application-performance visibility. Lack of visibility into what applications are running, how these applications are being used and how the various components interact can affect a broad spectrum of application-lifecycle activities, including: deploying applications and WAN services, managing planned changes and unexpected service disruptions, solving performance problems faster, and optimizing converged voice, video and data networks

Network-based application-performance management (APM) systems have emerged in business service and application visibility. Unlike APM systems that focus on servers, hosts and data centers, these network-focused APM systems deliver enterprise-wide visibility designed to help network operations teams improve application availability and performance from the client site all the way through to the data center.

Network-based APM systems have three primary functions that make them unique. First, these systems analyze network traffic data–such as NetFlow, cFlow, sFlow and IPFix–from routers, switches or specialized appliances throughout the network. These APM systems build a baseline of the systems, users and traffic inside the network and continuously monitor their activity, alerting operations teams of disruptions and performance issues.

Second, APM systems identify applications and monitor important metrics that indicate performance and availability changes and disruptions. Identification of applications in this sense is based on deep-packet inspection or other similar techniques in order to provide comprehensive performance analysis of the application and those who use it. Finally, network APM systems coordinate the collected data in a real-time, enterprise-wide application-performance console for proactive network, application and service management.

In today’s challenging economy where dollars spent on IT infrastructure must show a direct benefit to the business (in profitability, revenue generation or governance), a successfully deployed and managed network application-performance system will provide measureable benefits to the business. The use of such systems seems certain to grow as business performance becomes more tightly linked to the performance of the network.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Accelerating Web apps

by Jonathan Bixby

CEO, Strangeloop Networks

A slow Web site in today’s economy could mean the kiss of death. Just as networking device innovations came to the rescue when branch office performance became a business imperative, a new breed of application-acceleration devices, Web application accelerators, is emerging to deal with the dynamic nature of today’s Web sites by using the same techniques to optimize performance that coders would, but in real-time. For the future of application delivery, there are four must haves: an understanding of how Web pages are built, the ability to track and record the request/response conversations between the server and the user, a library of optimization techniques, and the ability to intelligently apply these techniques based on real-time observations and analysis.

As an example, developers have been using caching for years to improve Web application performance. With more dynamic content, however, many developers now shy away from caching for fear of serving outdated content. Web acceleration devices are destined to reverse this trend, as they now provide a means to automatically and safely invoke caching–both on the device itself and on the browser.

These devices give operations the ability to set caching rules, or the device can automatically recognize when content changes, and change caching instructions based on this knowledge. In addition, because they implement caching based on actual usage patterns, they can implement caching for a page that suddenly gains popularity.

As companies depend more and more on dynamic Web applications, and as vendors continue to add new application-involved features, Web application-acceleration devices will be an essential component to ensuring that Web applications perform fast, well and efficiently so that the user’s experience is always rich and rewarding.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


BPA is back

by Donald E. Brown

President and CEO, Interactive Intelligence

With recession threatening to cast a long shadow over the new year, the search for productivity and efficiency will become even more urgent. In such an environment, business process automation (BPA) is destined to be the next big thing.

Much computer software has been written specifically to automate key business processes. Underlying the whole re-engineering craze of a decade ago was the implicit assumption that chaotic work environments could be re-implemented using technology. Unfortunately, the significant promise of BPA and re-engineering has gone unfulfilled, largely because the technology side was too expensive. Process-automation efforts generally required extensive professional service engagements and long implementation timeframes.

As with many trends in the computer industry, the second time around looks more promising. A new approach to BPA is coming from a surprising source–the communications industry. Vendors of high-end communications solutions have been automating key customer-facing processes for years, primarily in corporate contact centers.

Sophisticated tools and techniques have been developed for queuing up work (handling customer interactions), assigning it to well-matched resources (agents with specific skills), meeting service levels and tracking the results. Vendors have recently begun to apply these technologies to more general business processes.

As compared to previous BPA tools, these new solutions are easier to use and less expensive. They also do a better job of incorporating people using concepts, such as presence and unified communications, that have been applied in the contact center for years.

In 2009, end-to-end process automation tools will emerge that enable organizations to visually lay out processes, create the graphical forms that employees will use to perform work, and put the automated processes into production. Work will be queued up and routed to the right people using contact center technologies.

Additional concepts such as quality monitoring (screen recording), real-time supervision and workforce optimization (scheduling) will be borrowed from contact center technology to provide end-to-end BPA that no longer requires legions of systems integrators or long development times. BPA also will be able to incorporate people in ways never possible before because of the degree of integration with various unified communications systems.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Managed Services

Monitoring the network

by Dan Pocek

CEO, NetQuest Corp.

A greater reliance on IP and Ethernet in 2009 will require additional monitoring of the network. More network monitoring will lead to a significant issue: data access and the four Cs–coverage, capacity, convergence and contention. When faced with multiple issues in a single network, network managers will need to reconsider their data-access strategy.

Network coverage is about ensuring that all users get the required services and receive those services with an acceptable quality. Such service does not always take the same form, however, as disparate network technologies often are employed. From a network-monitoring perspective, this practice is wreaking havoc. Investments in monitoring technology should align with IP objectives as the legacy to IP transition takes place.

Converged Ethernet and IP networks offer cost benefits because they create a ubiquitous global framework capable of carrying a multitude of services, offering what seems like limitless bandwidth and savings in capital and operating expenses as a result of a flattened architecture. These converged services should be separated prior to the monitoring and security platforms. This approach allows for each platform to be properly sized, which is always less than the total of the network bandwidth.

Enterprises are faced with an increasing array of internal and external services, combined with security threats and regulatory compliance issues. Network managers and operators should consider adding another layer to the network to provide a unified access that can satisfy all the parties in an economical way without degrading the results.

Monitoring access optimizers–devices used in out-of-band applications that sit between the actual network and the monitoring platforms–will gain importance in ensuring networks are secure and behaving as expected. These devices intelligently distribute traffic to many monitoring devices, while filtering unwanted traffic, offloading precious monitoring resources to perform high-value functions. They can bridge the gap by providing interface translations in industry-accepted formats to allow further monitoring investments to be IP-centric.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


SaaS to the rescue

by Isaac Garcia

CEO, Central Desktop

In 2009, technology trends will be dictated by economic conditions for buyers and sellers. Buyers will be seeking low commitment and quick-to-deploy solutions in attempts to streamline their businesses and perhaps do more with less since they may be forced to reduce their workforce and operating expenses. They will also be seeking solutions that provide immediate value and ROI, rather than justifying large software deployments as investments. Most small business owners (and even departments within larger organizations) will look ahead 12 months and seek solutions that help them get through what may be difficult times ahead.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions will be the winners in 2009, as they are and easy way for a business to try a solution and achieve immediate and measurable ROI. Many SaaS solutions allow businesses to pay for services on a month-to-month basis, giving the buyer the security and lack of commitment they desire in times of economic uncertainty.

Customers will be looking for Web-based solutions to give online demonstrations instead of visiting prospects. Videoconference solutions will become more mainstream as a more efficient way to communicate with field reps and remote offices instead of flying the entire team to a single location.

Virtual presentations, online meetings, Web-based conferences, and online collaboration and communication will be at the forefront of the SaaS wave in 2009. Business owners and managers do not want to lay off any of their employees, if possible. They would rather spend a little money on a solution to reduce overall operating costs and make current employees more productive to save dollars.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Video gets integrated

by Robert Hagerty

Chairman and CEO, Polycom

The issues that once hampered the growth of visual communication–cost, quality, bandwidth and network management–have been solved, and the technology is gaining momentum for its ability to address significant long-term business issues, such as increasingly dispersed and mobile workforces, globalization and rising fuel costs. The combination of technology and business drivers will catalyze further expansion of video across industries in 2009.

The move to IP telephony is doing much of the groundwork needed to prepare enterprise networks for real-time visual-communication traffic. Boardroom telepresence solutions provide experience that is creating renewed excitement for the technology and driving demand for interoperable solutions that meet various application, space and budget requirements to connect an extended organization.

New scalable and cost-effective solutions for desktop video that work seamlessly with videoconferencing and telepresence solutions will drive broad use of video enterprise-wide. Video will also break out of its traditional home in the conference room as an integrated component within unified communications.

Video is moving onto converged networks as an integrated application that fits within core unified communication environments. Video is now available to users as a one-click extension of telephony devices, presence-based software applications and Web-based unified communications tools that people already use everyday in their jobs. Instead of a separate technology, video will be available as an option within the quiver of communication tools at the disposal of workers.

Broad-scale video deployments will have a profound impact on the scalability requirements of enterprise networks, which will need to support tens of thousands of users where they previously only had to support numerous video rooms.

The next-generation of management systems will seamlessly integrate with IT best practices, policies and existing directories via strict adherence to accepted IT standards. These systems are uniting the various infrastructure components into an integrated solution, making video and telepresence solutions easy to provision, manage and control within an IT network environment on a broad scale. Today’s solutions are designed to improve the efficiency, reliability and performance of video calls and make delivering on-demand videoconferencing services to employees easier and more cost-effective.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Conferencing evolves

by Martin Bodley

CEO, Revolabs

The high price of fuel, the hassle of air travel and concern for the environment have converged to form the perfect storm for the audiovisual conferencing market to explode. Technology also has aided the adoption of videoconferencing systems as an acceptable replacement to face-to-face meetings. High-definition (HD) video standards have improved the video quality to almost life-like. As always, the network will be critical in keeping the video and audio synchronized.

Quality audio is critical to a conference call because, without it, the video monitor merely becomes a digital sign. The audio component of videoconferencing, however, has been overlooked in the move to HD video. The audio equipment should be chosen with the meeting dynamics in mind. Spreading microphones around the room or using lapel microphones allow attendees to move around the conference room to the presentation screen or white board.

Just as the technology improves to make videoconferencing seem real-life, it also presents real-life challenges. There are many products available to solve the various challenges and allow organizations to implement high-quality, useful audiovisual conferencing, which is good, because it does not look like air travel will become easier, or the environmental concerns will go away any time soon.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  



Vo-Fi on tap

by Mark C. Panico

President, Ortronics/Legrand

In 2009, the trend toward network convergence will continue to see new services and applications to IP-based networks added. One of the latest technology applications is voice over wireless, often referred to as Vo-Fi. It allows users to make and receive calls over a wireless LAN (WLAN).

A voice-over-wireless system leverages two technologies, Wi-Fi and voice over IP (VoIP), to communicate. Wireless IP phones provide a user experience equal to that of a wired analog desk phone and offer the same functionality, such as making and receiving calls, and accessing phone system voice mail.

Both the adoption and maturity of VoIP and WLANs have led to increased interest and adoption of Vo-Fi. Many organizations with mobile users are looking to Vo-Fi to increase productivity and collaboration, and reduce telephone expenses.

With the trend toward a more mobile workforce, accessing the network using Wi-Fi has become commonplace in the same way that placing voice calls using cellular phones has. The next step in serving the mobile workforce is to enable workers to take their desk phone with them as they roam throughout the workplace.

To ensure that a voice-over-wireless deployment offers reliable functionality and voice quality, solid planning and implementation are critical. A centralized WLAN deployment with managed access points will offer the best level of performance and reliability. Having wireless capacity and coverage in the areas where voice is supported is essential, including stairwells, hallways, basements and anywhere voice coverage will be offered. A more dense AP deployment will offer the best quality of service and roaming for Vo-Fi.

Organizations looking to implement Vo-Fi today can take advantage of improved productivity and reduced costs. Now that the technology has matured to the point where the user experience between wired and wireless voice is equally reliable, Vo-Fi combines the quality of the wired line with the additional benefits of mobility.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Smart management

by Greg Shortell

President and CEO, NEI

Today, technological advances are coming at us from every direction. Employees are bringing consumer devices like iPhones to work, expecting them to be able to integrate with a PC on the corporate network. Workers want anywhere, anytime access to corporate information and are demanding new enabling technologies in order to access enterprise applications. None of these trends are likely to be reversed anytime soon.

If anything, technology and society’s mobility are related to each other in a mutually reinforcing feedback loop. With greater mobility comes greater demand for the enabling technology. With more widespread deployment of the technology comes even greater mobility.

This developing trend is creating a distinct shift within the enterprise. As the iPhone, Google Android and a variety of smart phones hit the market, workers are flooding IT departments with new requests: enable enterprise applications–particularly SAP and Oracle–on smart phones. IT departments are trying to support not only a wider range of mobile devices, but also ensure that the devices are secure and sync seamlessly with corporate wireless networks.

The variety of smart phones is causing IT departments to put more labor and resources into deploying applications onto mobile devices and integrating these new applications with corporate networks. With this emphasis on deployment and integration, IT departments are looking for ways to simplify and reduce the cost of managing and supporting new enterprise mobile applications. In 2009, they will increasingly turn to vendors and service providers that offer smart services that can enhance security and remotely monitor and manage interoperability, backbone OS, updates and patches, and other application components.

Smart phones are increasing organizational complexity for enterprise IT departments. Dealing with this complexity will become more challenging as IT departments are asked to do more with fewer staff and resources. By eliminating much of the painful back-end work through smart remote management and monitoring services, IT departments can rise to the challenge and continue to deliver.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Expand fiber capacity with WDM

The technology provides the flexibility to cost effectively increase the capacity of existing fiber infrastructure.

by Steven Olen

Steven Olen is director of technical marketing for Omnitron Systems, Irvine, Calif.

Wave-division multiplexing (WDM) technology allows independent and simultaneous data streams to be transmitted over a single fiber-optic connection using different wavelengths, or colors of light. These wavelengths are combined (multiplexed) at the source end, and then separated (demultiplexed) via color filters at the destination end. The primary benefit is that the bandwidth capacity on the fiber is significantly increased, allowing for more information to be sent over the existing media.

There are two popular implementations of WDM technology: dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) and coarse wavelength-division multiplexing (CWDM). Both use multiple wavelengths to carry independent signals. They differ in terms of the spacing of the wavelengths, the number of channels supported and the cost.

DWDM has been widely implemented in telecom long-haul optical networking for many years. Its use in enterprise and campus networks, however, is typically cost prohibitive. Furthermore, the large number of wavelengths offered is often excessive and not required.

CWDM systems do not require amplifiers, and they use less-expensive, non-stabilized lasers in conjunction with broadband filters to provide a wider spacing that supports up to 18 wavelengths. CDWM costs are lower because the lasers require less precision and consume less power than their DWDM counterparts. The maximum achievable distance between nodes, however, is less with CWDM.

The need for network managers to maximize fiber utilization is growing every day. Besides the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, they are also challenged with how to concurrently support multiple types of communication applications. When fiber infrastructure is limited, network managers typically have three options for implementing these new applications. New fiber-optic cabling can be installed for each new application, which can be costly and time consuming. Protocol converters can be used to converge the different applications into time-division multiplexing or Ethernet, but this can require significant investment in equipment and training. The third option is to use CWDM technology.

CWDM technology provides the flexibility to cost effectively increase the capacity of existing fiber infrastructure. As a result, it eliminates the costly options of laying new fiber or installing expensive and complex equipment. Bandwidth is increased because each wavelength carries data independently from one another, allowing the network to securely mix speeds and protocols for different applications and end-users.

The heart of a CWDM network is a device called the CWDM multiplexer (MUX). The MUX combines unique wavelengths from different communications sources onto a single fiber-optic line. At the other end of the fiber line, another MUX device is used to separate (de-MUX) the individual wavelengths, and deliver them to their destinations. CWDM MUXes are commonly available in four- and eight-channel models.

An optical add/drop MUX (OADM) can be used to add or drop a specific wavelength (or several wavelengths) along the route of the fiber-optic line. This is useful in a large campus network that operates over a single shared fiber and needs to drop individual links (wavelengths) at different locations.

In order to connect communication devices into the MUX, the optics from each device must be converted to specific CWDM wavelengths. This can be achieved with small form factor pluggable (SFP) optical transceivers installed in the communications equipment. SFP transceivers are interchangeable fiber interfaces that provide a cost-effective way of adapting existing equipment to support the wide range of wavelengths needed when implementing a CWDM solution. The transceiver converts the optical signal to the appropriate CWDM wavelength, thereby providing each device with a direct connection into the MUX.

Connecting SFP ports to the CWDM MUX is straightforward. If the communication device has a fixed fiber connector with a standard wavelength, its wavelength can be converted to a unique CWDM wavelength using an inexpensive wavelength media converter.

This holds true for nearly all types of communications equipment, including TDM devices, video servers and serial controllers. Even if the device has a metallic connector, it can be directly converted to CWDM fiber by using a copper-to-fiber media converter.

In one application of CWDM (see illustration), a simple point-to-point LAN network can be upgraded to a multiprotocol, multidrop application. The campus LAN has a single-mode, dual-fiber link between two copper gigabit switches using media converters. The fiber link connects the corporate offices to the manufacturing plant.

The existing gigabit fiber is currently at capacity, and due to company growth, the network manager now needs to double the capacity to the manufacturing plant. Additionally, about halfway between these two buildings a new call center has been added, which requires DS-3 connectivity to a PBX system.

To support the new requirements, the existing fiber is used to create a CWDM network. Two untwisted pair (UTP) gigabit ports from the gigabit switch at the corporate office are converted to fiber using media converters equipped with SFPs with two unique CWDM wavelengths. Both media converters are installed in a high-density rack in order to save space, power and cost.

In addition, in order to connect the DS-3 between the corporate building and the new call center, its copper connection (coax) is converted via another media converter to another unique optical wavelength. All three wavelengths then are connected with fiber jumpers to a four-channel CWDM MUX module mounted in the same high-density rack with the media converters. The CWDM MUX combines all the wavelengths and sends them on a common CWDM point-to-point fiber.

At the call center building, an OADM is used to split off the wavelength that is carrying the DS-3 service. A standalone media converter changes the signal from optical back to its native coax interface. The remaining wavelengths continue to the manufacturing plant. There, a standalone CWDM MUX separates the wavelengths, and the fibers for the wavelengths are connected to SFP-enabled media converters that provide the UTP connections to the Gigabit Ethernet switch.

A number of factors affect the design and selection of equipment when deploying a CWDM-based network; overall optical loss is perhaps the most important. Many factors can result in optical signal loss, including length and type of the fiber, wavelengths used, number of connectors, splices, patch panels and OADMs. Detailed calculations should be performed for each fiber-optic link to ensure the proper optical devices are specified and that the total loss does not exceed the optical power budget.

The quality and condition of the existing fiber infrastructure is also an important consideration. Not all fiber is suitable for use across the full CWDM spectrum, so understanding the type of fiber available is important, as well as its characteristics before starting network design. Consider relevant information about the length of the fiber, attenuation characteristics and the location of connectors and splices. If new fiber must be installed, the ITU-T G.652D standard should be considered for CWDM network designs to provide the greatest network flexibility for adding wavelengths.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Cabling solution improves TCO

Small-diameter, laser-optimized trunk cabling allows migration to high data rates.

by Alan Ugolini

Alan Ugolini is market development manager at Corning Cable Systems, Hickory, N.C.

Data center networks play an increasingly important role in the success of businesses today. Businesses that can easily deploy, manage and scale new applications and technologies enhance the capital expenditure (capex) and operating expenditure (opex) efficiencies in the data center. Data center migration to new solutions, however, such as blade servers, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), 10-Gigabit Ethernet, virtualization and high-performance clusters (HPC) can put pressure on the physical layer to the point where even newly installed network cabling can become an aging liability to a business.

A closer look into the data center’s cabling shortcomings when migrating to these new solutions may point to problems that include ineffective physical topology, inadequate media bandwidth, reliability issues and the inability to conduct quick and easy networking moves, adds and changes (MACs).

Available solutions include high-density mechanical transfer pulloff (MTP)-based, laser-optimized 50/125 µm multimode fiber (OM3) cabling. The MTP-based OM3 trunk-cabling solution is deployed throughout the data center in a star network configuration from the main distribution area (MDA) in accordance with the TIA-942 Telecommunications infrastructure standard for data centers.

An OM3 trunk cable has a small outside diameter and is terminated on each end with high-density array MTP connectors. At the trunk cable termination points, the MTP connector is transitioned to traditional duplex-style connectors with your choice of various transition assemblies such as breakout modules and harnesses chosen to facilitate the patching into system equipment.

The advantages to deploying this type of cabling solution in the data center include rapid initial deployment time, high-density packaging, modularity for quick MACs and the ability to easily migrate to high data rates, such as future 40-Gigabit Ethernet and 100-Gigabit Ethernet. Another advantage to deploying an MTP-based OM3 fiber solution throughout the data center is its transparency to the application being transmitted over it. Applications such as Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand can be transmitted over the solution. Deploying the OM3 cabling offers the flexibility to operate multiple applications at various data rates over the same backbone cabling system.

An additional solution to incorporate with the MTP-based OM3 infrastructure is a high-density media converter module (MCM). The MCM can be placed on one end or both ends of the fiber link as an alternative to utilizing an optical transition assembly such as a breakout module or harness at the link endpoints. A high-density media converter module can be utilized to bridge the gap between operating current gigabit speeds and future 10/40/100-gigabit speeds.

The high-density MCM is configured with 12 modular RJ-45 ports on the front and two high-density MTP-based connector ports on the back. Each of these ports convert an IEEE 802.3ab-compliant Gigabit Ethernet 1000BASE-T to 1000BASE-SX over fiber, providing a high-density media-conversion solution with the scalability, reliability and rapid deployment advantages of MTP-based preterminated systems.

Use of these MCMs allows IT managers to benefit from a high-density MTP-based fiber backbone cabling system, while at the same time leveraging existing copper port-based electronics. Using the MCMs, 1U and 4U rackmount housings provide 24-port and 96-port capacities, respectively. Since the media converter modules share the same footprint as standard all-optical breakout modules, the 1U and 4U housings can share optical and copper port connectivity in the same housing or be migrated to an all-optical solution in the future.

An example application would be deploying an MTP trunk from an MDA to a row of server cabinets. At the server cabinets, some of the fibers in the trunk cable are transitioned with an optical breakout module to duplexed LC connectors and patched into server host bus adapter cards for the storage area network. Additionally, some of the fibers in the MTP trunk cable at the server cabinets are transitioned to copper RJ-45 ports utilizing the MCM and interconnected to the server NIC card.

Future migration to FCoE may include deploying top-of-rack FCoE switches at the server cabinets. In this situation, the network cabling can easily migrate with little cabling disruption by replacing the MCM module with an all-optical breakout module and utilizing the fiber for the FCoE switch uplink.

Replacing copper cabling in the data center with high-density, lightweight optical cabling provides an improvement in cable tray utilization, while providing greater data center cooling efficiency. For example, two CAT 6a cables with maximum cable diameters of 0.35 inches have an effective area equivalent to a 216-fiber ribbon cable.

Computational fluid dynamics modeling of a 10,000-square foot data center showed that replacing under-floor copper cabling with an MTP-based fiber solution decreased computer room air-conditioning pressure by 13.6 percent, improving airflow by 36,828 cubic feet per minute. By using a rate of 10 cents per kilowatt hour, this results in an annual power savings of $138,000.

Creating a reliable, definable network cabling migration path leads to an increase in the cabling infrastructure lifecycle and total cost of ownership. By utilizing high-density MCMs, networks can leverage existing 1000BASE-T copper port-based gigabit electronics, while providing a reliable migration path for supporting high data rates such as 16-Gigabit Ethernet to 128-Gigabit Fibre Channel; 10-Gigabit Ethernet to 100-Gigabit Ethernet and 10-Gigabit Ethernet to 120-Gigabit InfiniBand. Recabling costs and troubleshooting expenses are negated since fiber-optic transmission is immune to issues such as alien crosstalk.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


University deploys Wi-Fi access

Wireless network integrates well with existing high-speed wired LAN.

In 2005, the University of Utah, based in Salt Lake City, began implementation of one of the largest wireless networks at any U.S. higher-education institution. Answering the demands of students and campus organizations and institutions, the office of information technology (OIT) proposed and obtained funding approval to install a wireless network that would provide connectivity and support applications for approximately 45,000 users across 1,400 acres and more than 200 buildings.

According to Bryan Morris, OIT’s manager of network operations and services, “Our goal was to provide ubiquitous wireless access to every student, educator and administrator on campus. We also wanted to reduce administrative costs of disparate wireless systems across campus by establishing centralized management and integration with our existing wired network.”

In specifying requirements for the wireless network, the university formulated a set of objectives related to quality and performance. These goals included:

·         scalability and flexibility to accommodate planned growth, without requiring major infrastructure changes;

·         integration and interoperability of the wireless system with existing networking equipment on campus, including systems for network security and access control; and

·         centralized management to reduce resource requirements and to save administration and maintenance costs.

The campus network plan involves approximately 2,200 access points. The OIT’s implementation strategy used a phased approach in which the team installed the needed wiring and equipment in common areas first. These included the libraries, union building and open areas.

Then came the bulk of the installations: buildings with classrooms of nearly 100 departmental areas in 19 colleges and divisions. In the third phase, the OIT team installed equipment to cover administrative areas in all buildings throughout the campus. The fourth and final phase was the student housing and health sciences center.

In addition, the university has implemented some unique applications utilizing the wireless network. For example, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts uses the system to tag and track its large inventory of artwork. The campus police department is using the wireless network in patrol cars to provide officers with driver’s license and other information. Plant operations has utilized the network to move to a paperless system, using wireless devices to track work orders, tickets and approvals.

The network is centrally managed, enabling OIT staff to be efficient and productive while ensuring that all users and traffic are fully supported.

One key risk was that OIT did not know about all the applications users would expect to use. Due to the scope of the project and the variety of study and administrative areas that would link to the wireless network, it was impossible to predict every likely scenario, Morris explains. OIT had to craft its communications to set expectations as much as possible up front, while continuously adjusting users’ expectations of reliability to suit the wireless technology. At the same time, OIT was able to adapt its own plan to ensure a sufficient level of support for applications across departments.

Morris also reports that, at first, a few LAN managers on campus who had already installed discrete wireless networks in their areas of responsibility had reservations about a centrally managed network. This is no longer the case. “In truth, this centralized model took some pressures off the individual departments and LAN managers,” Morris explains. “Now, because the access points are ‘thin clients,’ all management is done from a single application which the OIT staff uses to configure, manage, monitor and secure the network. This has proven to be both efficient and cost-effective.”

The Trapeze Networks wireless solution is built on its Smart Mobile architecture, which overcomes the limitations of current-generation  wireless LANs (WLAN) with “intelligent switching” technology. Smart Mobile’s intelligent switching combines both centralized and distributed data forwarding based on the requirements of the underlying application, resulting in optimized traffic flow, reduced latency and high performance.

The system delivers optimal scalability, productivity, security and quality of service, and includes deployment and management tools to facilitate implementation and centralized network management. The system offers a wide selection of controllers, switches, access points, and all the software and hardware required to meet the functional and application-specific requirements of the university’s network, says Morris.

The Trapeze solution is fully integrated with the existing wired network, which is based primarily on Cisco equipment. The wireless system is a transport for extending the existing wired network, which runs on a high-bandwidth, low-latency fiber-optic network that the university had the foresight to install in 1992. Due to the hierarchical topography of the network, the university is able to use the same firewalls and network access controls it uses for the wired network. All these benefits combine to make the wireless network one of the most state-of-the-art in the industry.

With the new wireless network now running campus wide, all 45,000 users on campus have two options for connecting to the network: the encrypted version, or “uconnect,” and the unencrypted version, or Hotspot. Students, faculty and staff obtain instructions for accessing the encrypted network on the university’s Web site, and OIT provides every user with a university network ID and password.

“Not only are students now able to access the Internet 24/7, but they can also access the information they need to successfully complete their coursework while interacting with teachers, administrators and students online,” notes Morris. “The network also provides an encrypted method for students, faculty and staff to access the campus information system. This system contains a suite of services through which information can be accessed, depending on each individual’s status (e.g., student, staff or faculty) and level of security.”

He adds that education departments and faculty are utilizing the system to help with classroom studies and projects, while campus support services, such as plant operations and campus police, are using the wireless network to increase productivity.

Perhaps the most important benefit, according to Morris, is how the network has significantly enhanced the students’ user experiences as they go between colleges taking classes and completing lab work at various campus locations. Eventually, the network will be available everywhere, allowing students to access information on the Internet or university-specific applications and data they need for their coursework.

The network is consistent with the university’s long-range plans for growth while sustaining a high level of quality in the education it provides. From a financial perspective, Morris says, the university will be able to install more access points as required to support its continual growth and its large array of educational options.

“Our OIT team was able to utilize customizable planning tools to support the scope of the project, while maintaining all existing user data so that users would be able to use the same authentication measures for the wireless network that they use for the wired network,” Morris says. “At the same time, the ability of the system to integrate with existing technology ensured that none of the information that was housed in the university’s network would be compromised, during or after the installation.” 

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


Fiberless GigE speeds connectivity

by Frans Versluis

Frans Versluis is program manager, wireless access and transport programs, network solutions business unit, ADC, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Enterprise, educational and government facilities increasingly require high-speed links between multiple sites on campuses or in urban areas. Thousands of companies around the world work from distributed offices, whether they are grouped on corporate campuses or in separate locations. Productivity and fail-safe procedures demand that these facilities be linked with high-speed network connections. Even end-user traffic needs are increasing with increased use of video and presentation files that can exceed 10 megabytes.

With legacy copper connections unable to deliver the required bandwidth (1 Gbps or more), service providers have used fiber, microwave links or free-space optics to make building-to-building connections. Each of these technologies, however, has drawbacks.

Millimeter wave (MMW) technology is a relatively recent development. Using the 71 GHz to 76 GHz and 81GHz to 86 GHz radio frequency bands, MMW standards were established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 1979, but there was little commercial development until the late 1990s. In response to industry requests, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened the bands for licensing in 2003, and instituted a low-effort licensing scheme in 2005.

Today, MMW technology enables reliable, easily deployable native Gigabit Ethernet transport over a wireless link. It offers several advantages over other technologies.

Distance. MMW links can span from three to 12 kilometers, depending on the rain profile of the area where they are deployed and the required weather availability. Although a MMW signal can be attenuated by heavy rain (more than one inch per hour), it is not affected by fog, light rain, dust or snow.

Interference. Like microwave, the MMW frequency is protected in each application. Unlike microwave, however, MMW technology uses a narrow, one-degree beam width, so it has less potential for interfering with other signals than microwave, allowing for a simple and inexpensive licensing scheme.

Security. MMW technology’s narrow beam width helps eliminate the chance of signal capture and its proprietary technology makes it difficult to tap into and decode data being transferred even if the signal is intercepted.

Easier licensing. Unlike microwave, MMW uses the FCC’s “light licensing” scheme, so a specific deployment can be licensed within hours. Equipment manufacturers and service providers hold national MMW licenses that let them deploy the equipment across the country, and buyers of specific MMW systems can get immediate licenses by simply registering the link coordinates and radio information in a database. These licenses automatically renew every 10 years.

Easier deployment. MMW links use relatively small antennas (.6 meters in diameter or less) and lightweight electronics that make for compact, easily installed systems on window ledges, masts or rooftops. Each MMW terminal plugs directly into an Ethernet switch for a direct 1-Gbps network connection.

Future bandwidth upgrades. MMW radios use basis low-order modulation protocols like BPSK. By applying higher modulation protocols, MMW will be able to deliver 3 Gbps. Within two years, improved digital modems will be able to deliver 10 Gbps on a single link.

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  


10 tips to green IT

Energy efficiency offers significant business and environmental benefits.

By Associate Editor Denise DiRamio, Communications News

Despite the slowing economy, twice as many companies are accelerating their green IT initiatives compared to firms that are scaling back green projects, according to a recent survey by Forrester Research. Of the 1,022 companies surveyed, nearly half say they will accelerate or maintain their green IT projects. The main reason: to save money. Some 67 percent of companies say the driving force behind their green agenda was to reduce energy bills, while 33 percent say reducing the environmental impact of IT is the goal.

Here are 10 tips to help move toward a financially and environmentally greener IT:

1. Replace old hardware. Incorporate energy-efficient technologies into every IT refresh. EPEAT- and ENERGY STAR-certified systems deliver energy efficiency as well as higher performance to save energy costs, and can often reduce the amount of equipment needed. Replace cathode ray tube monitors with more-efficient light-emitting diode monitors. Consider thin clients and solid-state drives, which have lower power requirements. Today’s market offers a wide variety products that are considerably more energy efficient than old equipment.

2. Cut the clutter. Replace older, energy-inefficient devices that serve only one function with multifunction devices. Converge multiple networks into a single infrastructure to reduce the number of devices needed.

3. Virtualize. Virtualization increases server utilization, which means running fewer servers, consuming less power and requiring less cooling. Virtualizing servers can prevent the need to build a new data center. “The greenest data center you can have is the one you don’t build,” says Albert Esser, vice president of data center infrastructure at Dell.

4. Power management. Set power settings to activate the hibernate/sleep/shutdown settings on idle systems. Turn off equipment that is not in use. Activate the power-management features on servers to automatically reduce power use during periods of reduced demand for processor resources and increase automatically during periods of higher demand.

5. Decommission unused equipment. Unplug equipment that is no longer in use. Recover some asset value if possible. Reuse or recycle all electronic equipment at end of life.

6. Intelligent cooling. IT managers can pinpoint hotspots and areas of energy inefficiency by looking at every rack, rather than at data centers or server rooms as a whole. Airflow problems can be addressed in the areas where they occur, rather than blanketing the entire data center with additional cooling.

7. Enable remote workers. Teleworking offers energy savings to the enterprise. As more people work from home, the company can consolidate office space, leading to fewer buildings to power, heat and cool. An added benefit is that fewer people commuting to work prevents billion of pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment.

8. Use video. Interactive video collaboration between employees, customers, suppliers and partners, as well as on-demand content distribution and on-the-job training, allows companies to trim their travel budgets while retaining “face-to-face” contact.

9. Consider managed services. Buying computing resources a la carte can help enterprises control costs, while attaining the performance and reliability required. Consuming IT resources (e.g., communications, server and storage) on an as-needed basis can help control costs and eliminate the need to equip, maintain, operate and staff every IT project.

10. Measure energy use. By exposing the energy hogs, administrators can determine which green projects will offer the biggest payoff.

While true green IT extends beyond energy efficiency, reducing IT’s energy consumption offers immediate, tangible economic benefits. “In the current economic environment,” Esser says, “you can’t afford not to be green.”

Reprinted with permission of Communication News – 2009 –  

Electrical Contractor Magazine

Planning for Restoration

by jim hayes

Network design for fiber optics, part 11

Efficient fiber optic restoration depends on finding the problem, knowing how to fix it, having the right parts, and getting it all done quickly. Like any type of emergency, planning ahead will minimize the problems encountered.

Documentation is the most helpful thing you can have when trying to troubleshoot a fiber network. Start with the manufacturer’s datasheets on every component you use: electronics; cables; connectors; hardware, such as patch panels; splice closures; and even mounting hardware. Along with the data, one should have the manufacturer’s helpline contact information, which will be of immense value during restoration (for more on documentation, see the October 2008 Fiber Optics column).

During installation, mark every fiber in every cable at every connection, and keep records using cable plant documentation software or a simple spreadsheet of where every fiber goes. When tested, add loss data taken with an optical loss test set (OLTS) and optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) data when available. Someone must be in charge of this data and keep it up-to-date.

Next, you must have proper test equipment available. An OLTS also should have a power meter to test the power of the signals to determine if the problem is in the electronics or cable plant. Total failure of all fibers in the cable plant means a break or cut in the cable. For premises cables, finding the location often is simple if you have a visual fault locator (VFL), which is a bright red laser coupled into the optical fiber that allows testing continuity, tracing fibers or finding bad connectors at patch panels.

For longer cables, an OTDR will be useful. Outside plant networks should use the OTDR to document the cable plant during installation, so during restoration, a simple comparison of installation data with current traces will usually find problems. OTDRs also can find noncatastrophic problems, e.g., when a cable is kinked or stressed, so it only has higher loss, which also can cause network problems.

Once you find the problem, you have to repair it. Repair requires having the right tools, supplies and trained personnel available. Besides the test equipment needed for troubleshooting, you need tools for splicing and termination, which may include a fusion splicer for outside plant cables. You also need matching components. For every installation, a reasonable amount of excess cable and installation hardware should be set aside in storage for restoration. Some users store the restoration supplies along with documentation in a sealed container ready for use. Remember the fiber optic patchcords that connect the electronics to the cable plant can be damaged and are not considered repairable. Just keep replacements available.

One big problem is pulling the two cable ends close enough to allow splicing them together. You need about 1 meter of cable on each end to strip the cable, splice the fibers and to place them in a splice closure. Designing the cable plant with local service loops is recommended. If the cable ends are too short, you have to splice in a new section of cable, which should be kept from the leftovers after installation.

What else besides cables and cable plant hardware should be in a restoration kit? You should have a termination or mechanical splice kit and proper supplies. For splices, you need splice closures with adequate space for a number of splices equal to the fiber count in the cable. All these should be placed in a clearly marked box with a copy of the cable plant documentation and stored in a safe place where those who will eventually need it can find it fast.

Personnel must be properly trained to use this equipment and do the troubleshooting and restoration. And, of course, they must be available on a moment’s notice. The biggest delay in restoring a fiber optic communications link is often the chaos that ensues while personnel figures out what to do. Having a plan that is known to the responsible person is the most important issue.

Major users of fiber optics have restoration plans in place, personnel trained and kits of supplies ready for use. It’s doubtful that most premises users are ready for such contingencies. Users may find that the cost of owning all this expensive equipment is not economic. It may be preferable to keep an inexpensive test set consisting of a VFL and OLTS at each end of the link and have an experienced contractor on call for restoration.      

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Managing Demand

BY Edward Brown

Reducing peak demand and your electric bill, part 3

The great thing about managing demand is the same strategies that reduce an electric bill by shaving demand peaks will enable a customer to develop control strategies to reduce his or her total electricity usage. If control strategies are in place, adding demand limits might cause a reduction in service, but according to the California study mentioned in part 2 of this series (January 2009, page 120), this may not be the case. More often than not, demand reduction (DR) won’t negatively affect the building’s functions; in fact, DR strategies will become overall efficiency strategies.

Setting up demand-reduction schemes depends in part on whether you’re working on an existing building or one under construction. For a new building, it’s important that DR planning be part of the design process from the beginning. The New York Times built a new headquarters building in the center of Manhattan and wanted to incorporate control systems that could be used for DR and that would also optimize electricity usage. The design elements that would accomplish this centered on lighting and heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) controls.


The walls of the 52-story building are all glass to allow the interior to be illuminated by sunlight. It is tricky to use natural light. To reduce glare and keep down the heat load, the sun’s effects are minimized by a combination of exterior ceramic shields and interior motorized shades, which respond to outside luminance sensors that track the sunlight. The lighting system uses a combination of dimming ballasts, daylight sensors, occupancy sensors, and wall controls (dimmers and switches) that work together to maintain the correct light level for the various spaces in the building. The building uses the following strategies:

Light-level tuning: setting the appropriate target light level for each space

• Daylight harvesting: automatically dimming electric lights when enough daylight is present

• Occupancy sensing: turning lights off when space is vacant

The lighting control is a digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) system. At the Times headquarters, about 18,000 microprocessor-equipped ballasts can be individually addressed by the system controllers.

With digitally addressable dimming ballasts, lights are networked with the luminance sensors, occupancy sensors and wall controls and are integrated into the building management system. The lighting is segregated into zones based on the kind of work being done in each area. The DALI system allows for centralized control. At the same time, it enables each worker to adjust the dimming of his or her own lighting.

The newsroom is an open space with cubicles. Ceiling-located luminance sensors control the individual ballasts to keep a desirable overall light level that includes a mix of daylight and dimmable fluorescents. On a typical sunny afternoon, the ceiling lamps nearest the windows will be off, with artificial lighting levels increasing toward the room’s interior.

When DR is called for, the settings of the devices relative to each other can be kept constant while their absolute output levels are cut back. By using the DALI system, the best DR settings can be decided experimentally.


The second through fifth floors are cooled by air ducted underneath the floors and returned through the lighting diffusers to a ceiling plenum. The temperature is controlled by adjusting airflows and heaters. It was decided that DR for heating/-cooling would not be done by varying central equipment such as the rooftop chiller, but by widening the dead bands of the individual thermostat settings.

During commissioning, it was found that precooling the floors on a summer morning and cutting back on the cooling in the afternoons could be enacted without occupant discomfort. Although this has no effect on total energy usage, it shifts the demand, making it possible to reduce the peak, which is usually high in the afternoons. In New York and many other places, electricity is priced lower in the morning than in the afternoon, so this can bring down total cost.

The bottom line

There are three main motives for instituting demand reduction systems:

1. Saving money by reducing electricity use during high price periods

2. Optimizing the working environment for the building occupants

3. Helping stabilize the electricity delivery system to avoid brownouts and power failures

Incorporating control systems for lighting and HVAC allows building managers to achieve the first two. Once in place, these systems enable demand reduction strategies so the third can be achieved for no extra cost.

If a building such as the Times headquarters is designed in advance with building systems that can be tuned for best efficiency, it is relatively simple to add DR. An advantage of designing a building to include these strategies can be seen from the lighting load. Although the building was initially designed to use 1.28 watts per square foot of lighting power, it is using only 0.38 watts per square foot—70 percent less.     

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. He serves as managing editor for Security + Life Safety Systems magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


NECA Reaches Out To New President And Congress To Protect & Promote Your Interests

NECA didn't wait for the changes in the White House and on Capitol Hill to take effect before we started working with administration officials and legislators to help advance our association's legislative priorities in the 111th Congress and protect electrical contractors' interests. It started with direct overtures to the Obama transition team in early November immediately following the election, and we are pursuing ongoing contact with both the returning and new members of Congress and with the new president and his administration.

Early on, NECA representatives met with officials from the transition team to discuss the implications of immigration reform on the construction industry and the problems inherent in current U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations. NECA participated in subsequent meetings and conference calls on a wide variety of topics including energy policy and opportunities for construction businesses within the developing economic stimulus legislation.

In addition, NECA wrote directly to Barack Obama shortly after the election. Our letter introduced our association and focused on our legislative issues and priorities. Among the issues addressed were multiemployer pensions, energy, tax and immigration.

NECA also stressed the need to repeal the 3% withholding tax  and estate tax and the need for reform of the pension system. (In fact, we made a good case for linking repeal of the 3% tax to economic stimulus. For an update on this issue, see page 123.)

Additionally, we offered support for the incoming administration’s economic stimulus proposal, specifically those aspects that would create opportunities for electrical con- tractors. As our letter noted, "Electrical contractors are the key conduit in our distribution system for installation of all energy efficient electrical products and alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind technologies. Together, we can help rebuild, renew and re-energize America."

And, as discussed in the following article, NECA was represented at an important hearing before the House Committee on Small Business on January 14 by Tim Ehmann, senior project manager with Rochester Solar Technologies, a division of NECA-member firm O'Connell Electric.

Our association was invited to testify on the need for the government’s economic stimulus plans to include investment in building construction and green energy projects. Our testimony also addressed the need for investment in the national electrical grid and for the banking system to loosen credit on construction loans.

We are continuing to advocate investment in our nation's built environment and green energy both independently and as the driving force behind a new coalition of powerful construction organizations and related interests. As NECA CEO John Grau reported in his blog on December 12, he used his networking time during breaks at a meeting of the Associations Committee of 100 — representing the CEOs of the most influential national associations in the country — to found this group.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Leading Expo Service Company HFI Appointed To Manage NECA Show

NECA is very pleased to announce the appointment of HFI to sell exhibit space and provide logistical service for the NECA Show. Although NECA 2009 Seattle will be the first event of ours for which this company will provide this level of support, NECA and HFI are long-time partners.

"This is an expansion of HFI’s current marketing services," according to NECA Chief Operations Officer Dan Walter. "We have had a great working relationship with HFI over the past ten years, and we look forward to many more." HFI President Susan McCart will lead these efforts along with HFI Exhibit Sales Manager Julie Duda. The firm is located in Peachtree City, Georgia.

"The enthusiasm and excitement over the products and services showcased at our 2008 trade show in Chicago was probably at the highest level I've seen in 17 years — and the fact that more than 10,000 people visited the Show floor this year proves that," NECA Convention/Exposition Executive Director Beth Ellis remarked.

"As we considered outsourcing our national trade show marketing, one of our main goals was to find an organization with the experience, level of professionalism, and the ability to build on NECA's good reputation of quality customer service," Ellis said. "Sue understands the electrical construction industry, and the trade show industry. She also has the vision to help us achieve our goals."

Susan McCart has over 30 years experience in the trade show and hospitality industry. Since 1997, her company has served several industry clients. Prior to founding HFI, McCart was with AMC, Inc. (now called "AmericasMart") in several positions, including that of “Vice President/General Manager Trade Shows. AMC is best known as the producer of LIGHTFAIR, the big international lighting show. She began her career with Hyatt Hotels in 1978.

"We are very excited about this great opportunity," said McCart. "NECA is the leader in the electrical construction industry, and we are excited about helping a great organization to grow the most important electrical event in North America." She also confirmed that "HFI is committed to offering NECA and the NECA Show exhibitors the best business solutions available."

Mark your new calendars! The 54th NECA Show will be held in conjunction with our association's 2009 National Convention in Seattle on September 12-15 — almost a month earlier than in past years. Some preliminary information for exhibitors and attendees has already been posted at As always, much more information will be added to this special website as the agenda is developed.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Campus Fire Alarm System Upgrades

President George W. Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act on Aug. 14, 2008. This bill contains several important campus-safety components, including the core provisions of the original Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act. The law will require colleges to report fire safety information to the U.S. Department of Education.

Specific reporting details include the following:

• The number of fires and the cause of each fire

• The number of injuries and deaths related to a fire

• The value of property damage caused by a fire

• Description of the fire protection equipment (sprinklers/alarms) in each on-campus housing unit

• The number of regular mandatory supervised fire drills

• Policies or rules regarding fire-safety education and training programs provided to students and faculty members

• Plans for future improvements in fire safety, if determined necessary by the institution

This law creates a number of opportunities for the professional contractor. First, you can offer to conduct comprehensive surveys for your local college campus. These surveys should be detailed and include such things as performing a visual inspection in the form of a building walk-through to inspect the fire alarm systems for the following:

• Evaluate the fire alarm system general conditions for all head-end equipment, excluding functional testing (functional testing can be included as an option).

• Identify the model and manufacturer of the fire alarm system and components at a level adequate to obtain the system manufacturer’s product support.

• Evaluate notification arrangements for general adequacy, age and code compliance.

• Identify the general system control functions (smoke control and elevator functions, etc.).

• Evaluate the existing facility drawings, maintenance records, and operations and maintenance manuals where available.

In addition, you can develop and submit fire alarm system assessment reports or checklists. The fire alarm system assessment report should include the system-design summary and whether the existing system meets the requirements of the current edition of NFPA 72 for such items as detection device and notification appliance placement and adequacy. You should review and report on the overall condition, approximate age and remaining life expectancy of the system, and issues concerning the panel discovered during the survey, such as if trouble, alarm or supervisory signals are activated.

You may need to research the panel and component manufacturers for availability of spare parts and product support to determine if the equipment currently installed is obsolete.

With all of this information in hand, you can do a thorough evaluation of the existing system and present a proposal with a rough order of magnitude cost to upgrade or replace the system to ensure its reliability as required by the new law.

During the discussion about upgrading or replacing the fire alarm system, the professional contractor also will want to determine the campus mass notification needs. If the existing fire alarm system is a non-voice system and the recommendation is that the system needs to be replaced, you will want to consider discussing a combination in-building fire alarm/voice communications system.

A new chapter for all communications systems, including mass-notification systems (MNS), is included in the proposed 2010 edition of the National Fire Alarm Code. This new Chapter 12, titled Emergency Communications Systems, will provide guidance and requirements for mass notification and fire alarm/voice communication systems. The proposed content of the new chapter is available for review on the NFPA Web site (

As stated in the purpose section of the proposed chapter, “The systems covered under Chapter 12 are for the protection of life by indicating the existence of an emergency situation and communicating information necessary to facilitate an appropriate response and action. […] An emergency communications system is intended to communicate information about emergencies including but not limited to fire, terrorist activities, other dangerous situations, accidents, and natural disasters.”

Some highlights include major changes regarding the use of fire alarm/voice communications systems for other uses.

For example, there are proposed requirements that permit the use of code-compliant fire alarm/voice communications systems for routine, frequent use, such as for paging, without requiring the approval of the authority having jurisdiction. The code will also have requirements that permit mass notification systems to use the same loudspeakers as alarm notification appliances on fire alarm/voice communications systems.

These changes provide the astute contractor with the guidance to assist colleges and universities to meet the requirements of the new law for future improvements to the fire safety systems. The goal of any college or university communications system is to disseminate information to the population throughout the campus. The objective of these systems is to allow the campus security personnel to provide real-time, actionable information to everyone on the campus. In addition, the new requirements spell out the required system interfaces between mass notification systems and the fire alarm system.

The proposed 2010 National Fire Alarm Code will require the system to be designed to ensure both the safety of the occupants and the transmission of some type of intelligible messages to those occupants during any adverse conditions. In all cases, the design must assign local building fire alarm operation the highest priority. This priority must include the fire alarm system’s own voice message. No other message may override this fire alarm message, except under certain circumstances, such as for emergency mass notification operation.

As one may expect, not all mass notification messages should take priority over the fire alarm messages. The proposed code suggests the development of messages using risk analysis and offers the following voice message priority suggestions:

1. “Live voice messages from qualified personnel on site should be the highest priority. Systems could permit microphone locations that are usable by non-emergency personnel, but those microphones should be disabled during emergency operations.”

2. “Automatic fire alarm messages/other high priority messages as determined by risk analysis criteria.”

3. “Message priority for emergency conditions such as severe weather warnings, gas leaks, chemical spills, and other hazardous conditions should be determined by risk analysis criteria.”

4. “Non-emergency messages, such as general announcements and time function signaling (work breaks, class change, etc.) should have the lowest priority.”

“In multi-building, campus, area or regional systems, local buildings could be controlled and overridden from a central control station. When the local fire alarm system is not in an alarm condition, the central control station can override without restriction. If a local system is active for any reason, the central control station should only be able to override if authorized personnel can determine the status of the local system. If the local fire alarm system is actively in alarm mode, it can only be overridden by a central control station where the interface meets all requirements of the proposed Code.”

It should be obvious that, in order for contractors to take advantage of these new opportunities, they have to increase their knowledge of communication systems beyond those used in the past for fire alarm/voice communications systems.

Typically, contractors do not have a strong communications systems background, so it will be imperative to obtain this specialized knowledge through training programs or an alliance with a sound and communications contractor.

Regardless of the economy, fire safety and security on college campuses will still be a priority. The contractor who takes the initiative to help college and university customers meet the requirements of the new law will continue to generate new business.           

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Can School Disasters Still Happen?

By frank bisbee

Putting safety first with mass notification systems

On March 4, 1908, at the Lake View School in Collinwood, Ohio, 172 students and three adults died in the largest life-loss school fire in U.S. history. At the 13th annual National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) meeting in 1909, then-president C.M. Goddard addressed the event.

“We have done valuable work in formulating standards, but this is not enough,” Goddard said. “We must secure the adoptions of these standards. We must begin a campaign of education of the public.”

Casey C. Grant, P.E., program director for the Fire Protection Research Foundation, said professionals must do what they can to prevent such accidents.

“It’s up to us to remain vigilant and continue our untiring efforts to make sure that such a tragedy will never happen again,” he said.

According to the NFPA, in 2007, public fire departments attended 1,557,500 fires, and 530,500 occurred in structures. Every 20 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the nation. A fire occurs in a structure every 59 seconds, and, in particular, a residential fire occurs every 76 seconds.

In the world of education, threats come in many forms, not just fire, but also weather, crime and even terrorism. Many technology solutions not previously available are being used to alert the faculty, staff members and students.

Campus mass notification system

The goal should be building a flexible system using existing infrastructure that easily supports future expansion and implements mass notification systems (MNS) in a campus environment. The 2007 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, includes provisions for fire alarm systems to accommodate MNS.

Note that a new NFPA Technical Committee on Emergency Communications Systems has been formed to further develop requirements for these systems. The next edition of NFPA 72 is expected to include significant revisions, including a new technical chapter providing mandatory requirements.

And this is ready to be put to use. Nearly every college in the United States has examined or is examining its ability to notify students and employees of danger. Some state legislatures have passed laws requiring their schools and universities to implement reliable and comprehensive mass notification systems. The Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 requires all post-secondary institutions to make timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees. Above and beyond legislation, those involved in public safety have a moral and ethical obligation to provide the safest possible environment for students and employees.

One valuable lesson gleaned from our experience is to keep all processes as simple as possible. Generally speaking, the more complex the process, the more things can go wrong. When many colleges were built, little thought was given to the need for timely mass notification and the need for lockdowns or evacuations. As a result, they have been playing catchup.

Convergence in action

MNS implementation would not be possible without an active partnership between the safety staff members and college or university IT departments. The staff should also have strong relationships with hardware vendors and software firms to create a dynamic infrastructure.

Announcements heard in large campus common areas, outdoors and on athletic fields present a bit more of a challenge. Many colleges broadcast voice over Internet protocol announcements over loudspeakers placed in the library, cafeteria, student activities areas and gymnasiums. Outdoor speakers and notification beacons may be mounted in the center of campus and other locations, such as athletic fields. The notification beacons can interface with external audiovisual devices, such as sirens, strobes, televisions and scrolling marquees. These features aid in getting the message to disabled and handicapped people.

Training is critical for all parties to react appropriately once the MNS is activated. Authorities should also be actively engaged with students, faculty and staff members in training sessions that cover their reaction to campus emergencies.

Future enhancements to the existing emergency notification suite of applications could involve instant communication with students, faculty and staff, using mobile phones and personal digital assistants. Many universities are looking into building systems where students can receive emergency text announcements over their mobile phones.

Safety is too important to ignore.            

BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Convergence Goes to College

by claire swedberg

Students and faculty members at Louisiana’s Grambling State University may feel more visible, as well as more secure, than those on a typical campus. The forethought of the university’s information technology (IT) staff led to an Internet-protocol-based (IP) campus-wide security system, and now, there are few unsecured areas. The university has installed more than 300 IP cameras that transmit images to the Internet-based server, and the school intends to expand the deployment to 500 by the end of 2009. Video software allows the school to access video from each camera through the Internet and to integrate video and security, access control and retail business functions. More schools may begin looking like Grambling State soon.

A few years ago, Grambling State had some stand-alone analog camera systems, none of which were easily upgradeable or integrated. In fact, as the technology became obsolete, the old analog systems just stopped functioning.

The school wanted an IP system with a robust enterprise--level server where mass storage could reside. Now all access control and video events are stored on the server at the IT building. The system, Genetec’s Omnicast IP-based surveillance, was provided by security integrator Camera Watch, Jackson, Miss. Since the system is wireless, it uses one backbone and gives the college the flexibility to grow.

For students, it means carrying a single ID card with a variety of uses. For example, the card can be used for access control at multiple locations and also for payment at campus businesses. All camera footage is available on the IP platform, as is the access control data. That means that if, for example, there is a suspicious use of a card, security can automatically pull up a video image of the user, which can be compared against photos stored for that individual in the database. The ID card also can be used as a debit card at retail locations, such as the campus bookstore. The student can prepay a balance into an account, which is accessed each time the student scans the card, said Jim Walker, Camera Watch’s vice president of sales.

Throughout the country, college security systems vary greatly. But nearly every college in the United States is looking at some level of convergence, bringing the security network in on the IT platform and sharing tasks, responsibilities and software among those who once traveled in very different circles.

Integrators—often electrical contractors—can bring vendors and college facility managers together and help sort through rapidly changing technology and security needs.

Convergence puts the decision-making into the hands of both the security and IT departments, said Dennis Charlebois, director of product management and marketing, physical security, for Cisco, a network systems supplier. Today’s security systems are more IP-centric, he said.

“Historically, the network is the pipe to move data. Now it can be used as a platform for applications to interoperate,” Charlebois said.

This convergence alleviates some of the past management burdens that had to be handled when security and IT operated on multiple platforms. When physical security was in its own world, it needed separate event management, scheduling and policy management just like IT, Charlebois said. Having both of these systems managed by one platform makes the process less cumbersome and even less expensive.

Devices, such as access cards or cameras, can deliver information into or pull data off the same school network.

“If we standardize the way we talk to the network, it gets even easier,” Charlebois said.

Currently, each of the multiple camera manufacturers has its own individual drivers.

“The cost of owning these systems and sustaining them is high,” Charlebois said.

The goal of reducing that burden is motivating Cisco to develop a network that would allow devices to speak the same language and share one common platform. At the same time, the network needs be flexible, so universities can gradually phase it in, using their old analog equipment and card readers and working in new equipment as it becomes necessary.

“You don’t want to rip and replace everything,” Charlebois said. “We still have a long way to go before technology will all be interoperable.”

A new open media application programming interface (API) will go a long way to harmonizing devices in the meantime. With the swipe of an access card, lights could turn on and cameras could swing in the appropriate direction. All of these functions would take place through the API or simple ASCII exchanges.

Included in this convergence are the communication and notification systems that allow the university to communicate with all students at once, sending text messages, e-mails or phone calls in the event of an emergency, such as a shooting. Video takes a great deal of bandwidth, so Cisco begins by looking at the network a university already has in place, assessing whether it is serving the functions needed, then looking at the existing devices to see to what extent they are IP-enabled.

Cisco also interprets what the risk scenarios are for that specific university and how they interoperate with local police and administrators. Sometimes, convergence is more difficult. IT departments may not be the ones selecting cameras, while security departments might not understand the networks.

“It’s the IT folks who are capable of providing that value,” Charlebois said. “We’re at a crossroads with technology, and both departments need to be at the same table. They’re the ones on the front line.”

With convergence, Charlebois said, installation will be less painful. Configuration tools will make it possible for end-users to step in and configure the system as they need it when the installer is finished.

“In that way, the installer is able to provide more value,” he said. “You don’t need to have a Ph.D. or be an engineer to install this anymore.”

Adam Thermos, security consultant and founder of Strategic Technology Group, Milford, Mass., agreed that convergence makes systems easier to install and capable of doing much more.

“If a person steals a card and enters a building, the access control has to note the problem,” he said.

He offers a scenario in which—during winter break—someone enters a building that he isn’t expected to enter. The system can send video of the event to authorities, along with a record of where that person’s card has been for the past five days.

“This is real convergence,” Thermos said.

Taking it a step further, if the owner of the card is registered as driving a red Jeep, for example, the system can then track the movement of every red Jeep that enters and exits the campus.

“Technology helps in extreme situations,” Thermos said, adding that it can even be set to detect the speed of someone’s movements. “The technology does not solve issues but only prevents a percentage of them; it mitigates events.”

Approaching standards

But how much does a school need, and how much can it afford to do? Sorting through upgrade options is a challenge for the schools and the electrical or low-voltage contractors serving them.

To make the process more standardized, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has stepped in, providing a new set of standards as a guide for security installations on college campuses. It includes sections on administrative issues, definitions, risk assessment and the maintenance of systems. It also includes a table of testing frequencies so that those unfamiliar with communication systems will have guidelines to follow. According to J. Robert Boyer, director of industry affairs at GE Infrastructure Security and chairman of the NEMA communications committee, the measure provides an overview and brings perspective of types of threats, such as weather or intrusion, and the opportunities to secure the school against them.

Traditionally, school administrators provided education. A college or university never truly had any threats that were of major concern, Boyer said.

“But with terrorism being what it is, we felt, at NEMA, that there was a significant need to address this early on,” he said.

“Systems have to be designed and installed to provide benefit in an attack,” Boyer said.

The guidelines include attacks from terror, crime from within the school and weather-related disasters. With the rising occurrence and awareness of safety threats, it has become necessary to integrate systems to contribute to a common objective, he said. Intercoms and paging systems, physical access, and audio/video should function seamlessly in meeting that objective.

“Budgets are going to be a serious consideration,” Boyer said. “I think those doing installations can create specifications that meet the bidding criteria.”

Although the standard is not a mandate, Boyer said, “they would be in excellent shape if they follow this standard. They can use it to ensure they are not creating an over-design.”

“Let’s assume there’s pressure in the community to do this, but everyone has a different perspective,” he said.

In such cases, with numerous interests and a tight budget to work with, the NEMA standard helps the security community address all criteria realistically, he said.

Thermos said every college administration should address its security operational efficiency and how long the school can survive with the existing system, while managing risk and minimizing liability exposure. Although there is no return on investment for security, schools can easily justify the expense.

“It’s not like building dorms that will bring in more students,” Thermos said. “But from a marketing aspect, it allows the school to provide due diligence to its students.”

Today, the field of hardwiring security systems is shrinking, while addressable systems are expanding with IP, voice over Internet protocol, Category 6 cable and wireless.

“In effect, what we’ve got is a situation where even fiber is giving way to Cat 6 and wireless,” Thermos said.

Today, the convergence of IP addressable databases takes the work out of the hands of programmers and places it with installers and school staff members.

Thermos recommended that integrators and contractors get educated on these systems quickly.

“Start taking classes put out by the industry. You can skip the formal education. I still take training myself once a month,” he said.

Training courses provided by technology manufacturers are useful to keep contractors educated about industry changes. There are contractors who did well in the pipe and wire business but are dropped from projects in favor of someone in the wireless sector, Thermos said. As we move out of analog and into the digital environment and hybrid systems, colleges may be unsure of what they need.

“Most vendors we have today started as lock shops,” Thermos said, adding that they have little experience with IP convergence. “They will still sell you the boxes and the wire.”

This leaves contractors to sort out the school’s needs and puts the responsibility squarely in the hands of those knowledgeable integrators and contractors. Thanks to the interest in security convergence from colleges, the ranks of such contractors are now growing.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


The Importance of IP Video Surveillance in Education

Network video can help schools do more with less

For the quality of the educational experience as well as the safety of the students, it’s important that schools view safety as the highest priority. Administrators need to closely examine the security options available to them in the video surveillance marketplace. They should begin with a thorough look at what network-based video technology can do in the community’s local educational facilities, compared to traditional analog systems.

Today, the industry is in the middle of a paradigm shift as it slowly gravitates from analog video systems to digital Internet protocol (IP). Use of IP-based video is on the rise, and nowhere else in society is this new flavor of video surveillance as well received.

According to Peter Boriskin, vice president of product management for Tyco International’s Access Control and Video Systems, IP’s current market share is roughly 15 percent.

Erron Spalsbury, account manager with 3xLogic, Westminster, Colo., said his company sees a growing interest in IP.

“About 80 percent of every DVR [digital video recorder] we sell records video from at least one IP camera,” Spalsbury said.

Use of network-based video

Since the 1950s, security companies have installed and serviced analog cameras in educational facilities as well as in commercial, industrial and retail markets. For the most part, analog technology has served the industry well, but since the introduction of computer networking in education, the number of IP video installations has more than doubled each year.

In a growing number of schools, colleges and universities, IP cameras allow officials to better track and identify suspicious individuals as they enter and leave facilities. IP cameras allow administrators to monitor parking lots, sidewalks and critical entrances with greater clarity and efficiency.

When real-time observation is not feasible, IP video allows images to be recorded on an assortment of digital media for later review. Network video offers the advantage of capturing real-time events as they happen and storing them on a computer hard drive. And because of megapixel imagers, IP video has the ability to record images in near-to-life resolution.

Because of their digital nature, images from an IP camera also can be easily exported for law enforcement use without degrading image quality. A watermark within the digital framework of each image verifies its authenticity. This is especially important when video images are removed as evidence to use in a court of law.

Megapixel IP cameras also allow schools to do more with fewer employees, which is important to cash-strapped institutions. Through the use of live and recorded video, the number of security personnel can often be reduced and replaced with IP video cameras. Instead of a school full of security officers, many educational facilities can effectively function with a handful.

Digital IP vs. analog cameras

An IP camera is designed to connect to a computer network or a recording device, such as a DVR, network video recorder, network attached storage or some other method of image retention. With an IP camera, this is accomplished using a Category 5e or 6 cable with eight-position modular plugs. An analog camera, in contrast, uses a coaxial cable plus a second cable for power.

IP cameras are assigned a unique address for identification purposes, which is also a feature that separates the technology from analog. This address enables the network to store images in separate folders corresponding to the specific cameras. IP addresses allow networks to associate specific information with each image, such as camera location, date, time, camera type, etc. This enables system operators to readily identify where a scene comes from inside or outside the facility.

In some cases, the network superimposes other data onto an image, such as cash register transaction information. Because it’s in a digital format, advanced searches can be conducted using any number of criteria. For a good example, consider the retail side of a college or university, such as a book store or cafeteria. Data from credit cards or other identification credentials can be used to locate a student in real time or through recorded video. Integration with other subsystems, such as access control, enables school officials to review an audit trail of student and staff member activities, reviewing images from nearby cameras in the process.

Another difference between IP and analog cameras is the format used to send image information over a wire. Conventional cameras use the National Television Standards Council (NTSC) standard, commonly referred to as composite video. A conventional video camera bundles everything needed to create an image within a single composite signal. This signal contains lumina (brightness/contrast) and chroma (image color) information as well as synchronization pulses for display scanning control. The typical bandwidth of a composite video signal is 6 MHz at 1 volt peak-to-peak. This is a lot of information that must be carried by the analog signal; therefore, a lot can be lost through electromagnetic interference.

Digital IP-based data is not as prone to outside interference as analog because it’s easier for the head-end system to detect the two voltage states of a digital data signal than the nearly infinite number of frequencies used in an analog signal. This makes digital IP more robust than analog, especially in locations experiencing a high-level of radio frequency interference, such as airports and industrial plants.

It is easier to place intelligence on the edge of the network using IP cameras than with analog. Software can be added to provide video analytics, e-mail and more. Some IP cameras have a built-in Web server, which adds a degree of redundancy to any video surveillance system. If something happens to the main method of image recording, relevant images may still exist.

Adding cameras to an existing infrastructure

Another advantage to using IP cameras is the relative ease with which they can be added to an existing local area network (LAN). Most educational facilities have a LAN installed throughout the buildings. This eliminates the need to install coaxial and power cables from one end of each building to the other, which must be done when installing analog cameras. Not only does this save time, but it also saves money because installers do not have to contend with the same amount of metallic cable.

“In this environment, where cost is a significant driver, being able to use the existing infrastructure allows us to reduce the installation cost to the customer,” Spalsbury said. “And not only is the wire (Category 5e) cheaper when it comes time to install a network, but it’s easier to pull. And it makes it easier and faster to expand when needed. In addition, IP technology makes it possible to record multiple facilities on the enterprise level and to do so using megapixel-type cameras.”

Not only do IP cameras use Category 5e or 6 cable, which is generally cheaper than coaxial, but sometimes the choice can be between installing a $700 megapixel camera with a 6-foot extension cord to a network’s wall outlet to get a robust, high-resolution picture or paying an installer $500 to run new coaxial cable the entire distance of a school for analog. IP video also allows for rapid deployment where there is an existing network, something educational facilities may need as security requirements change.

“An environment like that of a school is constantly changing and so will their need for covert and overt camera placement,” Boriskin said. “An IP video strategy allows for much easier camera movement.”

Balancing the need for IP video

Opponents of IP-based video cameras maintain that such a pie-in-the-sky approach to video surveillance is not worth the cost. Ask some information technology (IT) managers, and they may say attaching IP cameras to a school’s network isn’t practical because the cameras require a lot of bandwidth.

While it is true that not every school requires megapixel quality video, those that use one say you can’t have too much resolution when it comes to proving your case in court.

“The most compelling reason to use IP is the simplest one: don’t send 12 hours of an empty stairwell at 3 MB per second. Use the camera as a gate-keeper so only interesting video is sent,” Boriskin said.

In this case, when a camera is first installed, it will send a complete image of the stairwell. After that, only those pixels that have changed are sent to the head-end.

Although digital high-resolution cameras may not be ideal for every application, they are a potent new tool in the security expert’s bag of tricks.

Colombo is a 33-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He is director with and a nationally recognized trade journalist in East Canton, Ohio. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


It’s Only Low Voltage

By michael johnston

Electrical circuits and systems in hazardous -(classified) locations present challenges for installers. The National Electrical Code (NEC) indicates that hazardous locations are where explosions or fire hazards are possible due to flammable gases, flammable liquid-produced vapors, combustible liquids, combustible liquid-produced vapors, combustible dusts or ignitable fibers/flyings.

Low-voltage or limited-energy systems present the same ignition hazards as those of 120 volts and greater. The concern is that arcing, even at a low-energy level, could cause ignition of an explosive material.

It is common to think low-voltage and limited-energy systems are less dangerous than higher voltage systems. From a shock and fire hazard standpoint, this may sometimes be the case, but when installed in hazardous locations, these systems cannot be treated any differently than 120-volt systems. The arc causes ignition, so the hazards are the same.

Chapter 5 of the Code provides wiring rules for special occupancies, including all hazardous locations. The key to how the NEC applies to low-voltage and limited- energy systems in hazardous locations starts with Section 500.1, which indicates that the rules in Articles 500 through 504 apply to electrical and electronic equipment and wiring for all voltages. Taking this a step further, if one were working with a remote control signaling circuit, the basic rules are provided in Article 725. As an example, Section 725.3(D) validates the information provided in Section 500.1 by providing the correlation between Article 725 and the applicable rules for all wiring in hazardous locations covered in Articles 500 through 516 and Part IV of Article 517. Not only does this installation have to meet the general rules in Article 725 and in Chapters 1 through 4 as referenced, it also must be installed in compliance with all applicable Chapter 5 requirements for a hazardous location. Similar rules in other NEC limited-energy articles, such as those covering communications systems and fire alarm systems, appear within each article to refer the reader to important applicable rules to be considered when these systems are located in a hazardous location.

When wiring in hazardous locations, it is critical to not cause ignition of the explosive atmosphere and to not spread the hazardous atmosphere to other areas through the conduit systems. Suitable identified enclosures must be used for equipment, conduit seals must be provided and appropriate wiring methods used. This requires these circuits to be installed in a rigid conduit system or other wiring method suitable for use in a hazardous location as provided in Section 501.10 for Class 1 locations, 502.10 for Class 2 locations, and 503.10 for Class 3 locations. The degree of hazard is what determines the type of wiring method that must be used, even for low-voltage or limited-energy systems. The degree of hazard is provided as a particular division or zone under each classified location. For example, Class 1, Division 1 is a greater degree of hazard than Class 1, Division 2; thus, the wiring methods allowed for one degree of hazard differ slightly from others.

It is important to know how an area is classified—and the extent of the classified area—for correct wiring methods to be installed. Section 500.4 requires all hazardous locations to be properly documented, and the documentation must be available for those authorized to install, maintain, inspect or operate electrical wiring and systems in those areas.

Circuits and systems identified as intrinsically safe are suitable for installation in any hazardous location. These circuits are not capable of causing ignition because their energy levels are so low. Any wiring method can be used, including cable wiring methods provided in Chapters 7 and 8. Intrinsically safe circuits and systems are suitable for Division 1, Zones 0 and 1 locations. A nonincendive circuit is defined in Section 500.2 as one in which any arc or thermal effect produced under intended operating conditions is not capable, under specified test conditions, of igniting the flammable gas/air, vapor/air, or dust/air mixture. Nonincendive circuits and systems are suitable for Division 2 and Zone 2 locations, the difference being the degree of hazard involved. When installing these systems, specific control drawings are necessary. These limited-energy systems are suitable for installation in hazardous (classified) locations only when installed according to the drawings. The manufacturer of nonincendive systems and intrinsically safe systems provides the applicable control drawings. While a circuit or system may be low voltage or of limited energy, the requirements for these circuits and systems in hazardous locations are generally the same as those for higher voltage circuits and systems. Unless intrinsically safe circuits or systems or nonincendive circuits or systems are installed per the applicable control drawings, the wiring methods and equipment specified in Chapter 5 for the particular classified area must be used.

It’s only low voltage, but it must be safe and Code-compliant.       

JOHNSTON is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is former director of education, codes and standards for IAEI; a member of the IBEW; and an active member of the NFPA Electrical Section, Education Section and the UL Electrical Council. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Look out Below

BY diane kelly

When is 6 feet enough?

OSHA’s “6-foot rule” for fall protection is pretty straightforward. It states that if any employee is in a situation where they may lose balance and fall to a lower level or simply fall 6 feet or more, fall protection must be provided and used. So why is fall protection consistently included in OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited violations? For one, unfortunately, contractors often believe it is easier, faster and cheaper not to comply. A second reason may be a misinterpretation of the standards related to fall protection.

Scenario 1

A portable ladder is placed on the roof of a structure within a larger building. The roof of the inner structure is at least 10 feet above the lower level, about 10 feet by 10 feet, and strong enough to support the load of workers, materials and tools.

This situation relates to two standards, Subpart M and Subpart X. First is the need for fall protection from the 10-foot roof. Second is fall protection while the worker is on the ladder. The roof falls under Subpart M, Fall Protection as a walking/working surface. Section 1926.501(b)(1) of Subpart M states that a work surface with an unprotected side or edge that is 6 feet or more above a lower level must be protected by some form of fall protection. This can be a guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest system. Since the work surface is unprotected and 10 feet above the lower level, fall protection is required for any employee working on this surface.

Although working on a ladder is not specifically covered in Subpart M, ladders and any fall protection are covered in Subpart X, Stairways and Ladders. Subpart X does not require fall protection for working on a portable ladder in the same manner as Subpart M. Protection is provided in the proper use of the ladder, such as setting the ladder at the appropriate angle, maintaining three points of contact with the ladder and keeping the body centered on the ladder.

Scenario 2

Work is being done on a low-slope roof by both roofers and heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) installers. The roofers can comply with fall protection on a low-slope roof by using a warning line placed at least 6 feet from the roof edge (1926.501(b)(10) of Subpart M). In order for the HVAC installers to go without personal fall protection, the warning line must be at least 15 feet from the edge. Since both are working on the roof at the same time, would the 6-foot warning line be sufficient for both trades?

The purpose of the warning line is to keep employees away from the unprotected edge, thus preventing a fall. There are a few specific situations where the standard allows the use of a warning line instead of fall protection, including low-slope roof work, some leading edge work, precast concrete erection and residential construction, i.e., situations in which the feasibility of fall protection is limited. HVAC equipment does not fit into any of the exempted categories, so a warning line at 6 feet is not an option.

There are at least two solutions for this situation. One is to run two separate warning lines, one at 6 feet for the roofers and another at 15 feet for the HVAC installers. Depending on the particular work site, this may be confusing or simply unworkable. The other possibility is to equip the HVAC installers with conventional fall protection (e.g., personal fall arrest systems), while running a warning line at 6 feet for the roofers’ fall protection. This way, both trades comply with the fall protection standards that apply and are kept safe on the job site.

Scenario 3

Employees are performing work-related tasks while on a guardrail-equipped scissor lift platform. The lift’s platform extends beyond the wheelbase of the lift. The scissor lift and its guardrails meet all applicable requirements in Subpart L, Scaffolds. Work is conducted from the scissor lift only when the lift is stationary. Would the workers be required to have fall protection in addition to the guardrail?

According to Subpart L, employees working on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falling to the lower level. There are, however, different ways to protect the employees. Since a scissor lift is not named specifically in the standard, it would be covered under 1926.451(g)(1)(vii), which states that employees can be protected by either a personal fall arrest system or a guardrail system that meets the appropriate requirements. Since the guardrail system meets the requirements, no further fall protection is required.

The need for fall protection on the job cannot be denied. Unfortunately, determining if it is needed and what should be used can be a time-consuming and tedious task. Although it may be a challenge, the safety afforded to the employees and the benefits to them and their families makes it worth the effort.  

KELLY is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 or Joe O’Connor edited this article.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Fiber Focal Point

BY jim hayes

Usage has grown and continues to grow

It seems each year, optical fiber gains strength in the marketplace. Fiber’s strengths, its bandwidth and distance capabilities, along with its immunity to electrical interference, help it quietly gain converts.

Fiber’s biggest gains have been in connections directly to the home, with millions of new users connected in the last year. Certainly the slowdown in housing construction has affected greenfield installations around the United States, but Verizon, for example, is focusing on replacing its aging copper infrastructure with fiber as fast as resources allow.

Justification for replacing copper with fiber to the home (FTTH) is easy. Not only does fiber allow the service provider to offer more services that generate greater revenue, but it reduces maintenance of the network to practically nothing. Maintenance cost savings alone reportedly would pay for FTTH in less than 20 years.  In addition, the enhanced revenue for high-speed Internet access—up to 175 megabits per second in some Verizon service areas—and the ability to offer advanced high-definition TV service, make the return on investment period for FTTH conversion much shorter.

FTTH suppliers promote all kinds of new equipment development, but one stands out and promises to make other fiber optic applications much simpler. Prefabricated fiber optic cable assemblies with weather-sealed connectors make installation of outside plant cabling much easier.

These assemblies are truly plug-and-play, requiring no splicing or terminating. Prefab assemblies can be used in aerial or conduit installations, making them the perfect solution for applications such as campus and municipal networks.

For local area network (LAN) applications, it appears the copper versus fiber to the desktop battle may be over; both lost. While these two have been trading barbs over cost, technology and power, Wi-Fi networks have been developed to provide high quality connections at speeds that are more than adequate for most users, and security issues now have been addressed.

The move to wireless connectivity has become a no-brainer, as many corporate users now prefer laptops (with built-in Wi-Fi) to desktop computers for mobility. Many people also own portable mobile devices—such as smartphones, iPhones and Blackberries with wireless access—that are becoming almost as powerful as a laptop.

Within the enterprise LAN, the backbone is primarily fiber, with new installations mostly using OM3 laser-optimized 50/125 variety capable of being upgraded from today’s 1 to 10 gigabits per second to 40 or perhaps even 100 in the future. Category 5e or Cat 6 to the desktop is still cheaper. The new generation of higher bandwidth wireless requires more access points, which have traditionally been connected over copper and recently have been powered over copper, as well. But there seems to be some question about whether adequate power for these new wireless access points can be carried over the same copper cables that must provide gigabit Ethernet connectivity. Fiber may prove to be a better choice here, too.

Another big market for cabling is the data center, an application important enough to recently get its own cabling standard. Connecting servers, storage devices and routers is the big application for 10 gigabit systems, and users have three choices for cabling: simple coax for short links, fiber or augmented Cat 6.

There has been a lot of concern about the amount of power consumed by servers, as high-speed computers and communications links need much energy. Estimates of server power consumption in the United States is about 2 percent of all power produced in the country. Google, the largest single user, has moved many of its servers to the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon to take advantage of cheaper local hydroelectric power and is equipping its San Francisco Bay Area facilities with giant photovoltaic arrays.

In the data center, fiber wins hands-down. A 10-gigabit fiber transceiver uses less than 1 watt of power, while a copper transceiver uses 5–10 watts. Copper links in the data center consume much more power, require larger power supplies and require equally larger amounts of cooling. Coax seems to be the choice in the data center for short connections (less than 10 meters), and fiber is used for all others.

Adding the rising number of municipal and government data, surveillance closed-circuit TV and traffic control systems on fiber, greater fiber usage in industrial applications, and utility systems for grid management, the market for fiber optic contracting services has never looked better.

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association.
Find him at 

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Construction Forecast 2009

by joseph m. kelly

Silver linings hard to find in dismal economic recession

At a time when things could not look much worse economically, there is some good news to accompany the over-    whelming bad. First, the bad news.

“The economic outlook is a disaster,” said Michael J. Mandel, chief economist for BusinessWeek, during a presentation at the October 2008 McGraw-Hill Construction Outlook 2009 Executive Conference in Washington, D.C. His sentence sums up the economic debacle weighing down all markets in the United States. Some argue about when the economy fell into recession, but it is clear, we are there now. Some have said this is the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and there is no sunshine on the short-term horizon.

According to Reed Construction Data’s (RCD) “U.S. Construction Outlook 2009–2010” report, contractors and suppliers must endure a drop in demand for building space and facility capacity and increased commodity prices along with low access to credit, which collectively “suggest that the recovery from the recession will be relatively long and slow,” wrote Jim Haughey, Reed’s chief economist, in the report.

The Reed report indicates that what finally “popped the credit bubble” was the trillion-dollar default on residential mortgages in the United States. When the credit bubble burst in August 2008, businesses also lost out on short-term loans and access to credit. The financial institutions stopped lending money out of fear. That includes contractors from all sectors of the construction market.

“Fixing the credit problem will be a long, ugly and expensive process that will dampen economic growth for several years,” Haughey wrote in the report.

When analyzing the data provided in Reed’s “U.S. Construction Outlook,” the numbers paint a gloomy picture for residential and nonresidential construction alike. Based on U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) at the Department of Commerce, the Reed report indicates that private investment in residential structures dropped 25 percent in the first quarter of 2008, another 13 percent in the second quarter and an additional 19 percent in the third quarter. Nonresidential private investment rose substantially by 18.5 percent in the second quarter but grew by a mere 8 percent in the third quarter. That trend will to continue with the recession hitting the nonresidential market, which had held its own during recent quarters.

Robert Murray, McGraw-Hill Construction’s vice president of economic affairs, indicated that last year’s refuge is no longer a sanctuary for contractors. As single-family housing starts continues to fall, commercial buildings also are heading down. Institutional construction is healthy for now but could trend downward soon. Public works projects also declined by 5 percent in 2008 after growing by 8 percent the previous year. This is likely due to tighter government budgets caused by declining property taxes. Therefore, for electrical contractors who sought refuge in commercial/industrial/institutional (CII) work in the early stages of this economic crisis, there is nowhere to hide in 2009.

According to McGraw-Hill’s statistics, single-family housing starts dropped 36 percent from 2007 to 2008. Commercial building, which had increased by 7 percent from 2006 to 2007, slumped severely in 2008 by 10 percent. This reversal is alarming in terms of square feet, as well. Construction of stores and shopping centers declined by 30 percent in 2008 and should decrease by an additional 15 percent, or 188 million square feet, in 2009. Slowing retail sales have stunted aggressive expansion plans by Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s and The Home Depot. When you add the increased amount of store closings and reorganizations of failed retailers, the future for retail construction is especially grim in the short term.

The only sector that showed slight growth was the institutional market, which grew by 7 percent in 2008 after increasing by 5 percent the previous year. Construction projects related to new convention centers, hospitals, schools and churches anchored this uptick.

RCD’s U.S. construction starts information shows a 6.1 percent decline in overall commercial construction, tempered only by a tremendous increase in government office starts of 90.3 percent. There was a 2.1 percent dip in nonresidential construction, but other sectors—especially residential and industrial—felt a harder gut-punch. Residential starts were down 33.4 percent as industrial (manufacturing) starts fell by a whopping 44 percent.

Institutional work was the shining star in the market, posting a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year. Within the institutional market, hospital/clinic starts were up 14 percent, and library/museum starts increased by 32.6 percent.

While military construction starts increased by almost 15 percent, we must examine that number in context. The previous year, military starts rose by an astonishing 123 percent. The latest numbers indicate a major slowdown in military construction projects. Despite the expected decline, contractors close to government military base realignment areas can benefit from an influx of funding. According to McGraw-Hill, federal spending for fiscal year 2008 increased in the Department of Defense’s base realignment plans by 29 percent. That number will increase by another 18 percent in fiscal year 2009.

The main point to take from construction starts data is that residential and manufacturing have taken the largest hits. Closed plants and factories leading to defaults on mortgages and lost homes are fueling this downward spiral. Overall, construction starts declined by 15.5 percent from 2007 to 2008. These figures are enough to send most electrical contractors to the psychiatrist for antidepressants, but there is a thin silver lining.

Good news

We have touched on the bad news, but there is a modicum of positive news in this downtrodden economy. While this may be the worst economic climate since the 1930s, things will not deteriorate to that level.

“We are living in a very different place than the U.S. economy was in the 1930s,” said James Poterba, president of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), speaking at the Reuters Investment Outlook 2009 Summit held in New York on Dec. 8, 2008. “It is possible to have the worst postwar recession without getting anywhere close to what it was in the 1930s.”

He added, though, that this recession will likely last longer than the average recession. The NBER, which marked the beginning of the recession at December 2007, believes this downturn will last well into 2009 and be the most severe slump since the 1981–1982 recession.

“A year ago, no one would have predicted where we are today,” BusinessWeek’s Mandel said at the McGraw-Hill conference. “Few predicted this direness.”

Mandel said this is the slowest growth rate in the U.S. economy in 50 years. He said the combination of overbuilding of homes and excessive lending sparked this crisis. Mandel—a self-described optimist—spoke in frank gloom-and-doom terms about the economic outlook, and he was not alone.

Kermit Baker, Ph.D., chief economist for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Washington, D.C., said the housing boom that homebuilders and other trades enjoyed over the last several years was cyclical.

“It will correct itself eventually,” he said. However, he warns that we have not yet hit bottom in the housing market. “We haven’t been able to work off the excess inventory [of houses],” which is the only way to crawl out of this crisis, he said.

Homebuilders have cut production, but the excess housing stock is still sitting on the market. As home prices continue to fall at historic rates, consumer spending goes down as well. Baker is confident that it will rebound because slumps historically have. Agreeing with Poterba, Baker said the recovery time for this recession could be longer than most. An overall weak economy delays the housing recovery, but when the recovery begins, production of new homes rebounds quickly, he said.

“We knew this was coming, but we didn’t know the extent,” McGraw-Hill’s Murray said. “This is a recession … . It’s looking pretty dark.”

Reed Construction Data expects construction spending to decrease by 5.8 percent in 2008 and an additional 2.2 percent in 2009. However, RCD predicts a reversal in 2010 with a 7.9 percent increase in construction spending. Then, in the first quarter of 2011, construction spending will again reach its 2006 peak, the RCD report indicated.

According to Hanley-Wood’s Key Indicator Alert, new home sales fell again in October 2008 by 5.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted pace of 433,000 units. New home inventory declined to 385,000, which is the lowest figure since June 2004, but the housing market is not out of the woods yet. The existing home inventory will take quite some time to sell off. More foreclosures are on the way, as other adjustable rate mortgages reset at higher rates in 2009.

However, if remodeling of existing homes is part of your repertoire, there are opportunities for you. Unfortunately, those opportunities are starting to feel some negative effects from a tighter economy and limited consumer spending, not to mention increased unemployment. Reed’s seasonally adjusted data shows that construction employment is down by more than 6 percent since January 2007. That is starting to plateau off, but it is indicative of what is happening in all economic sectors. If people are not working, they are not improving their homes. Multifamily housing might offer some refuge for the time being.

Multifamily housing, Baker contends, remains the strongest sector of the construction market. He also sees some strength in remodeling and repair work. According to Baker, in 2007, $335 billion was spent on remodeling, accounting for 3 percent of all activity in the U.S. economy and 70 percent of home improvement dollars. There is room for more concern, though.

“Early in the housing downturn, remodeling held strong, but now remodeling is getting caught in the housing crossfire,” he said.

Baker predicts that green building initiatives and the aging housing stock will spur increases in home improvements. The older stock needs fixing and replacement parts, such as new roofs; heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC); and other upgrades. According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, homeowners spend an average of about $2,500 annually on improvements if a house is 54 years old or older. Conversely, if a home is six to 11 years old, the average spending per year dips to $1,750 per unit. Expenditures slide to about $1,300 per unit on houses less than six years old. There still is opportunity in home retrofits, but there will be a slowdown in growth in this sector.

Green collar jobs

There is a lot of potential, Baker said, in sustainability (green) projects, which could pose vast opportunities. Green retrofits will lead the wave of innovation that increasingly will penetrate the remodeling market. Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), agreed.

“The green revolution will be a big part of the solution,” he said at the Outlook 2009 Executive Conference.

He recommends contractors working in environmentally friendly projects—particularly Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects—stay the course. LEED is a certification for projects that comply with strict environmentally friendly criteria.

“LEED is one of the reasons this green movement is taking off,” Fedrizzi said. He added that the return on investment is making green projects more attractive to mainstream contractors.

He said the USGBC is prepared to make LEED a big part of future growth in “green collar” jobs. Solar installations and wind generation will anchor a movement that could create 40 million new green collar jobs by 2030, Fedrizzi said. He said energy-efficient lighting alternatives and improved building performance will catapult this green market. He also said there will be greater investment in building systems and controls, which is an indicator to electrical contractors that LEED projects can be launching pads for success.

That success can come from the existing building stock, Fedrizzi said. He said 86 percent of existing buildings need retrofits and updates to systems to make them more energy efficient.

Fedrizzi said the focal point should be schools. For 55 million students, older buildings in which they learn are in dire need of repair. Green building concepts help in the learning process. He said there are reports of 20 percent better test scores in green schools, with less asthma and overall better health. Environments with more natural light and better air quality are more conducive to learning.

The changing demographics also indicate that school construction is a ripe sector for electrical contractors. Right now, school budgets are tight, as indicated by a modest 2.6 percent increase in construction starts in the school/college sector, according to RCD’s “U.S. Construction Outlook 2009–2010” report. McGraw-Hill data show that recent state legislation will fuel school projects in certain states. For example, California passed a referendum in 2006 to earmark $10.4 billion for school facilities. In the November 2007 elections, Texas voters approved a school construction measure.

According to McGraw-Hill Construction, school construction is still strong but losing some momentum. In terms of square feet, 223 million square feet of educational buildings accounted for a mere 1 percent increase over 2006. McGraw-Hill predicts a decline of 7 percent in 2009. Some areas of education are stronger than others. Laboratory spending decreased by 41 percent in 2008. Major increases in construction came from vocational schools (27 percent), community colleges (21 percent) and high schools (13 percent).

Changing demographics are fueling this sector. As the economy improves over the next few years, investment will increase for schools because of the growing younger population. According to Reed’s report, property taxes drive kindergarten through grade 12 construction spending. Taxes are down right now due to the economic situation, particularly with record levels of foreclosures and homes for sale. However, expect modest-but-steady growth in this area after a single-digit decline in the near-term.

Growing immigrant population

If you drill down into the demographic changes, AIA’s Baker said immigration data point to a robust housing market in the coming decade. According to American Community Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau projections, the average annual growth in the foreign-born population will jump to 1.51 million between 2020 and 2025. That is a 300,000-person boost, which could be a great opportunity for the construction industry. Foreign-born citizens comprise a growing percentage of the overall U.S. population, as well. In 1970, the foreign-born population made up a mere 4 percent of the total U.S. population. In 2005, that percentage tripled to more than 12 percent. Once concentrated in the biggest states of California, New York, Florida and Texas, the immigrant population is becoming more far-flung, creating opportunities to deliver electrical construction and voice/data/video work to serve this growing group.

The demographics, Baker said, also favor remodeling opportunities. Immigrants and their children account for a larger share of the population in critical home buying and remodeling years. Immigrants dominate the key age groups of 25 to 29, 30 to 34, and 35 to 39. These ages are the most likely ages for people to purchase and remodel homes. Remodeling—still weaker than in previous years—is holding its own with slight-but-steady growth. The tight housing market, coupled with a tight credit market, is reducing the availability of funds for home-owners to make improvements to their homes. When the economy rebounds, this immigrant population may be a key driver for the construction market.

Building materials

Making matters worse for electrical contractors in today’s tight economy is the drastic changes in commodities prices. According to McGraw-Hill Construction, between December 2007 and September 2008, key commodities to the electrical sector were up, forcing higher materials costs and tighter margins. Iron and steel increased by 36 percent, while copper wire jumped by 13 percent. The 36 percent increase in iron and steel comes after single-digit increases since 2005. The 13 percent increase in copper wire comes on the heels of a 1 percent decrease in 2007. However, 2005 through 2006 saw increases in copper wire of 18 percent, 26 percent and an astounding 61 percent, respectively. These core materials in electrical construction have hampered contractors’ ability to keep pricing down, which affects their bids and competitiveness.

Bailouts and stimulus packages

Few have escaped the economy’s grasp, and some are begging for help from the government. The federal government has already doled out billions of dollars in relief to various sectors. We also know President Barack Obama supports a stimulus package for individual taxpayers, in addition to the Bush stimulus package.

Whether these influxes in cash will fuel economic growth and help Americans navigate through this crisis is unclear. We know that this nation and its construction trades have endured difficult times in the past. Of course, there will be some contraction. For some electrical contractors, this was the environment that caused them to think about retirement. For others, it meant bankruptcy or selling to a competitor. Overall, the electrical construction industry has weathered past storms and remained a viable and important trade.


The recommendation from Wall Street and the government is the same: Stay the course. Wait out the storm, and things will slowly improve. It will not be easy, and it will not come fast. But times of prosperity follow times of economic crisis. If history is our guide, a rebound is coming.

The key for electrical contractors is to prepare for opportunities when the market turns. Now is the time for self-assessment. If you can get through this mess and remain competitive, prosperity awaits on the horizon. Green buildings, school construction, institutional work and multifamily housing are nice places to start. That is what the experts say, and the numbers confirm. Looking at the overall economic picture, Baker summed up the direction of the construction market: “Cycles correct themselves, so you’ll just have to hold your breath.”   

KELLY, a former editor at ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, is a Baltimore-based freelance writer. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


The Alternative-Energy Quandary

by EDward Brown

New opportunities bring new challenges

Alternative energy sources are all over the news these days as a means of achieving fossil fuel independence, while addressing global warming. Many issues must be addressed in order to enable sources, such as wind and solar, to make practical contributions to our supply of electricity. However, this cannot occur in isolation. Increasing the use of alternative electric-energy-producing technologies requires development of physical infrastructure and also the development of system architecture that includes technical, economic and regulatory strategies. If a variety of energy sources can provide our depended-upon electricity, there must be a strategy for integrating them as well as an entity with clear authority for implementing and managing the system.

A brief list of some of the important challenges follows:

Both wind and solar derive their energy from natural events that vary in intensity, while at the same time, our electric supply has to be stable. Can power from these sources be economically stored and stabilized?

Solar-derived electrical power—photovoltaics—is direct current (DC), so, in most cases it has to be converted to alternating current (AC) to be useful. The process of changing DC to AC is done using inverters, which must achieve efficiency comparable with producing electricity by traditional means using coal, oil or gas-fueled steam turbines.

Should all alternatively produced electric power be connected to the grid? If not, what are the conditions for this decision and who makes that determination?

How might energy generated by wind turbines or solar panels interconnect with the power grid?

Should the electricity produced in these ways be small local installations sited near their users (distributed generation), or should they be large installations some distance away?

What are some of the economic and regulatory considerations that must be addressed in order to incorporate alternative power sources as a significant portion of the national power supply system?


Some of these issues date back to the beginning of electrical energy generation and distribution. The first electricity--generating plant was Manhattan’s Pearl Street Station, opened by Thomas Edison in 1882. It produced 110V DC, which was used to illuminate one square mile of New York City, using Edison’s electric lamps. Four years later, George Westinghouse established the Westinghouse Electric Co. to compete with Edison. In 1888, he obtained the rights to the patents held by Nikola Tesla for generating polyphase AC electrical power.

AC made centralized power generation economically viable. A transformer could be used to increase the generated voltage to a high level. Since electrical power is voltage multiplied by current, large amounts of power could be transmitted at high voltage and low current. The advantage is that power lost in the copper transmission lines is proportional to the square of the current; therefore, high voltage at low current equals high power with low losses. Power in watts is volts times amps; energy is power totaled over a period of time, e.g., power of 1,000W generated—or consumed—for one hour would be energy of 1 kilowatt-hour. This means power could be sent over long distances and then transformed back to usable low-voltage power at its destination.

The Edison Electric Institute ( provides a brief history of the power industry. Electricity-generating plants were mostly built in urban areas. The high population density meant many rate-payers per unit area. Franchises were awarded to competing companies, resulting in a mix of different voltages and frequencies. In the early 20th century, entrepreneur Samuel Insull realized the way to maximize the financial returns from generating electricity was to have his company feed the maximum number of users, since his major expense was the initial cost of building the generating station. That dwarfed the cost of actually running the system. Therefore, the more customers, the faster the return on investment. This motivated the move toward centralized generation.

Another development was the invention of the demand meter, which became the uniform method for billing each customer according to usage. The next stage was the licensing and regulation of power companies by states and the granting of monopolies within designated geographic areas.

“By the 1920s, most urban areas were electrified,” according to EEI. Since 1935, the federal government has regulated interstate power, and state governments have regulated retail electric service, mergers, facility planning and siting. Because so much of the electric power industry is affected by government regulation, it becomes a crucial component in understanding the challenges of incorporating alternate energy technologies.

Distributed generation

The availability of small, nonpolluting alternative energy-generating facilities has the potential of reversing the trend toward ever-increasing centralization of electric power generation. It is now within the realm of possibility that distributed generation for some portion of our electricity needs might be viable.

One solution to the problem of fluctuating availability of wind and solar energy is to feed power back to the grid when the local source is generating more than can be used and drawing power from the grid when the local supply is insufficient. This is a somewhat tricky, but solvable, technical problem and an even trickier economic problem. Some of the important technological problems have to do with solving the economic and regulatory ones.

Federal regulation and economics

In the article “Upgrading the National Power Grid,” in the Fall 2004 issue of the Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal, Joshua Franklin traces the history of the regulations coordinating the electric power industry. Laws passed by Congress in 1935 gave the government the right to set utility rates so as to ensure power companies make a reasonable profit. In exchange for their monopoly and government-guaranteed profit, the power companies agreed to serve everyone in their area who was willing to pay the standard rates. The first change in this structure came in 1978 when the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was passed. One facet of this law was to deregulate the electric industry. It allowed nonutility-owned power generating plants to be created, which would connect their output to the grid. These were called qualifying small production facilities (QFs). The law required utilities to pay the QFs what it would have cost them to produce the same amount of energy. This ended the utilities’ government-guaranteed monopoly and encouraged the growth of small independent producers, who could generate power at a lower cost than the power they would receive from the utility. This was a disadvantage to the utilities since the larger portion of their expenses was not the cost of producing electricity, but rather was the amortized costs of building the large generating plants and the systems of transmission lines. However, since the utilities retained a natural monopoly of ownership of the transmission lines, QFs could not make independent deals with consumers.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 was aimed at leveling the playing field between utilities and small producers. According to Franklin, this law and two subsequent rulings by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made it possible for nonutility-power producers to sell power to utilities and other end-users.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 encourages the use of alternative-energy sources, but does not significantly modify the existing legislation as far as planning and control.

Study findings

A number of important studies of the overall strategies are being implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on the national level, and many regional studies and field experiments are being conducted by state governments, utilities and universities. The DOE’s Renewable Systems Interconnection Executive Report report was released in February 2008.

“DOE brought together a team of industry experts to address the technical, regulatory, and business issues that have the potential to limit the market uptake of distributed PV and other renewable technologies,” the report states. “One key finding of the RSI [renewable systems integration] study is that grid integration issues are likely to emerge much more rapidly than many analysts expect. In some regions of the United States, grid--integration-related barriers to future growth could emerge within the next five to 10 years.”

Among the many important findings, the report cites the necessity of developing uniform codes, standards and regulations.

“National requirements for power quality and active participation in power system operation must be developed,” it states.

EPRI, in its white paper titled, “Distributed Photovoltaics: Utility Integration Issues and Opportunities, August 2008,” states investment in photovoltaics comes with a great price but offers a great reward.

“Successful integration of substantial quantities of distributed PV will require grid modernization to maintain performance and reliability and to enable the communications, metering, and control functions needed for effective energy management, market access, service delivery, and grid operation,” the report states. “On the other hand, distributed PV will create opportunities for industry participants to serve consumers in different ways, develop new revenue streams, and meet societal objectives in a political, regulatory, and business climate likely to place an increasing premium on an intelligent grid capable of delivering clean energy and precision power in a reliable and secure manner. New business models, advanced technologies, and informed regulatory perspectives will help transform residential, commercial, and other distributed PV systems into grid assets.”

The road ahead

It is clear that there will be a major effort to incorporate alternative sources into our national electric power supply system. This movement has been underway since industry deregulation in 1978, and since then, there have been tremendous strides in the technology for production and control of renewable energy resources.

President Barack Obama has promised to make technology and the development of renewable energy resources major goals for his administration. There are many forces moving us in the direction of building and incorporating renewable energy that the only question is the rate of growth. This is an exciting moment filled with opportunities for forward-thinking people to play a major role. One of the predictions of the EPRI study is that PV units will become a standard component in much of our new construction. This is a business opportunity for electrical contractors who are willing to learn the technology and the existing code regulations and to get involved in planning for future developments.     

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor.
He serves as managing editor for Security + Life Safety Systems magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Challenging Times

BY Wayne d. Moore

Using the fire alarm market to stabilize your business

Although the origin of the phrase “May you live in interesting times” is uncertain, the times in which we are living are interesting. They also are challenging for many contractors, especially those who were “too busy” to diversify or learn more about specialty systems, such as fire alarm systems installations.

All of the pundits tell us new construction starts are down, but most of us can figure that out from watching the bailout fiascos march across our TV screens.

According to the McGraw-Hill’s Construction Outlook, the new construction market will continue to slide in 2009. But the bright part of the gloomy picture is that although construction is down, it hasn’t stopped. If you have paid attention to doing what is right and are going the extra mile for your customers, you will continue to get their work. One of the challenges today is to have a steady stream of business to at least pay your bills and keep your talented employees in place until the economy returns to a growth mode.

But these challenges also are opportunities to the contractor who is willing to look for them. For the professional contractor, there always will be fire alarm systems retrofit projects and upgrades. Regardless of the state of the economy, building owners must maintain their life safety systems. If you have developed your niche in the fire alarm systems market, you already know this and are taking advantage of the opportunities.

Now is a good time to enter the fire alarm systems market. Use this slow business period to attend fire alarm systems seminars to better understand the requirements of the National Fire Alarm Code. Network at your local Rotary Club. Volunteer to speak on the importance of maintaining a fire alarm system. Network with local fire officials. They often know owners who need installation or maintenance assistance even before the information becomes public.

If you don’t have a close relationship with a fire alarm systems supplier, now also is a good time to develop one. Working together with systems suppliers often leads to projects.

In addition, many fire alarm systems suppliers offer free training programs that you can use to train your technicians. You also can use this time to obtain certification from either the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies or the International Municipal Signal Association that will give you additional “marketability” for selling your fire alarm systems expertise. At the same time, mine your current customer base for contacts and market your fire alarm systems expertise. Never assume that because your present customers know your electrical systems installation strengths that they will automatically know your fire alarm systems background as well.

One of the ways to market your fire alarm systems maintenance abilities is to send instructional letters to your current customer base. Present them with the NFPA 72 requirements that the property or building owner or the owner’s designated representative is responsible for the inspection, testing and maintenance of the system and for alterations or additions to their fire alarm system. Develop a plan that will allow them to use your company to efficiently maintain their system by offering to audit what is currently installed. Article 110.12 of the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that “electrical equipment shall be installed in a neat and workmanlike manner.” It also specifically addresses the mechanical execution of work for fire alarm systems in Article 760.24 that states “Fire alarm circuits shall be installed in a neat workmanlike manner.” We have all seen “Code-compliant” installations that do not meet the intent of NEC Articles 110.12 and 760.24. And although those systems appear to be working, they are less than satisfactory when applying the operational reliability test to the installation. The audit can provide the customer with a report card of their systems as well as provide you the opportunity to develop upgrade suggestions and bids.

In these difficult times, make every effort to differentiate your company from the competition. One way is to become the acknowledged expert in fire alarm systems application and installation. Another is to be known as the most reliable contractor in town.

It is your choice. Wring your hands, and worry about losing business, or get busy and face the challenges with knowledge and hard work.

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


A Big Step Forward

BY russ munyan

An 802.11n retrofit offers and demands much

Low-voltage contractors who are keeping abreast of developments in their industry know wireless technology is in the process of moving to its next generation of wireless access, which will be defined by the IEEE standard 802.11n.

Of course, wireless access is not new, but 802.11n promises to bring new technologies to network users that will result in significantly increased functionality.

“This is a big step forward in the industry that will make a profound difference in networks,” said Randy Nickel, wireless manager for Intel’s Mobile Platforms Group. “This breakthrough is going to increase the performance vector throughput by up to five times.”

While there is more to 802.11n than can be fully explained here (a simple Internet search will provide plenty of good information), low-voltage contractors need to understand the cabling related topics and demands. Just as it will be logical for project owners to expect their IT directors to understand the “how it works” elements of 802.11n, so will they expect their cabling contractors to understand the cabling issues.

“A retrofit is a lot different than in a new build or ‘greenfield’ installation,” Nickel said.

A greenfield allows a relatively unobstructed design of the network, so a contractor can place wireless access points (APs) in optimum locations.

“But 802.11n has so much greater range and reliability than previous generations that a retrofit will require a lot more than just ripping down the old and putting up the new [and] thinking that happiness will follow,” Nickel said.

Test to 1 gigabit

“The first major consideration on a retrofit is to assess your cabling,” said David Veneski, Fluke Networks’ marketing manager for certification products. “You can’t install 802.11n on just any cable drop and be sure that it will work. It might, but it might not.

“The 802.11n standard, as presently drafted, specifies data rates as high as 600 Mbps,” he said. “But most preexisting Cat 5 or Cat 5e cable networks were never tested for data rates beyond 100 Mbps, so the installed base of Cat 5 or 5e copper could obstruct 802.11n connections.”

That means the preferred cable for 802.11n’s higher throughput is at least Category 6 (or better) twisted pair, which will be the logical greenfield choice. However, a Cat 6 reinstall will be out of the question for many existing networks.

“All 802.11n uplinks should be able to support 1 gigabit Ethernet (1,000BASE-T) traffic, which means that Cat 5 or 5e may actually work,” Veneski said. “But it will all come down to proper testing to determine if a network’s existing twisted-pair cabling is suitable.”

Of course, if patchcords are already in-place, the certification should be done as a channel test, rather than a permanent link test. In addition, new 802.11n devices may require upgraded Ethernet switch ports, or even replacing an entire switch.

Site survey

Following a retest of an existing cable network, the next step in a retrofit to 802.11n will likely be a site survey, said Carolyn Carter, Fluke Networks’ product manager for wireless networking.

“You can do a traditional walking survey, taking RSSI [received signal strength indication] measurements with laptop software, though that can be labor-intensive,” she said. “In many cases, a better way may be to use site survey software that uses predictive simulation.”

Carter said some vendors are encouraging users to skip the site survey in favor of an AP deployment.

“That is risky, though, because chances are that you’ll end up installing more APs than you need,” she said. “And commercial-grade 802.11n APs are two- to three-times more expensive than previous generations, costing about $1,300 each.”

Mid-2009 (-ish)

The actual release date of the 802.11n standard is currently expected to be around the middle of 2009, but that date has already been extended multiple times.

“That does not mean that people should be thinking of 802.11n as still coming, though,” Nickel said. “It’s already here. The IEEE approval process has lagged what the industry is already doing. At this point, that approval is merely perfunctory.”

He said all of Intel’s offerings have been on the proposed 802.11n standard since July 2007.

“There are already hundreds of millions of devices out there operating on the 802.11n standard,” he said.

That means there also are many existing cable networks that will need to be tested and retrofitted for this powerful new technology that is fast becoming the industry norm. That translates to a large and profitable opportunity for telecommunications contractors that educate and equip themselves to pursue clients who will want this higher level of wireless performance.       

Munyan is a freelance writer in Olathe, Kan., specializing in technical and business writing. He can be reached at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Make the Access Control Connection

by allan b. colombo

According to the FBI, There were more than 1.4 million acts of violent crime, or 466.9 offenses per 100,000 Americans, in 2007. Over the same period, nearly 10 million property crimes occurred, or 3,263.5 per 100,000. Although the overall level of crime has gone down in recent years, the need for security is still on the minds of those responsible for the security and safety of large corporations and institutional facilities. This is a great time for electrical contractors (ECs) to enter the security market, especially where it involves access control. The need to control foot traffic into and from office buildings, warehouses and other facilities has never been so great.

Look before you leap

The first step in the process of entering any market is to carefully pick a primary vendor. This company is where your firm will obtain most of the access control equipment your low--voltage technicians install. The same company also must provide assistance in order for your company to succeed.

ECs should consider the following basic issues:

Product support and longevity

Quality technical support

Product reliability

Ease of installation

Ease of programming

When selecting an access control system, ECs should take a close look at the manufacturer that designs and builds it. Be sure to ask questions, such as the following:

How long has the firm been in business?

What is its track record in the field?

Can it provide replacement parts when needed?

If an equipment manufacturer hasn’t been in business for at least five years, you may hesitate to choose it as your primary vendor. As a general rule, it takes three to five years before a new startup company’s survival is somewhat assured. Also, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a list of companies that purchase products from it. Be sure to contact some of these firms for a reference.

Lastly, what is its chain of distribution? Does the distributors stock replacement parts, or do you have to rely entirely on the factory? As equipment ages and breakdowns occur, you must be able to procure replacement parts quickly. The fact is timely product delivery and technical support can make or break you in the security business.

Getting quality help when needed

Another issue that should be looked at is whether quality technical help is available and how long your technicians have to wait to get it. Traditionally, the most important means of assistance in this regard is the telephone. Unfortunately, some companies have a high turnover in technical representatives, which means a good percentage of their work force may lack the knowledge needed to provide quality, timely help.

The other part of the support issue is how long your field techs have to wait to get help. The last thing you want is for your technicians to sit idle while on hold, waiting for a representative to answer the phone. After all, time is money.

The quality and format of the technical manuals provided by the equipment manufacturer also are important. Quality vendors continue to provide hardcopy manuals with the products. In addition, most offer them online on their Web site. These manuals must be easy to read and understand or your technicians will need to call the manufacturer’s support department.

The bottom line is look for a vendor that offers a fax-back service and an extensive document section on its Web site. Both services usually are available on a 24-hour basis. Some may require you to enroll.

Product reliability

Another important criteria to consider when choosing an equipment vendor is reliability. You should not select your primary vendor on the basis of price alone. Although price must figure into the equation, product quality and reliability should be considered foremost. Otherwise, your technicians will be running free service calls all the time during the warranty period.

For example, clients who use computer-based access control systems could experience problems with software unless a careful examination of an access control product is carried out before selection occurs. You may need to hire a consultant on a short-term basis to assist you with this type of in-depth review.

Another factor to consider is the duration of trouble-free operation of the selected system when the host computer goes offline for prolonged time periods.

Today, most of the systems sold employ distributed architecture, which means they are designed to operate in stand-alone or distributed mode. The concern here is event storage, which directly relates to the time period that reader controllers will continue to operate when in stand-alone mode. Once the host comes back online, every event that has taken place since it went offline is uploaded to the host by each reader controller for analysis, report generation and long-term storage.

Considering the relatively low cost of data storage, these systems should operate for prolonged periods without a hitch.

Many systems require the software to send a command to lock a door, make valid cardholder decisions according to a time schedule, process elevator requests and change cardholder area status. A good system will be able to do all of this while the host is offline.

Installation considerations

One of the things that makes access control systems easier to install today than previously is the introduction of packaged systems. Using this approach, electrical contractors new to the access control market are better assured that they will have what is needed to put a basic system in place. Many of the manufacturers who offer this convenience do so by signing purchase agreements with peripheral manufacturers.

Because the primary system manufacturer assumes the task of purchasing and stocking the various peripherals, the dealer does not have to. This simplifies the dealer’s job; he does not have to hassle with procuring each piece of hardware. This saves the dealer time and allows him to place his hard-earned money where it will do the most good, rather than as stock on a shelf.

Another important feature related to installation is the ability to accommodate a wide variety of applications. Certainly, the system selected should be flexible enough to handle small, single-door installations to larger multiple-door installations.

One way to do this is to use a system that uses access readers and controllers that can be used in stand-alone or multiple-door modes. Thus, single-door readers installed today can be used later when a client decides to expand the system. This reduces the amount of stock the dealer must keep on the shelf. It also assures the client that what he purchases today will fulfill his needs tomorrow.

Dealers also should use access control systems that employ common communication protocols, instead of proprietary ones. The Wiegand protocol, for example, offers the ability to install anybody’s keypad, card reader, optical card scanner or proximity reader on anyone else’s access control platform.

In addition, an access control system should have the ability to communicate using hardwire, a local area network, a wide area network, dial-up, wireless and optical-fiber technologies. Lack of flexibility in this regard could cause the client to replace his or her system, hiring another contractor in the process.


Another important aspect associated with product choice is programming ease and flexibility. The system that lacks these qualities will ultimately cost the electrical contractor more in time, effort and future business.

There are several essentials dealers need to look for with regard to programming:

Feature expandability

Customized reports

Panel status queries

Online programming help

Online troubleshooting help

Remote panel access

Addition of database fields in software

As mentioned earlier, the access control system selected should be expandable beyond a single door, ensuring that the electrical contractor will be able to meet a variety of applications. Otherwise, it may be faced with supporting more than one manufacturer’s software.

An expandable access control platform also ensures that the contractor does not have to carry and support several different access control systems made by two or more vendors. A quality system may require a license based on the number of doors needed and other criteria. Of course, the more doors you must cover, the more the license will cost.

The software also should provide the dealer with the necessary tools to add database fields to the card holder entry screen. In addition, it must provide the dealer and his client with the necessary tools to customize reports, using the activity data and other information stored within the system.

Another important programming feature is the ability to query the panel for its current status. This feature is extremely helpful when fine-tuning the programming and ferreting out communication problems and bugs in software.

Dealers also should look for extensive help files. Be sure help is available from each edit screen, otherwise your installers must  leaf through the operator’s manual more than they would like, which takes time away from more pressing matters.

There is no doubt that this is a great time for the electrical contractor to enter the access control market. Doing the necessary homework up front is essential to starting off on the right foot. Otherwise, a contractor might be forced to back up and start over later by looking for another access control platform that will better suit his or her client’s varying needs.       

Colombo is a 33-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He is director with and a nationally recognized trade journalist in East Canton, Ohio. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Electrical Contractors: A Natural for Access Control

Electrical contractors (ECs) are usually responsible for the infrastructure that makes life safety and security happen, including the installation of conduit, cable, control panels and peripheral equipment. Traditionally, when the EC is finished, a low-voltage firm makes the final connections and performs the necessary programming.

The low-voltage specialty contractor also usually ends up with any recurring monthly revenue (RMR) that may come out of the project, such as ongoing maintenance and a long-term maintenance contract on intrusion and fire alarm systems as well as access control.

In the end, not only does the electrical contractor miss out on the short-term profit potential from the sale of access control equipment, but it also sacrifices long-term profits realized from RMR income.

The saddest part is that electrical contractors are well positioned to do it all, thus earn it all. There is no reason why an electrical contractor’s low-voltage division should not be involved in an access control installation from start to finish. Before doing so, however, it is important that management do its homework and prepare technicians for any issues they may encounter.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


New Leader Navigates a Sea of Change

claire swedberg

Rex Ferry begins a three-year term leading NECA until 2011

REX FERRY—Valley Electrical Consolidated Inc. president/CEO and former National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Vice President, District II—is the new NECA president, following exiting president Milner Irvin. Ferry brings nearly four decades of experience in the electrical industry and intends to use that experience to help foster education and growth.

Ferry graduated from high school in 1969 and joined the IBEW Local 573, Warren, Ohio, apprenticeship program, which he completed in 1972. He served 16 years as a journeyman and foreman before joining Valley, Girard, Ohio, as partner/vice president in 1988. At that time, the family-run company focused the bulk of its work in the automotive and manufacturing industry in the area between Youngstown and Cleveland.

In 1990, Ferry bought the company. At the time, it was earning about $4.5 million annually with a dwindling customer base as Ohio’s manufacturing work moved out of the country. Accepting the challenge, he took charge and brought in many of his own relatives, continuing a family tradition at the company.

“This is a family business,” Ferry said.

His wife of 36 years—his high school sweetheart, Mary—is corporate secretary and board member. Ferry has two daughters; Tricia Ferry is head of human resources at Valley, and Rachel Barber serves as accounts receivable manager. His son-in-law Jeff Barber is vice president of the systems integration and technology division.

Since buying the business, Ferry has turned it into a major national player. Today, Valley has 42 office staff members, including engineers, and approximately 130 electricians, which increases to 330 electricians during peak times.

Ferry made several strategic changes that brought on the company’s growth. Valley built a low-voltage division, VEC Systems Integrator, in 2001. In 2003, Valley acquired Evets Electric, Girard, Ohio. Together, these helped bring the company’s revenues from $15–18 million in 2001 to $50 million last year.

Evets Electric is a specialty electrical contractor that works primarily in the natural gas and oil industry. The company undertakes hazardous-location projects, such as gas compressor stations, petroleum plants, refineries, airport fueling stations and fuel storage yards with customers such as Duke Energy and Columbia Gas.

Together, Evets and Valley have focused on gas and oil compressor stations and metering stations as well as refueling stations for military bases, such as Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado and the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.

Primarily, Valley continues to serve steel and automotive clients in the Mahoning Valley and Cleveland area and has supplemented its work with installations in hospitals and schools. With Evets, Valley also contributes more industrial work that has taken the company to Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and up and down the East Coast.

“Our strategy has been continued growth,” Ferry said.

And the growth has been a result of not only smart acquisitions, but of a philosophy that encourages the business to respond to the changing market.

“We’re blessed with a lot of young people here,” he said, adding that it has allowed the company to join the technical and low-voltage arena without much pain.

Electrical engineer Chris Jaskiewicz, whom Ferry hired from Youngstown State University’s engineering department, is COO and senior vice president of Valley VEC.

NECA involvement

Within NECA, Ferry served on the local Mahoning Valley Chapter as board member, president and governor before going national as vice president for District 2.

As Ferry begins his three-year term at the helm of NECA, he said the changing climate for the IBEW and NECA will be his focus. He will direct his attention to education and communication as the electrical industry moves forward in a shifting business and technological climate. These goals will help address the large-scale retirement of contractors and electricians, movement into voice/data/video and building automation, and a growing emphasis on sustainable building.

To increase education, he intends to focus on building leadership and training the new generation of contractors, journeymen and apprentices to be leaders. The IBEW faces the loss of millions of workers in the next five years and behind them comes a shortfall. Ferry believes the incoming electrical workers are a vital part of the industry’s future. And he sees a great opportunity to educate future leaders of the electrical industry. Ferry first attended a NECA Future Leaders program meeting in May 2007.

“[It] opened my eyes to how smart all these young people are,” Ferry said.

He intends to support the continuation of this leadership program, whose members include Valley’s Jaskiewicz and Barber. He also plans to go over NECA’s education programs already in place, working with the Management Education Institute.

“I don’t have a college degree myself,” he said. “My experience came from NECA.” He values that experience and wants to ensure other electricians and contractors can have access to the same kind of valuable information.

Communication will be Ferry’s other focus. With this in mind, he said, it is vital that NECA continues its efforts with the Labor Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC).

“I’ve always said a strong LMCC equals more man-hours. That’s what all of us want, whether IBEW or NECA: more man-hours and the opportunity for more man-hours. What we have to do is open the lines of communication to make that our shared priority,” he said.

Ferry said communication will be at the root of improvements for both NECA and the IBEW.

“We’ve got to quit sweating the small details. We have to find ways to negotiate and move forward,” he said.

That, he said, will not happen overnight.

“When I reread NECA’s history recently, I read about codes and standards that we take for granted today but that were major issues back then,” he said.

Those issues were resolved, he pointed out, through a process of negotiation, and without that, it simply doesn’t happen

“To be a successful businessperson you have to figure out ways to be flexible,” he said.

The industry as a whole is changing, and the skills electrical contractors need to provide are as much about data and security as pulling cable. Like contractors at the turn of the previous century, NECA and the IBEW today must focus on how to start building policy for the future, a future that looks little like the business of 100 years ago.

One example is the focus on energy consumption. Ferry expects NECA’s National Energy Summit to continue looking at energy management issues and to put national programs together with energy management in mind.

“The NECA Energy Plan will make our contractors competitive in this growing new field,” he said.

Ferry also hopes to continue increasing membership. In 2006, the executive committee set the membership pledge for a 3 percent increase yearly, which has not yet been fully met. Ferry hopes to boost that membership drive, in part by meeting regularly with local boards and continuing an approach of regular conference calls with NECA chapters throughout the country.

To meet the industry’s changing needs, Ferry believes leadership skills for the next generation of electricians, flexibility among the entire membership, and communication will all be essential. He recalls looking out over the waters of Lake Erie, watching big cargo vessels make their way through the waters. That image, he said, reminds him of NECA and the IBEW.

“We’re a huge ship in the middle of the Great Lakes,” he said.

If that ship has to change direction, the movement is going to seem slow and cumbersome, but it does change direction.

“What’s fortunate for me is to arrive here at this time,” he said. “We have young people coming in, and they understand we have to do things differently. We’re working with a customer that demands changes, and we are now in the midst of a transition.”

Ferry said the past presidents that have served during his involvement with NECA have all motivated him.

“I have always been impressed with the dedication of the last four NECA presidents,” he said. “Their dedication to NECA and to the industry has always inspired me, and I have every intention of being just as dedicated. I think we all feel we’ve been blessed by the leadership that came before us and by the advantages their efforts have given us. Now it’s my turn to step up and do the right thing for NECA.”

Ferry will continue to work from his Ohio office with visits to the Washington, D.C., area. On average, that will mean 120 to 130 days per year in travel. However, he doesn’t consider himself a workaholic.

“With communication technology today, I can be anywhere,” he said.

In the meantime, he’ll still enjoy traveling with his wife, visiting with his three grandchildren and spending a few hours playing golf.           


SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Studies in Savings

BY edward brown

Reducing peak demand and your electric bill, part 2

Real-world experiments to reduce electricity costs by automatically reducing peak demand provide information that can be used to convince end-users these measures lead to significant monetary savings.


The state of California and the U.S. Department of Energy jointly sponsored a 2003–2006 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The “Introduction to Commercial Building Control Strategies and Techniques for Demand Response” provides information on a range of control strategies that can be implemented to reduce both peak and average electrical usage. It looked at 56 different sites, including office buildings, a library, schools, a detention facility and retail establishments. Definitions from the report clarify key concepts.

Demand response (DR) strategies: “Demand response is dynamic and event-driven and can be defined as short-term modifications in customer end-use electric loads in response to dynamic price and reliability information.”

Two strategies for responding to DR signals initiated by an electric utility are “demand limiting,” in which a portion of the load is cut back, and “demand shifting,” which is implemented by changing the time at which the electricity is used.

Shared burden: “DR strategies that share the burden evenly throughout the facility are least likely to have negative effects on building occupants.”

Granularity of control “refers to the amount of floor area covered by each controlled parameter (e.g., temperature).” A more granular system allows the temperature setpoints throughout the facility to be separately adjusted according to the needs of each particular area.

Adjusting the central cooling or heating equipment, for example, can cause uncomfortable temperature extremes in some areas and troublesome temperature swings in sensitive areas like computer data rooms.

Georgia Tech

A November 2007 article in the ASHRAE Journal—“BACnet at Georgia Tech” by Donald P. Alexander, Cornelius Ejimofor and David G. Holmberg—details a 2006 project at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in which automated load shedding would cut back the air conditioning in response to a given trigger. Georgia Tech is a large energy user because in addition to heating and cooling classrooms, dorms and offices, it supports many research projects.

According to the article, “Large facility owners generally negotiate yearly or multiyear electric service agreements and often are given lower base rates in exchange for sharing the risk of price fluctuations. This agreement may take the form of a capped rate or may go as far as a real-time market rate where the facility owner sees every price spike in the electric market. Price spikes due to normal summer heat, as well as unforeseen events such as power plant emergency shutdowns, occasionally can reach five times the base utility rate, or higher. The challenge for the facility owner is how to reduce power consumption during periods of peak pricing, while maintaining mission critical building loads.”

For this project, Georgia Tech agreed to be charged at the fluctuating price rates, known as the real-time price (RTP). The university partnered with its electric utility company and a controls manufacturer to tie into the existing building control network and automatically trigger demand limiting when the real-time price rose above a certain level. It chose the electrical engineering instruction building,

which doesn’t house research labs that must be held at very stable temperatures. Because the HVAC system was already under digital control, the university was able to interface it with the utility’s pricing database through the Internet. The control system was programmed, so when the price level for the following two hours was calculated to be above the agreed-on trigger level, the HVAC system would go into energy-savings mode. The technique was to adjust the temperature setback points in five different zones throughout the building. Since various areas in the building have different thermal load demands, the temperature set points are at different levels. Researchers chose to respond to load shedding commands by widening the heating and cooling offset ranges from ±2°F to ±5°F, rather than changing the setpoints. The nighttime range when the building was unoccupied was set to ±9°F.

The data in the study was extrapolated to predict that if the same strategies were extended campus-wide, the annual savings in energy costs would be $150,000. In addition, a “benefit, beyond cost avoidance, is that Georgia Tech now has a method based on the dynamics of electrical cost to alter control parameters to allow more saving strategies in the future.”

This subject is very important, and there is so much information packed into these reports that this column will continue to cover them next month. Meanwhile, readers may wish to review the full reports.

The Georgia Tech report can be found at

The California report can be found at

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. He serves as managing editor for Security + Life Safety Systems magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Choosing the Right DVR

BY allan b. colombo

Cheaper isn’t always better

a pharmacist friend called about a couple of after-hours attempts to break into his establishment. In both incidents, the perpetrators were frightened off by the intrusion alarm system. Because he had a good shot of the criminals on video, he thought the police would have little trouble identifying them, but he was wrong.

When the police arrived on the scene and asked for a copy of the video, it was soon discovered that there was no way to remove it from the digital video recorder (DVR). He realized that there was no provision made to export digital images to a magnetic or optical storage device. The only way to share images with law enforcement using his DVR is to physically remove the hard drive from the machine. In this case, the hard drive is part of an assembly that can be pulled from a docking station within the DVR using a key—a solution that unfortunately did not simplify the process for the end-user.

Choosing a DVR begins with a close examination of what the buyer intends to do with his camera system. He must consider his current and future needs. In the pharmacist’s case, four cameras may have been all he needed when he purchased the system, but now he may need more. Buying with the future in mind not only saves money, but it results in a more integrated approach where camera control and image storage are carried out in a more efficient way.

DVRs come with as few as four or as many as 32 video channels. Starting with four cameras, the number of video channels doubles with each upgrade, for a maximum of 32. Network-based storage systems also are available, but we will confine our discussion to stand-alone DVRs, which dominate the market at this time.

Another issue end-users need to consider is how images are recorded. There are three basic methods used to store video images to a magnetic hard drive: quad, mux and full frame.

The quad method squashes up to four images into a single image frame.

“In quad, four camera images are recorded on a single frame [or image]. This gives the illusion that the machine is capable of recording 120 images per second (ips) when it’s really only recording 30 ips,” said Erron Spalsbury, account manager, of Boulder, Colo.

“And since there are four cameras sharing a single frame/image identifying a person or car in essentially (one-quarter) of a 640-by-480 pixel area means that the image quality will be rather poor. But a better quality DVR that uses full-frame mode is capable of truly recording 120 ips, which will give you a much better quality image,” Spalsbury said.

Using the mux method, images are recorded one after the other in a serial format with embedded data that defines each as camera 1 through 4.

The third method, and the best, saves full-frame images in folders or baskets that correlate to each specific camera.

Exporting images for police

When an incident occurs, there must be a way to export images for law enforcement. My pharmacist friend said he didn’t consider exporting images for law enforcement before the incident.

There are several ways to export images. Some of the most popular types of image export include the following:

A read/writable CD-ROM burner

A USB port

An Ethernet port for integration to a local area network (LAN), an individual PC or to a modem for Internet connectivity

Unless the alarm salesman educates the client with regard to cost versus quality, the client likely will award the job to the lowest bidder. As in the case of the pharmacist, we have seen what can happen when price alone motivates a final buying decision.

Including a high-end DVR on each quote you give is perhaps one alternative. It’s also necessary to explain the difference between quad, mux and full frame, so the buyer fully understands the difference between each.

Another way to do that is to use the video tools made available on the Web  sites of many DVR manufacturers, such as that of Spalsbury’s There are other DVR manufacturers in the marketplace that, similar to 3xlogic, offers graphic tools to illustrate these differences. For a list of video sales tools, go to 

Colombo is a 33-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He is director with and a nationally recognized trade journalist in East Canton, Ohio. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Acronyms of NAED

by Tom Naber

I’d like to start off this month’s president’s note by saying, “NERF encourages you to utilize our powerful lineup of educational programs, including EPEC and EDGE.” Translation: “The National Association of Electrical Distributors’s Education & Research Foundation encourages you to utilize our powerful lineup of educational programs, including the Electrical Products Education Course and Electrical Distributor Guided Education.”

Is it any wonder I took a shortcut to get my point across?

Welcome to the wonderful world of acronyms. Acronyms are words formed from the initial letters or parts of a phrase, and our industry is full of them. NAED, of course, has a bunch. In addition to those mentioned above, there’s also ASSET, CEP, CAP, NLC, PAR, and SPA, just to name a few. Industry associations such as IDEA, NAW, NEMRA, and NECA have their own as well. It can all get a little confusing.

This “acronym confusion” isn’t exclusive to our industry, though. Look, for example, at some of the environmental groups. PETA certainly doesn’t stand for People Eating Tasty Animals. And, contrary to popular opinion, WWF’s goal is not to promote wrestling, but to save the Earth. Now those last sentences may have made you LOL, but the complex world of acronyms isn’t always a laughing matter—sometimes it can make your head spin.

To help clear up some of the confusion—at least in our industry—we’ve included a guide to NAED’s acronyms in this month’s NAED Direct section (see page 76).

While figuring out what NAED’s acronyms stand for can be something of a challenge, there is one thing that’s clear: They represent some of the most powerful educational products available to develop the knowledge and skills of your employees.

They also represent benchmarking tools to help you analyze and compare your business to others in the industry, allowing you to deliver better service to customers and compete more effectively. They represent the people conducting industry research and bringing to light the hard-hitting information you need to know to expand into emerging markets and protect your businesses.  And they represent an association that understands the needs of our members and the challenges they face.

Altogether, these acronyms represent an association that is here for you. Take full advantage of your membership and the benefits it provides.

Not sure where to start or what programs are right for you? Call our customer service team at 888-791-2512 today. Tell us your needs and we’ll help you find real solutions.

Naber is president & CEO of NAED. He can be reached at 314-812-5312 or

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


The Census Bureau offers a snapshot of electrical distribution

by Joe Salimando

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 1,500 electrical distributor establishments (which equates to headquarter locations, offices, and branches) vanished from 2001 to 2006. The data also show that the average employee was paid $58,086 in 2006—about 2.2% more than the average salary of those in the rest of distribution and 20% more than the electrical distribution average in 2001.

Because the results of the most recent (2007) Economic Census, a tally the Census Bureau takes every five years, have not been released, the information below comes from the Census Bureau’s recently released County Business Patterns (CBP) report for 2006.

The CBP report provides selected data for NAICS classification 42361, the wholesale trade breakout for electrical apparatus and equipment, wiring suppliers, and related equipment wholesalers.

Table one provides national data by size—comparing 2001 with 2006—and shows that the bulk of the five-year decline in establishments has come in the smallest company-size category.

Table two offers comparisons with wholesale trade totals and figures from the 2001 County Business Patterns. There are two points to make here:

1.TED does not present this as the final word on the number of locations in the industry; note that 2001 was the tail end of a boom period.

2. Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, pointed out that the employment data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) point in another direction: BLS data show employment in electrical distribution declining from 160,700 in March 2001 to 146,700 in March 2006—an 8.7% decline, rather than the 1.5% increase shown here.

Salimando, an Oakton, Virginia-based writer, can be reached at This article was written with significant input from Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting ( 

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


Steer clear of stormy seas

When it comes to avoiding counterfeits, knowledge is power.

by D. Douglas Graham

According to intellectual property rights seizure statistics for fiscal year 2008, released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Jan. 11, there was a 43% increase in seizures of counterfeit electrical products during 2008 over 2007, with a total value of almost $23 million. The category for electrical products represented 8% of all seizures and ranked fifth among all product categories of counterfeit goods seized. In addition to $1.8 million worth of counterfeit batteries, electrical articles seized include power adaptors, extension cords, circuit breakers, and lighting products. The customs data indicates that the counterfeit electrical articles come from China and Hong Kong.

“Product counterfeits are a major issue,” explained Travis Johnson, vice president and director, legislative affairs and policy, International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC).

“The scope of the problem has enlarged in recent years in terms of both volume and variety of product,” he noted. “Counterfeiting used to mostly affect the apparel and luxury goods markets, but now the fakers are churning out everything from shampoo to circuit breakers.”

Technological advances have sired a “democratization of craftsmanship,” said Fred Felman, chief marketing officer for MarkMonitor (, a San Francisco-based company in the business of protecting the brands and reputations of the world’s largest corporations.

According to Felman, everything one needs to convincingly duplicate the look and packaging of the most sought-after products is now available anywhere at low prices. This unprecedented state of affairs has given rise to a counterfeiting epidemic for which a cure remains illusive.

“Phonies materialize on wholesalers’ shelves via a number of paths,” he explained. “They surface on Internet auction sites, as bulk goods exchanged on B2B trading networks, and via just about any portal through which a counterfeiter can gain access.”

The fakers are getting better at their game as well. “We’re seeing a higher level of sophistication in packaging, the goods themselves, and the scams used to distribute them,” Felman said.

Preventative Medicine

A distributor infected with counterfeit products may experience symptoms such as a sudden decline in the sales of popular product lines or a spike in returns, as usually reliable items crash in the field. Left unattended, a serious infection can quickly turn lethal, as the perception spreads that the company is deliberately trading in shoddy goods.

Prevention, say experts, is the best cure. First and foremost, use common sense. Packaging, price, and place of origin are potential fraud tip-offs. Other red flags include misspellings on the container or polybag, a price too low to be rational, and a shipped-from point not customary for an OEM or supplier.

“Beware of material sold outside normal distribution channels,” cautioned Tim Gill, director of economics for NEMA. “Get worried when a product label conflicts with others posted on the same package or is printed in poorly written English.

“If you have authenticity concerns, contact the manufacturer or certifying body for additional information,” he added. “Counterfeits are a troublesome issue in distribution, but with the combined effort of everyone in the supply chain, it’s not an unsolvable one.”

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


Layoffs at Belden highlight tough times everywhere

On Dec. 3, Belden Inc. said it would lose 1,800 associates, 20% of its workforce. From John Stroup, president/CEO: “We expect that economic conditions will remain challenging for some time. Therefore, it is necessary for us to further adjust our cost structure so that we can continue to be competitive under such conditions. We regret the hardship these actions will impose on our associates.”

Other observations from recent financial pronouncements:

Inflation is still in play. From Baldor’s Oct. 23 press release: “Cost inflation in electrical steel, our largest raw material purchase, is in excess of 60% for the year.”

Hope is visible in some areas. From a Nov. 26 stock recommendation by B. Riley, as printed in Barron’s, on Wesco’s prospects: “We believe Wesco is currently a much stronger and more streamlined organization than at the start of this decade and therefore better positioned to combat the anticipated economic slowdown and continue to outperform the industry.”

Shelf-restocking hesitation remains a problem. In Coleman Cable’s Q3 conference call, held Nov. 7, Gary Yetman, president and CEO, said: “I think what we’re struggling with a little bit is the drop in copper, or the volatility in copper has a lot of distributors just kind of sitting back and possibly not loading up with inventory like they normally would.” —Joe Salimando

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


Graybar’s reasons for being

If it’s all about people, this St. Louis-based business has an edge.

by Joe Salimando

Recently, a noted industry consultant wrote that Graybar was making half the profit of its larger competitors and was hurting itself by shunning private labeling. For Robert Reynolds Jr., chairman, president, and CEO, such remarks are off the mark, for reasons dating back to 1925. “This person doesn’t understand our structure, our reason for being,” Reynolds said. “The profitability is absolutely there. The only difference is that our employees own this company, so if you’re reading one of our statements and look at ‘the bottom line,’ it’s smaller because we distribute profits before they get down there.”

Reynolds explained that in the past two years, Graybar paid its employees 15% of total salary and incentives through a profit-sharing arrangement. “That’s over and above the dividends on Graybar stock [see sidebar on the opposite page],” he said. “In addition to that, we have contributed more than $100 million to our defined-benefit pension plan in the past two years—most companies are moving away from those.

“So if you take the cost of the cash and stock dividends, the profit sharing, and the pension plan and put that all back in our numbers, our profitability is certainly there,” he continued. “Basically, what you have isn’t just about numbers. It’s a failure to understand what Graybar is all about.”

In other words, Graybar is run for the benefit of its employees, many of whom are also its owners. More than 5,800 retirees and current Graybar employees own a stake in the company.

Private label veto

Still, the comments on the private-label issue raise a valid concern. Why should Graybar avoid putting its name on products? In fact, didn’t a significant percentage of respondents to a 2007 survey say that Graybar was the leader in private labeling?

“We had a good chuckle at that result, and then we ran the advertisements saying we are not in the private label business,” Reynolds said. “Okay—we do have the Graybar name on a five-gallon bucket of pulling line, which was done at the manufacturer’s request. And we’ve done some programs, many years ago, on lighting—a Meter Miser product with Graybar’s name on it, for example. In that case, again, we were just supporting the manufacturer.”

Allen Tel, a supplier of datacom products, is a different matter. The line can only be purchased at Graybar’s branches. Doesn’t that seem like some kind of private-label deal?

“I guess maybe it was Allen Tel that led people to give that answer in the survey,” Reynolds said. “That’s a unique situation, which started years ago with Allen Foster living next door to a Graybar sales rep. The rep needed a product for a customer, and Foster, who was an inventor, came up with it.

“Over the years, that relationship blossomed. And yes, we do have an exclusive relationship with Allen Tel. But it’s not our brand name; it’s a company owned by Foster’s daughter,” he continued.

Allen Tel may not be a traditional private-label operation, but it does raise a question about whether Graybar’s success in selling that company’s products exclusively indicate that private labeling might be a good option.

“We have selfish reasons for avoiding private labeling,” Reynolds admitted. “We disagree with a lot of what’s written in the marketplace about it. For one thing, there are liability issues in manufacturing, and we just don’t want to bear those. For another, it seems to open the door to counterfeit products.

“We work for the customers, and we work for the manufacturers,” he added. “By not putting our name on products made at a much lower cost, no one has to worry about a lower-quality product being bought or sold at a Graybar branch.”

Contractor focus

Over time the percentage of business Graybar has done with electrical contractors has grown.

A strong focus on that market is and has long been a major part of the company’s business strategy. That could be seen at this year’s NECA show, where Reynolds was in the Graybar booth on the floor. He’s “worked the booth” in years past, and plans to be in Seattle in September for the 2009 event.

That’s a bit unusual in that you don’t necessarily find other distributor or manufacturer CEOs pressing the flesh with their contractor customers at that show.

“I like to think we’re a consultant for the contractor,” Reynolds explained. “They can rely on us to help. We’ve gone out to these customers and asked; What is it we can do for you? Beyond the informal meetings that I have, and that others in our company have, we participate very heavily in NECA and in IEC.

“We are a Platinum Partner with IEC, for example. And now we are a NECA Premier Partner as well,” he noted.

People as priority

As a company, Graybar is unique among the larger electrical distributors in many ways. “One question that comes to me, quite frequently and in many different ways, amounts to this: ‘Why do you do the things that you do?’” Reynolds laughed. “You have to go back to the beginning. Many people know we are an employee-owned company, and that the employees bought Graybar from Western Electric in 1929. But few know that the company was put on the market in 1925. There was a stipulation with the sale, though, which may explain why there were no takers.

“Whoever bought the company had to provide the same level of benefits as if the employees were still working for Western Electric,” Reynolds explained.

“Graybar exists to be a progressive company. We’re highly recognized for that. We want to provide gainful employment and a high quality of life for our employees,” Reynolds added.

Reynolds noted that this ethos is designed to create a better situation for everyone.

“Employee ownership is better for the company, better for our customers, better for our suppliers,” he said.

“Of course, with our employees as owners, we focus very carefully on who we hire,” Reynolds continued. “We have a unique relationship with our people. We will hire people from the outside, and we get plenty of applications. But we really like to promote from within.”

Reynolds himself is an example of this characteristic.

“I’m a second-generation Graybar employee,” he said. “My dad didn’t push me into the company, but here I am. I went to work sweeping out a warehouse after graduating from college; my friends thought I was crazy. Now I’m the CEO.”

Reynolds even has two sons working at Graybar. Further, he says that that is not unusual.

“They are not the only third-generation people working for our company. We even have a few fourth-generation employees,” he noted.

A few years ago, Reynolds asked one of Graybar’s executives to move from sales into human resources. “There were some questions about this move, but I told that person: You’re missing the point. For Graybar, HR is a strategy,” Reynolds recalled.

“In fact, it’s not just ‘a strategy’; it’s my No. 1 strategy. People are the heart of every distribution company, of course. But for Graybar, we see ourselves as the people-oriented company in a people-oriented business,” Reynolds said.

Salimando writes regularly for and frequently on electrical contracting at Email him at

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


In search of relief

The healthcare market is looking for those who can help soothe its aches and pains.

by Carol Katarsky

Like any other end-user, hospitals are looking for efficient solutions and ways to cut costs. But to be successful in this market, distributors need to be sensitive to its unique and highly regulated operating environment. Fortunately, there are a host of opportunities out there, pretty much all of which include some combination of improving patient outcomes, reducing costs, and increasing system reliability.

“To really be successful in this market, distributors need to understand healthcare pain points,” said Brett Wheless, segment manager for healthcare at Square D. “Usually this means mitigating risk and reducing costs.”

That approach was echoed by Daniel Robertson, sales development manager at GE Consumer & Industrial. “Distributors should step away from recommending products and ask customers about their needs,” he noted. “Let customers describe what they want instead of dumping literature and technical information on their desks.”

Once the most important needs of a facility have been determined, it’s time to start recommending products—preferably those that solve more than one need. For example, Robertson suggested LED lighting that can improve security and energy efficiency while lowering maintenance costs.

Another common concern of medical facilities is staying competitive—and that includes being an attractive place for both patients and skilled staff, said Tom Myers, senior sales manager, corporate accounts, at Lutron.

“Finding products that can meet the clinical, high-tech needs of staff as well as provide patients with a warm, comfortable environment is where a distributorship can prove its value,” he said. “For example, a control for window treatments can block glare and give a patient some control over his or her visual environment. The patient will feel better about the experience—and with less stress, patients tend to do better.”

Powered up 24/7

Because hospitals are open non-stop and running advanced equipment that literally keeps people alive, reliable power is mission-critical in a way far different from most other facilities. To meet those needs, key products Robertson highlighted include switch­gear solutions with redundancy and remote control features to reduce operator exposure to dangerous situations and help better diagnose trip conditions.

“For back-up systems, paralleling gear, automatic transfer switches, and UPS systems are important, as are surge-suppression products that protect sensitive medical equipment from latent failures,” he noted, adding that this is increasingly critical as medical IT systems become more advanced requiring data center-grade equipment.

Hospitals are also particularly prone to increases in energy prices.

“What used to be a two- or three-day stay in the hospital can now be done on an outpatient basis,” Wheless explained. “But that also requires intense high-tech equipment that stresses the electrical system. New medical facilities are more complicated, and that adds complexity to the electrical system. Some have full data centers for patient records, etc. In 10 to 20 years hospitals will be the ultimate critical energy center.”

To help medical customers mitigate risk, Wheless also recommended focusing on products and services for power quality and more reliable distribution systems, adding that providing services to maintain those systems could be a lucrative way to also continue to build the relationship.

“Hospitals are highly regulated and they have to do a lot of recordkeeping, testing, etc., for every building system. For example, they may have to test generators and emergency lights every month,” Wheless noted. “If you can provide help for them doing that, it’s a great way to show your value.”

Other solutions for increasing energy efficiency are primed for the market right now. “Healthcare has been late to the game on this, but it’s happening now as they see double-digit increases in energy and other costs. For the most part they’ve hit the lower-hanging fruit and are looking for more projects that can reduce energy costs such as using variable-frequency drives, power monitoring, and light controls,” Wheless added. “They need a clear justification for the investment.”

That perspective was shared by Myers. “Medical has been outside of the trend for awhile, but it’s coming on board now. It’s a combination of peer pressure and realizing it’s a good business practice as well as a way of dealing with the energy market volatility.”

He added that medical facilities are just starting to become aware of how controls can be implemented as cost- and energy-saving tools.

“They may think of timer controls for parking lots and cafeterias but for little else because they are under the impression that because facilities run 24/7, controls can’t be used in most areas,” Myers said. “In reality, there are prime opportunities for daylighting controls to reduce energy consumption. Hospitals spend a tremendous amount on energy, and they get very excited when they see what their options are.”

Finding opportunities

For distributors looking at the medical market for the first time, keep in mind that breaking in requires the same relationship building as any other market.

“The approach has to be consultative,” Robertson said. “Hospitals, especially as you move higher in the organization, have multiple salespeople for each product group calling on them. By highlighting what you bring to the party you can help them with what they care about.”

Robertson and Myers both noted that hospitals are dealing with reduced staffs, and need help simplifying maintenance.

“They’re looking for solutions that either fit with existing stock or a product that will cause as little disruption as possible,” Myers said. “They also want to implement in stages. They can only close a few rooms at a time, so there’s a need to apply the exact same solution in stages.” Myers said that hospitals want to work with someone flexible enough to function on their schedule, not necessarily the fastest possible timeline.

Wheless warned distributors not to focus on large projects at the expense of smaller, but more lucrative, transactions. “Those small transactional purchases that happen every day are where the best opportunities are,” he said. “That’s where you can make a difference to hospital owners and show your value as a source of support for them.”

Katarsky is a freelance business writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


Tools of the trade

Get up to speed on the VDV tools and testers customers want.

by Dan Carazo

“Cautious.” That’s how Paul Stone, director of the portable network test business unit for Fluke Networks, described market prospects for hand-held testers. “As with most sectors of the U.S. market, economic uncertainty is slowing purchases for these products. On the other hand, VDV installers who wish to remain competitive recognize that using tools that boost technician productivity and reduce errors help improve their competitive position,” Stone said.

When it comes to portable network test equipment, customers are looking for products that work with higher data transmission speeds, but at the same time make their jobs easier.

“One of the key drivers for portable network test equipment is the need to work on faster networks while at the same time making the test tool usable by technicians over a wider skill range,” Stone said.

“Today’s networks are faster and are more complex,” he said. “Technicians are looking for portable network test equipment that tells them much more than ‘there’s a problem.’ Very often, a preferred test tool provides help as to where the problem is located and how to correct it.”

He added that with these types of tools, time saved in the first month of use alone can often exceed the cost of the equipment.

Drivers of change

According to Dan Payerle, senior product manager for IDEAL Industries, the market for hand-held testers continues to be driven by technological advances and changing standards.

“Cabling grades, network technology, and standards are always advancing, no matter what the economic environment, requiring IT professionals to purchase new testers,” Payerle said. “For example, in the parts of the world that follow TIA, Cat 6a (500MHz) is now being deployed, fueling the demand for Cat 6a testers.”

“We’re seeing more computer-controlled test instruments that offer users improved product performance with built-in report generation,” added John Olobri, director of sales and marketing for AEMC.

Payerle acknowledged the growth of what he referred to as cheaper, streamlined application-based testers that focus exclusively on Ethernet testing, the most common commercial and residential network transmission technology.

“The new application-based testers limit the scope of their testing to this one application, removing much of the cost and complexity of LAN certifiers,” Payerle explained. “The downside of application-based testers is that they do not comply with standards written by the TIA, ISO, and IEC, all of which describe testing methods that aim to determine if the installed cabling actually meets the desired category rating.” 

Payerle noted that some manufacturers of application-based testers choose to test to the IEEE 802.3x standard that provides requirements for Ethernet. “This standard is a favorite because it does determine if a cabling link has passed or failed, which is adequate for smaller commercial and residential installations,” Payerle said. “While it is less sophisticated than the analytical method used by LAN certifiers, it does answer the most critical question: Can my network cabling pass data?”

Tool time

Hand tools designed for Cat 5 and Cat 6 cabling and termination are also growing in popularity.

“We’ve seen increased demand for a well-designed tool that offers a comfortable feel,” said Bob Feldman, sales manager for Platinum Tools. “Attention to ergonomics is very important to workers who are using their hands on the job all day.

“Our most popular datacom tools are cable cutters; cable strippers; and punchdown and crimping tools for Cat 5, Cat 6, and RJ45 installations for data, communications, and security,” he added.

As for the tools market in general, Feldman thinks 2009 will be soft for those unwilling to act proactively.

Payerle suggested that distributors must recognize that their customers are doing a greater variety of work that may include commercial and residential networks, broadband Internet, IP video surveillance, and VoIP.

“All of these require some sort of testing, either by a traditional LAN cable certifier or with a simpler, more cost-effective application-based tester,” he said.

“Distributors should also know that many manufacturers offer training to take the mystery out of this profitable product category,” Payerle added.

Carazo provides B2B marketing services for electrical industry organizations. He can be reached at

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


Distributor doings

Jesse Herrera, Jason King, and Randy Wooledge have been selected by Border States Electric (BSE), Fargo, N.D., as management trainees. Each will get exposure to all aspects of the company’s business through hands-on training and development. The curriculum, which may last up to two years, includes NAED training programs.

Herrera, a warehouse associate in Albuquerque, N.M., joined BSE in August 2006. King is a warehouse supervisor in St. Cloud, Minn., and has worked there since June 2005. Wooledge, a warehouse supervisor in Sioux Falls, S.D., joined BSE in 2002.

At National Electric Supply, Albuquerque, N.M., Skip Lenfest is now vice president of sales and new business development. He has 30-plus years of electrical industry experience and previously worked at Edson Electric Supply and HD Supply. Also, Greg­ory Dann has been promoted from general manager to vice president of operations. He has 15-plus years of electrical industry experience.

At B&K Electric Wholesale, City of Industry, Calif., Todd Brown has succeeded Kathleen Ellison as president (Ellison remains CEO); Glen Mayfield is now vice president of sales for the Rockwell Division (he had been automation group director); Ray Tuider is now vice president of sales of the Square D region (he was regional vice president of that region); and Ryan Wright is now vice president of operations (he was director of IT).

Fred Nabavi has succeeded Carl Svendsen as director of automation solutions at NorthEast-Eagle Electrical Distributors, a Canton, Massachusetts-based unit of Sonepar. Svendsen, who has been with the company for 27 years, is now in a part-time role. Nabavi has worked for Eagle for the past six years.

Manufacturer moves

Jerry Switzer is now senior product manager for distributed energy management systems in Leviton’s Lighting Management Systems business. He previously spent 17 years with Hewlett-Packard and three with GE Security.

Lance Bates is now General Cable’s vice president of U.S. sales. He comes to the company with 18-plus years of sales leadership experience, most recently serving as president/COO of the global accounts and strategic markets divisions for Cintas.


Matthew Earl Davis, 33, died Jan. 9. A 12-year veteran of Becker Electric Supply, he started his career in the warehouse making deliveries, was promoted to the counter, and then worked in inside sales. At the time of his death he was a quotation specialist, leading switchgear sales efforts at the company’s Columbus, Ohio, location.

He was the son-in-law of Mark Covey, vice president of purchasing at Becker Electric, and brother-in-law to Brian Covey, who works in the company’s MIS/IT department. He is also survived by his wife, Beth; daughter, Kelsey Nichole; sons, Colin Matthew and Owen Anthony; and his parents.

Memorial contributions, which will benefit his children’s education, can be made to the Matthew Davis Memorial Fund, c/o the Huntington National Bank, 61 S. Main St., London, OH 43140.

Carroll Rudolph “Dudy” Deems, 80, died in early December. He worked as a salesman in the electrical distribution business for many years before establishing Arrow Electrical Supply in Bel Air, Md., in 1973. Also a veteran of the Korean War, Deems retired from Arrow in 1993; the business is now run by his sons.

Richard Poll, 84, died in early December. He was president and chief salesman at the former H. Poll Electric, Toledo, Ohio, which his father founded in 1919. Poll Electric closed in July 2008.

Julius “Guy” Gyorog passed away in late November. He joined Alfred Switzer and the company that became Ajax Electrical Sales, St. Louis, in 1935; he retired in 1981.

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


Hallway monitors

Channel partners join forces to create a safer school in east Georgia.

by Darlene Bremer

According to the Department of Education, students ages 12 through 14 were more likely than older students to be victims of crime at school. Almost one in five students reported being threatened with a beating, and again this was a more common experience for middle school students (22%) than for high school students (16%). The typical victim of an attack or robbery at school is a male in the seventh grade who is assaulted by a boy his own age.

These were issues that weighed on the minds of administrators designing the new Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School, located in east Georgia between Atlanta and Augusta. Built at a cost of $17.5 million, the new 140,000-square-foot facility opened its doors in August to more than 600 students who are kept safe with the help of an IP-networked surveillance system from Toshiba.

Chad Umbarger, business development manager for security for Graybar’s Atlanta District, and Cindy Howland, outside sales rep for Graybar Electric in Augusta, met with school officials to discuss their needs in early 2007.

“The McDuffie County Board of Education [BOE] sought to leverage the Cat 5e cabling being run in the school not just for their computer network, but also for the video surveillance system; however, a full IP system was cost prohibitive,” Umbarger explained. After careful consideration, Graybar recommended a hybrid analog/digital solution that had proven itself in other school installations.

“Graybar put together the package of technologies for the project and we chose Toshiba primarily because of the quality of the product and the software included,” said Bob Weems, technology director for the McDuffie County BOE.

Augusta Telephone, a Graybar contractor that also installed the school’s telecommunications system and has been working for the McDuffie BOE for about 10 years, handled the installation of the surveillance network. As a result of their hard work, Graybar’s planning, and the long-standing partnerships among all the channel participants, the school was able to begin monitoring the building within minutes of the installation.

“The goal of the project was to successfully support the safety and security of students and staff, plus enable easy implementation of future expansions,” Umbarger noted. Everyone on the team worked together to ensure that the systems meet present security standards and anticipated future needs without disrupting the educational process.

These channel partnerships are key to achieving consistent success and maintaining growth, according to Len Goldberg, business development manager for Toshiba’s security and IP network video products group.

“Working together to successfully fulfill end-user needs and optimize system performance capabilities usually results in a win-win situation for the entire channel, from supplier to customer,” he said.

“Such partnerships improve the whole channel because everyone is involved in the project’s design and implementation,” added Casey Cliatt, vice president of Augusta Telephone. “By partnering, I learned that three very distinct companies working together can create a much better solution for the customer than by working separately.”

Bremer is a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md. She can be reached at Got an On Site story idea? Send it to Misty Byers, “TED” editor, at

Reprinted with Permission of TED Magazine – 2009


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