The 5th Annual BICSI Cabling Workshop and Cabling Installation Expo, held at the Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta, October 9 to 11, offered practical solutions to cable placement and testing. About 2000 people attended the expo, and about 500 attended the workshops.

In one of the seminars, Edward Phillips, Jr., RCDD, TelCom Contracting, Winthrop, Maine, explained the risks involved in not properly firestopping penetrations in fire-rated walls and decks. He reviewed the legal considerations, including the NEC and other national codes, along with ethical and personal liability implications. Following that, he explained how to choose the proper assembly for a job, offered examples of suitable hardware, and showed when it is best to use an engineered assembly, which is a custom-designed unit made for a particular project.

In another session, Donna Ballast, RCDD, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, and BICSI's TIA committee representative, summarized developments in telecom standards. Interestingly, the TR 42.9 Industrial Cabling Subcommittee is finishing work on a cabling standard for manufacturing plants that will have higher engineering requirements than the 569 standard for office buildings. It will include an industrial-based Ethernet protocol and will be more stringent than the commercial standard, because signals controlling machines are very time-critical.

Work is also underway on a standard covering pathways through modular furniture. Following a succession of delays, a Cat. 6 standard should be published in the third quarter of 2001. Efforts are continuing to harmonize standards internationally.

As a TIA committee member on the revised ANSI/EIA/TIA-570-A residential wiring standard, Bob Jensen, RCDD, 3M Co., Austin, Texas, offered his perspective on how well this standard (unlike the original standard) is being received.

The document provides for two grades of cabling. The first grade specifies (as a minimum) the use of Cat. 3 UTP cabling, whereas the second grade has higher cabling requirements for supporting multimedia applications. The standard also includes glass optical fiber as a cabling option for the home. In this regard, Jensen also discussed the use of small form factor (SFF) connectors for terminating glass optical fiber. All of the SFF fiber connectors are smaller than the standard ST and SC connectors, so the switches, hubs, routers, and patch panels can have port densities comparable to that of a copper cable RJ45 connector.

Vic Phillips, RCDD, ITSDI, Florence, S.C., explained the importance of the National Electrical Code (for inside buildings) and the National Electrical Safety Code (for outside work) in design and installation of telecom cabling.

The work group TR-41.7-2 of the TIA is busy revising the TIA/EIA-607 standard, and they are upgrading the material to include ways to calculate the conductor size of the telecommunications bonding backbone. Today, noise signals in telecommunications transmissions, with frequencies that can extend to the gigahertz level, are important concerns. Adequate grounding can control these noise levels and minimize interference.

Phillips observed that ANSI/TIA/EIA-607, Sec., requires a minimum of a No. 6 conductor, but suggests you can use a conductor as large as No. 3/0. The draft of what will be published as TIA/EIA-607-A suggests that consideration be given to 2kcmil per linear foot of conductor.

John Adams, RCDD, Adams Telecom, Valrico, Fla., introduced attendees to the Customer Owned Outside Plant (COOSP) cabling world. This type of installation is becoming more prevalent as facilities interconnect buildings on a campus with voice/data/video, and building operation control systems. By definition, an outside-plant network includes all cable and wire that extend outward from the private branch exchange (PBX) mainframe protectors, as well as supporting structures such as conduit, maintenance holes, or poles necessary to connect communications equipment to the minimum point-of-entry protectors of all buildings on the campus.

Steven Elmore, RCDD, CommScope, Inc., Hickory, N.C., offered a lively exploration on "Cable Categories: Real and Imagined." He noted that Cat. 5 and Cat. 5e cable (defined in 568-A-5) constructions are real, whereas there is no standard yet for the construction of Cat. 6 cable, nor guidelines on how to test it. We are not even sure whether Cat. 6 products are measurable with handheld testers. Cat. 7 cable will use shielded twisted-pair copper, and its performance specs are yet to be determined.

Elmore noted that an installed cable run can pass a compliance test and still have a high bit error rate because of cable damage incurred during installation. Thus, the standard is a minimum acceptable benchmark. In many cases, meeting the standard is not good enough. This is one reason why manufacturers offer products that exceed the standard, and continue to design new types of cable constructions that potentially offer more headroom.

Chuck Lohrmann, BICSI Master Instructor, Tampa, Fla., explained the procedures used in testing Cat. 5 unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) copper cable to TIA/EIA TSB 67 and TIA/EIA TSB 95. Then, he described the more stringent requirements for testing Cat. 5e cable in which ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A-5 is the reference. Both cables have a specified bandwidth of 100 MHz for 100 m, but Cat. 5e offers improved performance. Because of the continual development in network protocols from 10Base-T to 100Base-T and beyond, consumers constantly demand higher transmission speeds.

It is necessary to comply with FCC rules on unintended radiation when operating at greater than 30 MHz. Manufacturers must rely on balance within the cable geometry to meet this requirement. In a second conference session, he suggested criteria to use in selecting the most practical copper or optical-fiber test set for a particular project or type of business.

Lohrmann noted you should select cable-testing equipment according to what is appropriate for the application and what is capable of meeting the measuring accuracy and precision necessary on a project. You must also consider whether it is better to purchase, lease, or rent the necessary test equipment.

Tom Swihart, RCDD, Holland, Mich., a modular furniture consultant and electrical engineer, tackled the thorny subject of telecommunication wiring installed in modular furniture. A serious drawback to an open office design is managing the horizontal cabling that supports electronic equipment on the desktop (i.e., at the workstation).

The TIA/EIA-568A and 569A standards do not address this open office design. According to an industry study, the cost of moving the cabling that supports these relocations can reach $500 per workstation. Most furniture systems were designed before the advent of the PC. Even today, they have less than adequate cable management features.

Because it is expensive to change the cabling within a modular furniture panel during office reconfiguration, he noted some possible solutions. For example, manufacturers have developed "technology spine walls," which provide enough power and low-voltage cabling that if you need to change a workstation layout, recabling is not necessary.

Another trend he noted is the growth in zone cabling or consolidation points, which place active devices (hubs, etc.) nearer the workstations on an office floor. A typical consolidation point supports various medial types, including unshielded twisted-pair (UTP), screened twisted-pair (ScTP), coaxial, and fiber optic cable. In some recently designed office-furniture lines, designers provide space for cable-service loops to support future relocation of panel-mounted cables.

Don Nelson, RCDD, NCA, Inc., Masnpee, Mass., explained the importance of setting up cost-effective project management for a telecommunications project. Because many customers ask for project management at their site, Nelson described a number of steps and procedures to follow. Build a plan, then define the project, which is called the scope of work (SOW).

Your customer and the project team should agree on the SOW, because it is the "baseline" for change orders. Develop three categories of an estimate: pessimistic (P), optimistic (O), and most likely (ML). The difference between the P and ML is risk. More than 10% is high-risk.

Then, you should analyze the project according to an organization breakdown structure, which is like a playbook for a football team. Management tools, such as Microsoft's Project 2000 and Primavera software can be very helpful in keeping track of various schedules, charts, and calendar views with a computer.

It's also important to recognize that a project manager is the chief safety officer on the project. This person should develop a plan for ensuring safe working conditions and compliance with all applicable standards and governmental regulations.