The CSI will likely adopt its proposal to remove low-voltage communications and control wiring from Division 16 and place it in a new Division 17.

The theme for the BICSI 2001 Spring Conference was “Optimizing Network Performance,” and nearly 3200 designers, installers, and data communications network managers gathered May 7 to 10 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas to see what more than 160 manufacturers were offering to help them meet that goal.

In one of the seminars, Tom Rauscher, Archi-Technology, Rochester, N.Y., provided an update on the Division 17 initiative, which seeks to revamp the MasterFormat model used by architects and engineers to keep pace with today's technology systems for buildings. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) will likely adopt its proposal to remove low-voltage communications and control wiring from Division 16 and place it in a new Division 17.

Audio/video equipment, telephone equipment, data network, security equipment, building automation (HVAC), and fire/life safety systems have made building design a much more complicated process than ever before. Consequently, it's necessary to integrate six independent construction documents into the process. The Division 17 proposal puts these six designs into a single set of construction documents. Within this set, as many as five layers of detailed drawings can be used, making it easy for all the trades to understand the steps involved in installing various cabling-related equipment and avoid conflicts in multiple-use pathways and spaces.

In another session, John Struhar, Jr., Lucent Technologies, Norcross, Ga., discussed the TIA/EIA-785 100BASE-SX standard (short wavelength Fast Ethernet) for optical-fiber cabling. Timing and market conditions could not be better for ratification of this standard, which will work with and alongside the Ethernet/Fast Ethernet equipment that makes up more than 80% of the premises local area network market.

Rob Riccitelli, Wiremold, Peachtree City, Ga., reviewed the various methods used to support a structured cabling system in a typical office building. With the explosion of growth in a variety of communications services, customers and contractors are demanding greater capacity and easier placement methods. As a result, manufacturers are introducing a variety of new and improved products to meet those demands. Riccitelli mentioned a new through-the-floor product that holds four communications outlets and four 20A receptacles supported on two branch circuits. This configuration enables the device to handle numerous workstation-cabling requirements as the needs of an office change over time.

With new developments in 10 Gb multimode fiber standards and systems, John E. George, Lucent Technologies, said many companies need to move computer files across a backbone or a server farm at data rates of up to 10 Gbps. The 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, an industry consortium of vendors, is working closely with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to nail down the standard draft proposal 802.3ae for high-speed networking.

Since March 1999, members of the Ethernet industry have been working to provide answers for network managers who need the technology to scale up enterprise LAN application performance while leveraging their Ethernet equipment investments. For metropolitan and wide-area service provider applications, 10 Gb Ethernet will provide high-performance, cost-effective links that are easily managed with Ethernet tools. And 10 Gb Ethernet matches the speed of the fastest technology on the WAN fiber backbone, OC-192, which runs at approximately 9.5 Gbps. But before Ethernet users can benefit from this speed, new switches, network interface cards, and other equipment must be developed. Nevertheless, the IEEE hopes to ratify the 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard in June 2002.

How do you verify that your fiber optic cabling system is ready for Gb applications? Hugo Draye, Fluke Networks, Everett, Wash., answered that question when he reviewed the test requirements and methods necessary for verifying the performance of a fiber optic system. Testing becomes very important, especially with the growth of the different types of optical-fiber construction and the use of vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) to accommodate Gb Ethernet speeds.

Focusing on proposed changes in the TIA/EIA 606-A standard, Todd Fries, HellermannTyton, Milwaukee, looked at the efforts of the committee to simplify the identification and labeling of a cabling system. The revised standard establishes classes of administration according to the size of the building or campus. Additionally, the new document calls for printed identification labels. It also recommends the use of software that can support the database needs of data port labeling, along with the need to identify grounding system hardware and fire-stop systems within a building.

On the residential front, Mark Johnston, Microtest, Phoenix, highlighted recent trends in residential cabling systems and the growing market for entertainment, security/monitoring, and computer networking systems in a home. Johnston also reviewed the new EIA/TIA 570-A Residential Wiring Standard, which defines a structured wiring system similar to that of an office building, in the sense that a star wiring typology is defined for supporting the phone and data cabling. The document provides for two grades of balanced twisted-pair copper cabling in the home. The first grade specifies Cat. 3 UTP cabling as a minimum, and the second grade specifies the use of Cat. 5 or 5e for supporting multimedia applications over copper cabling. This new standard can be a marketing tool for the electrical contractor interested in installing all of the home's low-voltage cabling systems and testing and certifying the phone/data cabling system. The use of a high-performance portable field tester makes it easy to perform these tests and turn over valuable certification documentation to the homeowner.

Rob Wessels, CommScope, Hickory, N.C., presented on the topic of cabling requirements for fixed wireless systems. Operating in the 25 GHz to 40 GHz bands, a fixed wireless system provides an alternative means for telecommunications access to buildings and offices. Small dish antennas (generally less than 0.5 m in diameter) usually operate as a line-of-sight transmission between two buildings. Most buildings don't have a high-bandwidth optical-fiber connection, and a fixed wireless system can be set up relatively economically to interconnect a number of nearby buildings into a LAN. Significant improvements in wireless technologies make the product user-friendly, and industry analysts predict a surge in the number of wireless data subscribers over the next several years. Improvements continue in all areas of wireless networking, helping the technology make a thrust into the home through wireless appliances. The IEEE recently ratified the 802.11b standard for speeds up to 11 Mbps, opening up the market to increased sales. Looking forward, the next big draw will be the 3G technologies, or third-generation mobile communications, that provide quicker Internet access and faster data capture.

Las Vegas may be a gambler's paradise, but for attendees at the BICSI 2001 Spring Conference, the information presented on optimizing network performance was a sure thing.