Network Cabling Types: Choosing The Right Structured Cabling Infrastructure
Technology is moving at a fast pace. Cabling infrastructure must match your company needs. Choosing the best solution for your business in advance saves time and money. Infrastructure performs rather well for an average of ten (10) years and usually, modest cabling supports up to three (3) generations of active electronic devices.
But, before you select your cable type, you’ll need to take into consideration if your company owns or leases the building. If you own, you’ll want to figure out your primary usage and technology speed requirements. If you’re leasing, you’ll want to determine how long you’re planning to stay or what’s suffice for your company’s signature offerings.
DETERMINE CABLING INFRASTRUCTURE FOR YOUR INDUSTRY
Do you use a training or conference room that requires predictable fast Internet speed? Perhaps you own an executive office space where technology and infrastructure are paramount.
Or, what if you’re the IT Director for a high-volume medical clinic and you need to make IT decisions for the entire organization? You might need security, reliable automatic doorways, medical equipment and/or hospital grade refrigeration that regulates temperature for medicine like insulin or organs that will save lives.
Manufacturing or automotive plants require industrial grade cables where the cable’s outer sheath is rated for extreme environments. This type of heavy-duty cabling must prevent damage from Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and hazard materials.
Whether you’re in the market to install network cabling at a new construction building, at a chemical plantation, or if you need to re-cable an existing workplace, you’ll want to be aware of the various types of network cables available.
You must hire the right team of IT professionals, and you’ll want to budget for ideal cabling infrastructure expenses. Cabling infrastructure typically represents less than 10% of your overall network budget. Installation is difficult and labor intensive to replace. Therefore, you’ll need to know the various types of cable in order to prepare for your business goals and objectives.
TYPES OF CABLING INFRASTRUCTURE
Cat5 cabling was standard in 1995. If you’re utilizing Cat5—and doing fine for your IT needs—don’t fix what’s not broken. If you plan to expand into more advanced IT technologies, requirements may dictate your choice.
Cable can only allow power and speeds of whatever equipment and Internet type it’s working with. Getting a faster cable won’t change Internet speed if your equipment is set slower either.
Most building cabling is Cat5e, standard in 2001. It has copper cable that uses a new standard; 4-twisted pairs, with all eight (8) contacts. Cat5e reduces noise and signal interference, increasing rated transfer speeds to 350 Mbit/s over 100 meters. An optimized encoding scheme allows up to 50-meter lengths of Cat5e cable to perform at Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) speeds.
Both Cat5 and Cat5e cable should be changed out for higher performance business set up.
Cat6 is recommended if you own or plan to stay in the building. If your company uses Power over Ethernet (PoE) devices (Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone systems, cameras, automatic door access, WIFI) at the building, you’ll want to install a minimum category 6 cable because it can handle the power required for these devices better than Cat5e cabling. Bandwidth=200 MHz
Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a technology for wired Ethernet Local Area Networks (LANs) that allow the electrical current necessary for device operation to be carried by data cables rather than by power cords. PoE minimizes number of wires that are installed for the network.
Cat6 cable is highly recommended for Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Audio/Video (AV) applications. The mainstream adoption of Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) required new industry-standard cables capable of transmitting at a higher frequency of 250 MHz.
Cat6 cabling uses 23 AWG conductors, and more pair twists per inch to reduce signal noise and interference. The tighter specifications guarantee that 100-meter runs of Category 6 are capable of 1000 Mbit/s transfer speeds.
Both cat5e and cat6 have better insertion loss, Near End Crosstalk (NEXT), return loss, and Equal Level Far End Crosstalk (ELFEXT).
Newer versions of category cables (Cat6 and Cat6A cables) reduce the impact of crosstalk through various methods, including twisted cable design and improved shielding. Cat6 improvements offer a higher signal-to-noise ratio, allowing higher reliability for current applications and higher data rates for future applications.
Cat6a cabling has augmented specification designed to double transmission frequency to 500 MHz. This cable infrastructure supports full 10-Gigabit Ethernet speeds without giving up 100 meters of cable length. The same is true for Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) cables that reduce alien crosstalk.
Most computers are linked at Gigabit Ethernet speeds. IEEE 802.3 (10GBASE-T standard), continues to drive demand for high performance. Reaching 10,000 Mb/s requires a higher category of cable, such as Cat6 or Cat6a.
Cat6 or Cat6a is recommended if you plan to upgrade or move into a new facility within the next 5 to 10 years. Category 6 cable solutions are suffice for transmission quality, provided you don’t need to streamline intricate video applications or large format presentations. Cat6 cables have long been used for network connectivity, but this type of cabling might not be an ideal long-term choice. Instead, as video streaming and wireless communications become more standard business practices, this kind of copper wiring might soon meet bandwidth limitations.
Designed for Gigabit Ethernet. While Cat7 may offer more than you need, each newer cable standard allows user higher speeds with lower crosstalk, even with longer cables. Most businesses still have no need for updating their hardware to Cat7 Ethernet cable, much less Cat7a or Cat8 cables, released in 2010 and 2013.
FIBER OPTIC CABLE
Fiber Optic Cable infrastructure is becoming the gold standard for companies reaching their bandwidth limits with Cat6. Easy cabling such as Passive Optical Networks (PON) and Active Ethernet (AE) can encourage company transition into fiber optic cabling without hassle.
Fiber Optic Cable is used for connecting network segments; connecting buildings and floors, but it isn’t used for complete network wiring. Consisting of hair-line filaments drawn from molten silica glass, optical cables are unlike copper cables.
Fiber Optic Cable (optical fiber) can run it just about anywhere because it uses light instead of electricity to transmit signals. Light is the fastest method of transmitting information, however, this cable has an additional advantage avoiding electrical interference. Since light meets very little resistance, you can run Fiber Optic Cable over long distances without having to boost the signal. Some signals can be transmitted over 5,000 miles before they have to be processed. Imagine how this cable could improve normal network installation.
Also, fiber optics involves velocity, sending signals over 10 GB per second. And even at that speed, the signal is much cleaner than traditional electrical cabling.
Comparing Fiber Optic Cables to coaxial cabling—identified cabling for TV cable service—is like comparing digital information to analog information. By comparison, fiber optics are far more impressive than other category cables.
However, cost is a consideration. Network Interface Cards (NICs) for Fiber Optic Cables can cost over $1,000 each. As fiber optics and related devices become more popular, the price should drop. Until then, you’ll want to examine different types of cables before you make any decisions.
Two Types of Fiber Optic Cables:
- Singlemode: Deliver 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 40,000 meters. Expensive and difficult to work with, this cable is so narrow that light can travel through it only in a single path.
- Multimode: Delivers 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 550 meters. Wider core diameters give light beams the freedom to travel in multi-paths, causing signal distortion at its receiving end.
Fiber Optic Cable Advantages:
- Greater bandwidth and transmission speed capabilities, especially for video applications
- Takes up less space in cable pathways
- Immune to electrical disturbances
- Can be run for longer distances
Fiber Optic Cable network solutions may be best for the long haul, especially if you have a longer-term building loan and plan to stay put. Because it’s top of the line, it’s worth exploring.
WHAT CABLING INFRASTRUCTURE IS RIGHT FOR YOUR COMPANY?
While technology is constantly changing—and nobody can 100% predict what’s coming next—your type of cable needs to function at peak performance without hiccups for at least ten (10)+ years. You’ll want your company’s cabling infrastructure to last for the lifespan of your firm’s electronics and your next equipment upgrade.
If you are leasing your building, you might get by with a standard category cable, Cat5e or higher. If you own the building and plan to stay longer than a few years, you’ll want to consider investing in a higher category cabling infrastructure.
Upfront cabling infrastructure planning is worth it in the long run. Afterall, why spend the money to connect basic networking systems when within a year or two, you’ll need increased network performance speeds in order to keep up with the demands of today’s technology? You wouldn’t want to rip open your building walls twice in order to replace your network when you have the opportunity to do it right the first time.
NETWORK WITH THE RIGHT IT TEAM AND BUDGET FOR EXPENSES
Your business network is vital for your company’s operations and profits, you also want to work with cabling infrastructure professionals that have your best interest in mind. Every cabling infrastructure is different, depending on new construction buildout, intricate office renovation, or intricate building expansion.
Time and expense versus infrastructure performance need to be considered. It may have to be a trade-off, depending upon your budget. You don’t want to pay for functionality you don’t need.
KNOW YOUR CABLE TYPES—KNOW YOUR CABLING INFRASTRUCTURE VENDOR
The right cabling infrastructure vendor will make sure you know every cable type. They’ll make honest assessments and make you aware of a system that will serve future requirements without significant upgrades too.
What about your installation? A reputable contractor should engage Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) trained technicians. In addition, connectivity manufactures can recommend a superior cabling infrastructure company and certified technician team in your area.
Reputable cabling partners will ask about your current and future infrastructure needs. They’ll inquire about the type and number of devices you’ll be utilizing and the type of business data you’ll need to access. Your network partner should focus on your video or security needs, wireless device usage, as well as your overall business growth plan.