BICSI looks at getting expanded bandwidth to customer through new generation cabling.

More than 2,200 telecom professionals sharpened their technical know-how at the Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) Fall Conference held in Reno, Nev., Aug. 23-26. Following the theme "Designing the Telecommunications Infrastructure for the New Millennium," attendees focused on hot topics like increased twisted pair copper wire performance-Gigabit Ethernet; issues of backward-compatibility with Cat. 6 cabling; new fiber-optic cable constructions; and improved performance cable testers.

The Monday morning Technical Seminar for BICSI members offered new insights into the home wiring market. Grayson Evans, president of the BICSI Training Department, Tucson, Ariz., commented while a lot of standards have been developed in the residential infrastructure wiring arena, some are good and some are just "noise." His viewpoint has appreciable validity, since Evans has been a consultant to the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) and a member of the EIA 600 CEBus development group.

Three major groups are driving the market for cabling the home and introducing new services: the audio/video industry, computer industry, and a combination of other groups representing home automation, telecom, security, HVAC, and appliances.

The A/V industry wants to see audio and video distributed throughout the entire home. The computer industry is pushing for computer peripheral equipment sharing and, of course, full Internet access. At the same time, the appliance industry is heralding "smart" cooking, washing, and food storage equipment. You may actually see a computer screen on your refrigerator door in the not-to-distant future.

The traditionally ignored, but recently revised TIA 570-A Residential Telecommunications Cabling Standard should have an important influence on home wiring practices in the future. Builders, who traditionally are slow to adopt new concepts, are beginning to see the need for basic star topology wiring radiating from some sort of a home "gateway." In turn, they also see the need to follow some form of widely recognized cabling installation methods.

So, will future home wiring include routers and a battery backup? It very well could, along with a pair of coaxial cables, one or two Cat. 5 twisted-pair copper cables and glass optical fiber run to every important room in the house.

James Sinopoli, OTM Engineering, Inc., Austin, Texas, described the emergence of Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs), their operationsand the wired and wireless services they provide to commercial and residential c ustomers. Currently there are about 200 CLECs in the United States, and the number of new firms entering the market is increasing rapidly. A CLEC may offer local, long distance, cellular, Internet and data services, as well as inside wiring and cable TV support.

Todd Rhyne, Siecor, Hickory, N.C. presented an overview of current optical fiber fusion splicing technology, including automatic fiber detection, optical fiber positioning and aligning. Offering improved precision, versatility, and ease of use, the newest equipment is available in a variety of price ranges, from $5,000 to $35,000. The choice of equipment depends on factors such as acceptable splice loss, number of splices to be made, type of fiber used, accuracy of splice loss estimation, and equipment budget.

A panel session entitled "New Developments in Field Testing," allowed several manufacturers to describe features found in their latest field testers. All of these test units can certify premise cabling against existing Cat. 5 and proposed drafts for Cats. 5e and 6.

The growing need for bandwidth is driving many companies to install Cat. 5e cabling. Other firms will move to Cat.6/Class E cabling when this standard is fully approved. These higher-speed networks have a smaller margin or error between data transmission bit rates and the physical capacity of the cable. In addition, all of the twisted pair cable tester manufacturers are focusing on the compatibility of their test cords and RJ-45 style connectors with these higher speed transmission rates. The audience was also concerned about the optical fiber capability of these new testers. Gigabit Ethernet is the first LAN protocol to require a laser as the transmission source, which has increased the practicality of multimode fiber in a building's LAN. As a result, fiber manufacturing and testing processes must be refined.