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Category 5e cabling to become obsolete for offices

Matias Peluffo, Vice President for Intelligent Buildings, Asia Pacific, CommScope | Oct. 12, 2015
Category 5e cabling, which is used in many offices around the world, will be considered obsolete for new installations following a recent decision by the ISO/IEC cabling standards body.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

A significant change is on the way in how office buildings are cabled. Category 5e cabling, which is used in many offices around the world, will be considered obsolete for new installations following a recent decision by the ISO/IEC cabling standards body.

After careful consideration of technology trends, wired and wireless bandwidth requirements and current market demand for the various cabling types, the ISO/IEC Working Group (JTC1/SC25 WG3) responsible for the development of the 11801 standard, recently decided to upgrade the minimum recommendation for the horizontal cabling in offices.

At the recent working group meeting in Milan, Italy, the group agreed to raise the minimum horizontal cabling requirement stated in ISO/IEC 11801-2 for offices (expected publication on or before 2017) from Class D (Category 5e) to Class E (Category 6), with a recommendation for Class EA (Category 6A) or better cabling. Class D cabling is still the minimum requirement in the drafts of 11801-3 (industrial) and 11801-4 (single-tenant homes), but upgrades may be considered in the near future. In the drafts of 11801-5 (data centres) and 11801-6 (distributed services), the minimum requirement is already Class EA cabling. For new office installations, Class E will now become the minimum requirement, with a recommendation to specifiers and customers to deploy Class EA to support applications with alien crosstalk requirements, enabling the smooth migration to 2.5, 5 and ultimately 10 Gb/s.

Published more than 20 years ago, the ISO/IEC 11801 standard was the first international standard for cabling in commercial buildings and helped pave the way for consistent implementation of voice and data cabling on a global basis. It enabled the explosive growth and mass deployment of Ethernet and IP communications everywhere in the world. In its first edition, the standard defined Class D balanced cabling based on Category 5 copper components to provide an upgrade path from 10 to 100 megabits per second (Mb/s) up to 100 meters. At that time, some experts and industry observers argued that 100 Mb/s (100BASE-T) to the desk was overkill for the typical office user.

Fast forward 20 years to today where many would say that 100BASE-T technology is in rapid market decline. Now 1000BASE-T (1 Gb/s) is commonplace for desktop personal computers and laptops, as well as a wide range of other devices such as phones, cameras and wireless access points (WAPs). The 11801 standard now includes additional cabling classes that were introduced to enable support of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gb/s), including the addition of Class E (Category 6), Class F (Category 7) and more recently, Class EA (Category 6A) and Class FA (Category 7A). Today, 1000BASE-T is commonplace and, once again, some experts and industry observers argue that 1 Gb/s is overkill for the typical office user. However, others predict the rapid adoption of speeds beyond one gigabit within horizontal cabling, expecting the increasing bandwidth demand in offices to support applications such as telepresence, video conferencing, high definition imaging, 3D printing and others.

 

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