Cabling: Making The
Best Of Limited Lifespan
by Buddy Shipley
Published July 2001
When organizations decide to install a new cable plant, they want to know that it will be able to support all their current network applications as well as future applications—in other words, they want an idea of its serviceable lifespan. The ANSI/TIA/EIA 569-A Design Considerations states that "These standards are intended to provide for a generic structured cabling plant, capable of running any voice or data application foreseeable in the next 10 to 15 years." While this is certainly an admirable objective, it may not be realistic.
Consider recent history. In 1985 we were still installing thick and thin coax to support 10-Mbps Ethernet. In 1987 we started using DIW-24 UTP to support 10Base-T, and in the early 1990s DIW-24 was replaced by Cat3 and soon thereafter by Cat4. By 1995 we were looking at 100Base-TX Fast Ethernet over Cat5. Cat4 was available for only a very brief time because Cat5 followed so quickly on its heels. In just 10 years we progressed through five cabling standards!
Five years later, in 2000, Gigabit Ethernet (1000Base-T) revealed deficiencies in some Cat5 installations. So, in early 2001, Cat5 has already been superceded by Cat5E. Cat4 and Cat5 are both defunct, and the development of Cat6 standards is well under way. Cat6 promises to replace Cat5E within a year or so, and there's also talk of Cat7! What is a strategic planner to do?
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