2009:A Year of Standards Upgrades

Bringing Existing Standards Up-to-Date

In taking a look back at 2009, it was a year that brought existing industry standards up-to-date, yet introduced new working standards groups for 2010. Our industry uses standards as a guideline to enable interoperability. The goals of the standards are to define cabling types, distances, connectors, system architecture, performance characteristics, best practices for cable installation and testing methods. However, the network constantly changes in applications’ requirements as well as in layout. Not only are data speeds and bandwidth exponentially increasing, but new devices are being added to the network under “structured cabling” auspices. Therefore, the standards are constantly evolving to address these changes. Here are the top three cabling standards that became ratified in 2009.
The “umbrella” standard for telecommunications cabling was the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B which was ratified in 2001, which had replaced the original 568A from 1995 and 1991. The TIA/EIA-568-B was actually a set of three telecommunications standards: B.1 (general requirements, topology, connectivity and cabling and installation); B.2 (twisted-pair specifics such as components and transmission requirements for a cabling system); and B.3 (optical fiber cabling components for a fiber optic system). These standards were mainly written to address cabling in premise (office) environments.
In March of this year, ANSI/TIA-568-C was published – 305 pages of detailed information, tables and figures to keep up with the latest cabling specifications to address not only generic commercial buildings, but apply to non-office environments such as airports and stadiums. The new ‘568-C incorporates materials from all the previous 568 documents as well as the 18 addenda and updates and has been divided into four main documents:
  • ‘568-C.0 – “Generic Telecommunications Cabling for Customer Premises” covers the cabling system structure, installation requirements and fiber testing;
  • ‘568-C.1 – “Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard” addresses the design and cabling principles for the main areas such as the entrance facilities, equipment rooms, TRs, backbone, horizontal and work areas;
  • ‘568-C.2 – “Balance Twisted-Pair Telecommunication Cabling and Components Standard” covers the mechanical and transmission requirements of copper cabling;
  • ‘568-C.3 – “Optical Fiber Cabling Components Standard” covers fiber optic cable, connecting hardware, and patch cords.
Although Berk-Tek has offered a cable that meets OM4 requirements for five years, the OM4 fiber optic cables were finally recognized through the newly ratified TIA-492AAAD standards.  Berk-Tek has been a leader in OM3 and OM4 technology by offering two types of fibers that meet or exceed OM4. GIGAlite™-10FB glass meets OM4 requirements, whereas the GIGAlite-10XB, the industry’s highest performing laser optimized 50µm fiber, surpasses the standards with a bandwidth of 4900 MHz*km at 850nm and a reach surpassing 600 meters.
OM4 will be increasingly important as bandwidths exceed 10 Gb/s. Already under development are applications, such as in the data center environment that could reach speeds beyond 40 Gb/s in the next five years. OM4 solutions can maximize cabling design flexibility for 850nm laser applications up to 100 Gb/s , extending reach of multimode fiber, stretching power budgets to provide more operating margin and support a greater number of connection points, thereby maximizing the utility of the lowest-cost and lowest-power optical transceivers. 
PoE Plus
Finally, the standard IEEE 802.at, better known as PoE-plus (Power over Ethernet) has been ratified. It offers higher power than the original 802.3af (15.4 W vs. 25.5 W) supplied on two pairs (Category 5e or higher) or almost double that level on four pairs, depending on the type of power source equipment. The added wattage will address applications such as wireless access points, IP telephones, PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras and newer emerging applications. The biggest issue that held up the ratification of this standard was researching the potential signal degradation when the copper conductors have to carry added heat due to the increased current. For example, running cables in ceilings or bundling cables can be subjected to a rise in heat within the cable jacket. For PoE at 15W, Category 5 was fine. But, for the added wattage in PoE plus, the recommended cable grade is Category 5e or higher because of its capacity for lower resistance drops and better cable balance that can compensate for the added heat.
…and More
The three standards mentioned are U.S. standards, but there are many corresponding International (ISO/IEC), Canadian (CSA) and European (Cenelec) standards bodies that define and redefine cable’s electrical and transmission properties. In addition, BICSI has created a standards program, which is ANSI accredited and consensus-based that is primarily focused on specific markets or applications. The first standard relating to cabling in a healthcare environment has been approved in 2009. Other BICSI standards working include ESS (Electronic Safety and Security), post-secondary education, data center and bonding and grounding. Watch for these in 2010.

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Carol Oliver Berk-Tek Marketing Analyst