Attendees at the BICSI Winter Conference in Orlando Fla., Jan. 17-20, surveyed the wares of more than 170 vendors, continuing to weigh the merits of copper and fiber for new or upgraded enterprise networks.

They recognized that Cat. 5e copper cabling, the choice for new horizontal wiring installations, will eventually supercede Cat. 5 cabling for data applications. Talk also centered on the need to publish a standard for Cat. 6 cabling as soon as possible.

A members-only technical seminar concentrated on two technologies that can provide important features to both business and home users of the Internet. The three presenters, Bernard Daines, World Wide Packets; Sid McWhirter, Vialight; and Jim Burke, Avista Fiber offered Gigabit Ethernet over fiber as the best solution to bandwidth congestion and the way to provide voice, data and video delivery on a single network platform.

It's cheaper to put a call directly on the Internet, using what is called Internet protocol (IP), than to have a dedicated line or other switched connection from the customers' premises to a carrier or hub somewhere.

Burke described a private Metropolitan Area Network using more than 200 miles of optical fiber extending from Spokane, Wash. to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which has a topology similar to a spider web. Using large-strand count cable segments and more than 150 access points called Optic Transit Centers (OTC), the layout offers unlimited circuit possibilities. At present, eight hospitals, six government sites, five credit unions, and 54 schools are connected, using a variety of signals ranging from Gigabit Ethernet to ATM.

Conference highlights Bill Smith, Bell South, Atlanta, Ga., looked at the significant changes in both regulation and technology that allow all kinds of communications to be provided through an integrated voice and data network. He cited the example of a single incoming call that could be sent to a home location, then to a business location and then to a wireless location, followed finally by a message option, to locate a customer.

The use of Internet protocol for all services make the enhanced services customers crave possible, such as call forwarding, toll-free dialing and intelligent call routing.

Steven Goldfarb and Eric Rochelson, Electronic Systems Associates, New York, discussed how audio-visual systems increasingly are being integrated with other technologies to share the cables used for voice and data applications in a building.

For example, Ethernet-based audio and video distribution, and collaborative learning environments are having an influence on network and cabling design. And if the signals of other technologies are placed on the information technology (IT) circuits, a real concern becomes the allocation of space in IT closets.

Gerry Renken, Wavetek Wandel Goltermann, San Diego, Calif., described the current state of testing and the existing and emerging requirements for copper cabling. Renken noted that the use of a 200 Mhz test frequency for the higher performance cables (Cat. 6) is spawning a whole new generation of field testers to meet Level III requirements.

Among the many new product introductions of note at BICSI were the following: Lucent Technologies introduced a new fiber-optic small form factor connector that cuts installation time by more than two-thirds for optical fiber to the desktop. Datatel, Riverdale, N.J., showed a pedestal supported wall rack that is ideal for tight spaces in a closet. The company also offers a free rack and enclosure design software package that uses the Visio Drag and Drop Interface. Wavetek introduced the LAN-checker 100 test set for installing and maintaining 10/100Mbps Ethernet networks. It offers automatic detection and configuration of a remote unit for one-man operation.