The BICSI 2003 Spring Conference, held at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center, May 12-15, 2003, drew about 1,400 attendees eager to learn about industry standards and products that can provide solutions for commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities. In presentations and on the exhibit floor, cabling specialists studied a number of new applications that expand the use of a single structured cabling system while at the same time challenge network performance. These applications include carrying voice telephony, digital video, and a host of building sensing and control system data over a network that in the future must provide rock-solid reliability and high bandwidth capabilities.

Technical session highlights.

  • Robert Jensen, Fluke Networks, Inc., Austin, Texas, delivered a two-part presentation. The first part focused on proposed changes to the NEC that affect the telecommunications industry. He discussed possible changes to Table 800.53, which covers cable uses and permitted substitutions, and reiterated to the group that the 2002 NEC requires removal or tagging of all abandoned cable. The second part of his presentation focused on the topic of counterfeit UTP cabling being sold in the United States today. Jensen alerted those in attendance that the packaging and marking of these cables were very similar to the high-quality brands everyone is familiar with. He noted that the appeal to some contractors to use this cable centered on the fact that they’re anxious to reduce material costs on their telecom projects. Providing below-standard performance, these cables feel and handle differently than the standards-based cabling: the conductor insulation lacks clarity of color, and the inferiority of the box printing and labeling are clues to their bogus nature.

  • Robert Schluter, Middle Atlantic Products/DataTel, Riverdale, N.J. provided a look into a future in which he sees security video carried over LAN networks, a transition from coax to UTP cabling with the use of digital imaging, and a wider use of IP-addressed devices. The market changes would include the merger of video surveillance and the IT sectors and the increased use of digital video recorders and “smart” equipment that provides motion and heat detection, as well as face recognition. These capabilities accelerate a shift from reactive to preventive monitoring at a time when facility security is increasingly important.

  • Don Nicholson, ITS/ETL SEMKO, Cortland, N.Y., described the proper way to install a cabling system that conforms to NEC requirements and the usefulness of following recognized industry practices, such as TIA/EIA standards, to ensure proper network performance. He also reviewed the accepted procedure for substituting various conductor insulation classifications, such as the CMP (communications plenum cable) rating, which creates a fire safe design.

  • William Gade, Hilti, Inc., Oswego, Ill., reviewed the fire stopping techniques and materials used to prevent fire/smoke propagation in a facility. He described the F rating, the time lapse before fire comes through a penetration; the T rating, the time before the non-fire side reaches 325°F plus ambient temperature; and the L rating, which quantifies the amount of air leakage from one space to another over a period of time.

  • Craig Williams, Tera Byte, Ltd., Downers Grove, Ill., outlined the cabling and technologies that can best support K-12 schools today and in the future. For example, he envisions that within seven years every student will carry a computerized device to school. Providing converged media like video programming—both internally and externally generated content—the Internet, audio, and PC material would make it easier to deliver suitable information to each student. Williams offered a case study on York High School in Elmhurst, Ill., where he specified IP telephony, hybrid video distribution, security, and HVAC/lighting control over a fiber/copper structured cabling network. Through use of a wireless-networked laptop, each teacher in the school can provide hourly Web-based attendance. The technical information portion of the construction budget on this project was 5%, and the computer hardware/software budget was 3% of the $80 million total cost for this facility expansion.

  • Philip Schlesinger, TelTech Plus, Inc., Vista, Calif., explained the importance of providing high security against unauthorized access to wireless networks. Two areas of concern: the data transmitted can be air-tapped and the computers and network hardware on the wireless system can be attacked. Two suggestions: use only the transmitting power you need at the facility and shape the broadcast coverage area within the building or campus.

  • Todd Fries, HellermannTyton, Milwaukee, detailed the labeling and record keeping procedures required by the revised 606-A standard. By properly identifying system elements and maintaining accurate records, all moves, adds and changes, troubleshooting, and repairs can be handled faster and more efficiently. Four classes of administration are given in the standard, accommodating any degree of complexity in a building or campus.

  • Brian Mordick, Hoffman Enclosures, Anoka, Minn., clarified seismic requirements for open frame racks and cabinets. He explained that increased security and disaster contingencies are classifying communications systems in facilities like hospitals, community centers, schools, and universities as essential, and therefore equipment in a seismic zone should be properly rated.

  • The standard that applies in North America is the Network Equipment Building Systems standard, Telcordia GR-63-CORE, which was developed by the Bell Systems. The specification defines very specific dimensions for racks and cabinets, which are referred to as “Framework”. No braces, steel guy wires brackets, isolators, or other devices can be attached to the framework. This means that the welded steel framework has to be bolted to the floor without any auxiliary support or bracing because the walls or ceiling would have their own movements in a seismic event.

    The standard establishes five zones based on a history of seismic activity. The West Coast has the highest rating. The framework being evaluated undergoes a dynamic Seismic Test, which simulates and approximates a magnitude 8.3 earthquake. The actual equipment must be tested in its intended position, and the test involves certification (application specific) and conformance (which provides an indication as to how well the framework will perform in use).

    The standard also considers equipment and cable layout in the telcom room, for example, all cables must have service loops to withstand seismic movement, and in some cases equipment slides (drawers) may be prohibited.