The word on everyone’s lips January 21-24 at the BICSI 2002 Winter Conference in Orlando, Fla., was “Ethernet,” and the conference’s nearly 3,000 attendees learned all they could on the subject at several presentations and booth displays: Not only is Ethernet evolving beyond its LAN roots and developing into a dominant networking technology, but an industry task group is also developing a standard that will allow AC electric power to travel through the copper cabling along with the data signals sent over 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, and 1000BASE-T twisted-pair cable segments.

An Open DeviceNet Vendor Association (ODVA) and ControlNet joint special interest group (JSIG) is developing standards for an Ethernet industrial protocol (EtherNet/IP). The JISG selected an RJ-45 plug-and-outlet design with a protective, bayonet-style outer housing for the new standard. In addition, the TIA TR-42.9 Industrial Telecommunications Infrastructure Group is working on the environmental requirements for this hardware. The group is still deciding what cable to include in the standard.

Conference program. The main conference program consisted of several individual sessions on a wide range of subjects. Here’s a snapshot summary of some of the more interesting presentations.

  • “Practical Applications of Media Conversion in Today’s Networks"

    Joseph Coffey, senior project engineer, ADC Telecommunications, Shakopee, Minn., explained how media conversion equipment can be used in a centralized optical fiber system or a multi-user telecommunications outlet (MUTO) to transfer data from a copper network to a fiber network, or vice versa. An MUTO is a termination point for the horizontal cable that originates in the telecom closet, and it can be mounted on the ceiling, floor, or wall, or attached to modular furniture. These media converters provide a cost-effective migration path to Gigabit Ethernet.

  • “Are We Bound for Trouble?”

    Paul Vanderlaan, senior product development engineer, Belden Electronics Division, Huntington, Ind., spoke about the concerns of retaining the electrical characteristics of cables after they are wrapped, or bundled together, to facilitate installation on a job. Some people worry that the conductor insulation could deform, causing alien cross talk and reducing the cable’s performance characteristics. His recommendation: Obtain bundled cabling material only from a house that has certified its assembly process.

  • “Environmental Sealed Cabling Solutions for Ethernet Applications.”

    John Wages, associate product manager, The Siemon Co., Watertown, Conn., and Steven Elmore, application engineer, CommScope, Claremont, N.C., looked at the difficulties encountered in protecting telecom cabling and equipment in a harsh industrial environment. In discussing the importance of a practical specification, they showed an industrial grade plug and outlet for Cat. 5e Ethernet networks, which has recently received standards approval.

A panel discussion entitled “The World of Non-Competing Telecommunications Organizations” brought together five association representatives: Chuck Wilson, National Systems Contractors; Dennis Hall, Construction Specification Institute; Ron Zimmer, Continental Automated Building Association; Jim Thurman, President, Independent Electrical Contractors Association; and Brooke Stauffer, National Electrical Contractors Association. As moderator, Jay Warmke, former executive director of BICSI, explained, there is a growing need for organizations involved in providing technology to join together to maintain control of the telecom industry. For the past few years, Warmke has been seeking greater cooperation among industry groups that previously opposed one another. One example of cooperation is the ANSI/NECA/BICSI-568-2001 document, published in November 2001. Developed by a BICSI/NEMA joint committee, this new standard is based on BICSI’s Telecommunications Cabling Installation Manual.

News and notable products. There were also some exciting news and new product announcements made on the exhibit floor.

3Com Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., unveiled a wall-mounted jack that provides switched and pass-through connectivity for a variety of applications. With a price tage as much as 60% less than pulling and implementing four Fast Ethernet cables, an NJ100 Network Jack adds four 10/100 Ethernet switched LAN connections through one UTP cable. It also provides optional RJ-11/RJ45 pass-through ports for analog voice lines or dedicated sub-networks. Using either Ethernet power sources or a local AC power supply, the unit eliminates unauthorized port expansion technology like desktop hubs.

The problem of managing complex cabling installations is being eased by the strategic coupling of Brady Worldwide, Inc., Milwaukee, and Tempo, Pleasant Hill, Calif. The labeling products manufacturer and DocIT cable management software designer, respectively, will create an automated documentation and labeling product that complies with the TIA 606-A standard. A third alliance member, Fluke Networks, offers its DSP-4300 cable analyzer, which has a memory card for storing and transferring test results.

Draka Comteq, Franklin, Mass., demonstrated MaxCap, an economical, 50-micron, multimode optical fiber for use with 850nm VCSEL (laser) systems. Suitable for 10 Gb/s applications over 300 m (984 ft), this new fiber is suited for local area networks and storage area networks.

Draka Molex, Hudson, N.H., introduced its Real-Time Patching System, which includes 24- and 48-port, high-density patch panels; patchcords that contain an extra conductor for sensing; and software. The system lets IT workers manage and monitor the physical network layer and associated hardware. It monitors the moves, adds, and changes and allows automated network mapping and work orders.

AMP Netconnect, Harrisburg, Pa., showed its five-gang access floor workstation module (two power and three communications) that can be used with a minimum floor height of 5.2 in. from the top of the raised floor to the top of the structural floor. A large cable opening allows for removal and re-installation of communications connectors without re-termination.

HellermannTyton, Milwaukee, introduced the AlphaSnap Cat. 6 patch panel, a new component of its GigaBand Cat. 6 structured cabling line. It features individual printed circuit board (PCB) modules and a slide label system, along with rear cable management bars for cable strain relief.

Ideal Industries, Sycamore, Ill., introduced its LANTEK 7 cable tester that can certify installations up to 750 MHz, exceeding CAT draft specifications. A fiber optic accessory allows you to trace fiber runs and locate breaks and splices.