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Can you tell me how to differentiate between quality of cables?

Can you tell me how to differentiate between quality of cables?
I'm currently working on a project where we will try to provide 100/1000 Mbps on our backbone cable and UTP 100 Mbps to our end user. The cables will be installed from pole to pole and will be faced with extreme weather conditions.
The key difference in cable quality is headroom and margin. These are the parameters above the standards that provide a "forgiveness factor" so to speak. You also want to check warranty. There are several flavors out there, but key is an application warranty to assure that your applications will run over the cabling. You also want to stick with a company that is heavily entrenched into standards, as they help set them. UTP may not be your best option in this environment, especially as the network adds more services.

The latest and greatest cabling standard in the ISO is Category 7. There are two connectors for this also. One is the GG45 which is like an RJ45. The other is the TERA™ connector that has four fully shielded quadrants and allows you to split out the pairs so one cable could run two 10/100 connections or if all 4 pairs are used you could run gig. The cable is called a PiMF (Pairs in Metal Foil) cable. The advantages of this cable, especially in your environment, are that each pair is shielded and the overall cable is also shielded with a braid around all four pairs. This cable has the highest noise immunity and is capable of superior bandwidth performance (1.2 GHz with TERA™). Cable is about 5-7% of the overall investment, but is expected to last 10-15 years or 2-5 generations of electronics.

ScTP or Screened cable provides an overall braided shield and also has great noise immunity. Installation is the most important part of any cabling installation. The best cable can be ruined by a poor install. Ask the company what their training entails. If it is half a day… forget them. The more comprehensive their training, the better end result you will have.

Remember this is the highway for your system. I would use nothing less than Category 6, and if you are smart you will look for Category 6 ScTP or Category 7 that will support 10G services. Whether you roll it out with 10G backbones or not, you may someday and you certainly don't want to redo the cable. Your other option is fiber, but as you did not mention it here, I am assuming that you don't want to do that. Another neat advantage of copper is the ability to provide power to your devices, and that may be something you want to check into.

This was last published in February 2004

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