Ask the Expert

What are a TV tower's effects on your network?

The company I work for is going to be building a new building very close to a TV station tower. What do I need to take into consideration to make sure my wired network functions properly being so close to a tower? Where can I find more information on a TV tower's effect on my overall network?

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Taking the necessary precautions to ensure your new network works without problems is a very important step, and one which unfortunately many ignore during the design phase.

While I'm no expert in electromagnetic interference, there are many in-depth guides on the Internet (a simple Google search will reveal them) that will tell you what you need to avoid to ensure your building is not susceptible to interference.

My experience, on the other hand, is something I can share with you:

On the cabling side of things, you should run fiber optic cables between each floor and building as they are not susceptible to electromagnetic interference. These fiber optic cables can connect each floor's central cabinet between them (using high class switches such as Cisco's Catalyst series) forming a fast network backbone. You can also combine multiple fibers and use techniques such as "EtherChannel" to aggregate the bandwidth of your backbone, e.g., combining two 1 Gbps links as one 2 Gbps link.

Do you have questions about networking, VPN security or VoIP? Then visit Firewall.cx, one of the few websites recommended by Cisco Systems in its world class Cisco Academy program.

Cables running to your desktop/workstations and various hosts inside your network should use UTP Category 6 cabling, which in turn will allow you to run Gigabit Ethernet and provide adequate shielding. This of course means you will need to use Category 6 type patch panels (at your cabinets) and RJ45 wall sockets.

When using the same Category (6) items, you'll be able to ask your cabling company to certify the installation at its maximum speed. For example, an installation using CAT 6 cabling, patch panels and wall sockets, each network socket should be certified at 1 Gbps speed. The certification is performed for each physical link/cable that runs from your patch panel cabinet to the wall socket, where it terminates. If any link fails, then the patching for that link is re-checked and -- if needed -- re-patched, so the link can be finally certified. You can then pass the certification results (assuming they are all PASS) to your management, as proof that the correct steps have been taken for the network cabling.

In closing, it is imperative that you avoid running network cabling alongside electrical cables and if there are sections where you simply can't avoid it, then run the UTP cables within a shielded cage which is grounded. This will help minimize any electromagnetic interference the UTP cable might pick up from your electrical cables.

Good luck !

This was first published in February 2008

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