July 16, 2004
Have you ever tried to write an interesting article about communication cabling connectors? Well, it ain't easy.
I thought, no problem.…I'll just go visit a cable connector manufacturer site and get the inside scoop. Big surprise! For most of those manufacturers, it would involve overseas flights, passports, and translators. However, we got lucky and found one of the world's leading connector manufacturers, Superior Modular Products. SMP, a USA based manufacturer, is a wholly owned subsidiary of PLP®, Preformed Line Products Company. We made the trip to the SMP production facilities in Swannanoa, North Carolina. The visit to this impressive site was a worthwhile and educational experience. There's an amazing level of "tech" behind the scenes.
Wow! There is a lot to know about jacks. From what we have learned so far, all jacks are not equal. Quality, Quality Control, Durability, and functionality are high on the list of desired performance factors. It seems some of the companies with the loudest hype have the lowest quality index. The best answers we found so far are in the connection hardware from Superior Modular Products (made in the USA). SMP connectors and patch panels are available from Rexel.
It seems that far too many lines have been written about datacom cable, and far too few words have been published about the connection hardware. Shockingly, many "experts" don't know JACK. As we started our search for the rest of the story about jacks, patch panels, and other associated connection hardware, we found that the material available for the contractor and end user about jacks was anorexic. First, we reviewed the websites of the leading manufacturers of connection hardware. Then we looked at the "connection /cabling systems". We still did not find definitive information to differentiate these products. Are all jacks the same? No!
There is a mind-boggling technology involved in the connector hardware. The technology involved in the jacks and patch panels have taken on a new and much more important role. Several factors have ratcheted up the value of the installed connection hardware. The two most significant factors are fiber versus copper and the re-use of facilities to compensate for the requirement to remove abandoned cable (NEC 2002).
In the choice of a secure medium, fiber has a very bright future. The demand for increased bandwidth has continued to spiral to levels never anticipated. Most market surveys indicate that the lions' share of installations are going in with CAT5e cable and connectors. Many experts forecast that the marketplace will escalate the performance requirements from CAT3 to beyond CAT6. A recent review of the copper cable indicates that we may see an entirely new level of performance above CAT6 within this calendar year. Don't blink, or you might miss CAT6. Fiber does not face the same barrier of obsolescence. In either medium, the connection hardware will be absolutely critical for functionality both today and in the future.
Fiber versus copper -- there is definitely still room for both, but the shrinking price gap for the cable and the connectors, coupled with increasing bandwidth demands, makes fiber worth looking at in more scenarios than ever before. (www.cnsmagazine.com)
I didn't know JACK until I found out about SMP.
SMP Quality System summarized (www.smpdata.com/smp/):
- ISO 9001:2000 registered firm by Underwriters laboratories
- 15 year Product Warranty on all components
- To date, they have never had to replace a patch panel due to after installation failure.
(Any contractor who has run into port failures in the middle of a project knows this pain.)
- ETL Verification of Component Compliance on all Category 6 Jacks Panels, Patch Cords, and IDC (Insulation Displacement Connection) Blocks.
- Third Party Verification of Compliance with IEC60603-7 Reliability Specifications
Key Issues in Product Selection:
Gold on contact points -- more than required by the standard
Spring force on contacts -- again, more than required by the standard
(A strong connection prevents a host of problems in the future.)
Contacts line up with pins
Patch Cord plugs crimped properly and consistently
IDCs durability to avoid deformation during termination
IDCs handle multiple wire gauges and conductor types
Not using press-fit IDC contacts in PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards)
Current-carrying capacity of PC Boards (This is a big deal with Power Over Ethernet Applications growing.)
HiPot testing in production to guarantee trace separation and protection against high resistance shorts. (100% at Superior Modular Products for all components. Not many other manufacturers, if any, do.)
All components being flame retardant
Connectors need to be third party verified to IEC60603-7 for reliability
Connectors need to be third party verified to TIA568B.2 to address performance
For reliability, TIA references the ISO specifications. The ISO specification is IEC 60603-7. Not only does SMP manufacture above the standards, but also they are heavily involved in writing them and creating the devices that test them.
Many of the competitors supply product just to meet the standard. The standard is just the lowest common denominator. Just before NASA launched the first astronaut into space, the controller asked him what he was thinking about. His reply was "I keep thinking this damn thing was built by the lowest bidder to the minimum standard." Minimum performance equals a lower barrier to performance and obsolescence.
Don't get sucked-in by packaged solutions or system sales that fail to address the important technical factors that we have uncovered. If they don't want to talk about it, then there may be a serious deficiency in the connector functionality. Technically speaking, these connection devices should be able to support any of the cables that meet the current standards.
If you understand these important quality issues (the arcane technical underside) of communications connection hardware, then... YOU KNOW JACK.
The following information may be used for technical sidebars on the current standards scene.
TIA TR 42 Report for June 2004
ANSI/TIA-570-B Residential Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard has been issued for publication. ANSI/TIA-570-B provides requirements for residential telecommunications cabling. The primary purpose of this revision is to incorporate whole-home audio, control and security requirements. The current draft also describes three types of acceptance testing, verification, qualification and certification and when each should be used. This will be the first time such testing has been required in addition to a visual inspection to claim compliance to TIA standards. The only outstanding issue is whether or not to require space for access and service providers in multi-tenant residential.
ANSI/TIA-568-B.1-5, Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, Part 1: General Requirements, Addendum 5: Implementation of Telecommunications Enclosures has been issued for publication. ANSI/TIA-568-B.1-5 specifies the minimum design requirements for the cabling when using a telecommunications enclosure and should be considered a companion document to ANSI/TIA-569-B.
ANSI/TIA-569-B Commercial Building Standards for Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces has been issued for publication. ANSI/TIA-569 provides requirements for spaces (rooms or areas) and pathways into and through which telecommunications equipment and media are installed. The primary purpose of this revision was to incorporate multi-tenant pathways and spaces for wireline and wireless technologies; access to provider spaces and service provider; common equipment rooms and common telecommunications rooms; requirements for building automation system spaces, primarily the horizontal connection point and zone box, and to eliminate the main terminal space in favor of the common equipment room and to add the telecommunications enclosure (TE).
Telecommunications Systems Bulletin (TSB) 140
TSB 140 - Additional Guidelines for Field-Testing Length, Loss and Polarity of Optical Fiber Cabling Systems has been issued for publication. This TSB, which was in response to a BICSI survey regarding field-testing of optical fiber cabling systems, will describe field-testing for length, optical loss, and polarity in optical fiber cabling using an optical loss test set (OLTS), optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR), and a visual fault locator (VFL).
Standard Propsal-3-4425-AD6 completed third industry ballot but TR42.1 was unable to complete ballot resolution at this meeting. The purpose of this addenda is to support IEEE 802.3af, Data Terminal Equipment (DTE) Power via Media Dependent Interface (MDI), TIA has been studying additional cabling requirements, beyond those characterized in 568-B, necessary for powering devices via the unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cabling.
When completed, 3-4425-AD6 will be published as ANSI/TIA -568-B.1-6, Additional Cabling Guidelines for DTE Power.
Standard Number-3-4426-AD7 is out for first committee ballot. ANSI/TIA -568-B.2-7, in conjunction with ANSI/TIA -568-B.2, Addendum 4: Solderless Connection Reliability Requirements for Copper Connecting Hardware will supercede some requirements of ANSI/TIA -568-B.2 annex A and annex K.6.2.2 and modify the requirements of clause 5.3.5. This will be a tightening of the existing testing requirements for connector manufacturers, not a field test.
When completed, 3-4426-AD7 will be published as ANSI/TIA -568-B.2-7, Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, Part 2: Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling Components, Addendum 7: Reliability Specification Requirements for Copper Connecting Hardware.
Standard Number-3-4426-AD9 is out for first default ballot. The purpose of this addendum is to provide TCL performance limits for category 6 cables and connecting hardware, ELTCTL performance limits for category 6 cables, and TCTL performance limits for category 6 connecting hardware. Measurement methods for TCL (LCL) and TCTL (LCTL) will also be provided.
When completed, 3-4426-AD9 will be published as ANSI/TIA -568-B.2-9, Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, Part 2: Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling Components, Addendum 9: Additional Category 6 Balance Requirements and Measurement Procedures.
Standard Number-3-0092 is out for fifth industry ballot. This standard, intended for use by designers who need a comprehensive understanding of the data center design, will specify the minimum requirements for telecommunications infrastructure of data centers and computer rooms including single tenant enterprise data centers and multi-tenant hosting data centers. The topology is intended to be scaleable to any size data center.
When completed, 3-0092 will be published as ANSI/TIA -942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers.
Projects in Progress
Work continues on Standard Propsal-3-4425-AD7. The purpose of this addendum is to provide guidance for maintaining optical fiber polarity with systems utilizing array connectors and ribbon cables, the use of which ANSI/TIA/EIA-942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers will specify. This is the replacement for Project Number-3-0050 which was withdrawn.
When completed, 3-4425-AD7 will be published as ANSI/TIA -568-B.1-7 - Optical Fiber Polarity for Array Connectors.
Work continues on Project Number-PN-3-0134. The purpose of this TSB is to report on a study of measurements of Category 5e and Category 6 cabling transmission performance and alien cross-talk up to frequencies of 625 MHz.
When completed, PN-3-0134 will be published as TSB155 - Investigation of Balanced Cabling Performance up to 625 MHz for both TIA Category 6 and Category 5e Cabling for 10GBASE-T Applications.
Work continues on Standard Number-3-4426-AD10. The purpose of this addendum is to develop cabling and component specifications and test procedures to support the operation of IEEE 802.3 10GBASE-T over 100 meters of structured balanced twisted-pair copper cabling. This project includes extending the frequency range and adding requirements to those specified in TIA-568-B.2-1.
When completed, 3-4426-AD10 will be published as ANSI/TIA -568-B.2-10, Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, Part 2: Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling Components, Addendum 10: Augmented Category 6 Cabling.
Work continues on the project number-3-4822 draft. ANSI/TIA-1005 will provide an ANSI/TIA-568 type of document for an industrial environment.
When completed, 3-4822 will be published as ANSI/TIA -1005, Industrial Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard.
Health Care Facilities
Study of cabling in health care facilities yields new Task Group. Task Group to begin drafting requirements that are pertinent to heath care facilities that are not covered in the current family User Premises Telecommunications Infrastructure standards.
Cabling for Wireless Access Points
Study yields new Task Group. Task Group to begin drafting requirements that are pertinent to cabling for wireless access points that are not covered in the current family User Premises Telecommunications Infrastructure standards.
How larger diameter cables affect ANSI/TIA-569-B
Task Group investigating the effect that larger diameter cables would have on pathways and spaces reported no change to newly published ANSI/TIA-569-B would be needed.
New Work Considerations
A study group is determining what, if any, telecommunications symbols are required that are not covered in the current family User Premises Telecommunications Infrastructure standards.
Administration of Telecommunications Enclosure
A study group is determining what, if any, requirements are pertinent to administration of TEs that are not covered in the current family User Premises Telecommunications Infrastructure standards.
Administration of DC Power
A study group is determining what, if any, requirements are pertinent to administration of DC power that are not covered in the current family User Premises Telecommunications Infrastructure standards.
The next TR-42 meeting is scheduled for October 4-8, 2004 in Houston, Texas
Respectfully submitted by
BICSI Standards Secretariat