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You should be aware of what kinds of cabling you are using to connected your data network. It can make a significant difference if you are using, for instance, fiber optic cable vs. low-voltage data cable to connect your business network – both internally, and to the outside world.

In some cases, a network will utilize only one type of cable, where other networks will use a variety of cable types. The type of cable chosen for a network is related to the network’s topology, protocol, and size. Understanding the characteristics of different types of cable and how they relate to other aspects of a network is necessary for developing a successful network.

And, you need the right kinds of data cablers installing and providing maintenance on your cable network.

Twisted pair cabling, the most common variety of cabling, comes in two varieties: shielded and unshielded. Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) is the most popular and is generally the best option for school networks.

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)

The quality of UTP may vary from telephone-grade wire to extremely high-speed cable. The cable has four pairs of wires inside the jacket. Each pair is twisted with a different number of twists per inch to help eliminate interference from adjacent pairs and other electrical devices.

The tighter the twisting, the higher the supported transmission rate and the greater the cost per foot. The EIA/TIA (Electronic Industry Association/Telecommunication Industry Association) has established standards of UTP and rated six categories of wire (additional categories are emerging).

Categories of Unshielded Twisted Pair Data Cabling

Category       Speed Use

1                   1 Mbps         Voice Only (Telephone Wire)
2                   4 Mbps         LocalTalk & Telephone (Rarely used)
3                   16 Mbps        10BaseT Ethernet
4                   20 Mbps        Token Ring (Rarely used)
5                   100 Mbps (2 pair)    100BaseT Ethernet
                      1,000 Mbps (4 pair)  Gigabit Ethernet
5e                  1,000 Mbps   Gigabit Ethernet
6                   10,000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet

Unshielded Twisted Pair Connector

The standard connector for unshielded twisted pair cabling is an RJ-45 connector. This is a plastic connector that looks like a large telephone-style connector with a slot allows the RJ-45 to be inserted only one way. RJ stands for Registered Jack, implying that the connector follows a standard borrowed from the telephone industry. This standard designates which wire goes with each pin inside the connector.

Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) Cable

Although UTP cable is the least expensive cable, it may be susceptible to radio and electrical frequency interference (it shouldn’t be too close to electric motors, fluorescent lights, etc.). If you must place cable in environments with lots of potential interference, or if you must place your data cabling in extremely sensitive environments that may be susceptible to the electrical current in the UTP, shielded twisted pair may be the best solution.

Shielded cables can also help to extend the maximum distance of the cables.

Shielded twisted pair cable is available in three different configurations:

  • Each pair of wires is individually shielded with foil.
  • There is a foil or braid shield inside the jacket covering all wires (as a group).
  • There is a shield around each individual pair, as well as around the entire group of wires (referred to as double shield twisted pair).

Coaxial Cable

Coaxial cabling has a single copper conductor at its center. A plastic layer provides insulation between the center conductor and a braided metal shield. The metal shield helps to block any outside interference from fluorescent lights, motors, and other computers.

Although coaxial cabling is difficult to install, it is highly resistant to signal interference. In addition, it can support greater cable lengths between network devices than twisted pair cable. The two types of coaxial cabling are thick coaxial and thin coaxial.

Coaxial Cable Connectors

The most common type of connector used with coaxial cables is the Bayone-Neill-Concelman (BNC) connector. Different types of adapters are available for BNC connectors, including a T-connector, barrel connector, and terminator. Connectors on the cable are the weakest points in any network. To help avoid problems with your network, we always use the BNC connectors that crimp, rather screw, onto the cable.

Fiber Optic Cable

Fiber optic cabling consists of a center glass core surrounded by several layers of protective materials. It transmits light rather than electronic signals eliminating the problem of electrical interference. This makes it ideal for certain environments that contain a large amount of electrical interference. It has also made it the standard for connecting networks between buildings, due to its immunity to the effects of moisture and lighting.

Fiber optic cable can transmit signals over much longer distances than coaxial and twisted pair. It also has the capability to carry information at vastly greater speeds. This capacity broadens communication possibilities to include services such as video conferencing and interactive services.

The cost of fiber optic cabling is comparable to copper cabling; however, it is more difficult to install and modify. 10BaseF refers to the specifications for fiber optic cable carrying Ethernet signals.

(Source: Florida Dept. of Instructional Tech., Univ. of South Florida)

Installing Data Cable – A Few Key Tips

When running network cabling, it is best to follow a few simple rules:

  • Always use more cable than you need. Leave plenty of slack.
  • Test every part of a network as you install it. Even if it is brand new, it may have problems that will be difficult to isolate later.
  • Stay at least 3 feet away from fluorescent light boxes and other sources of electrical interference.
  • If it is necessary to run cable across the floor, cover the cable with cable protectors.
  • Label both ends of each data cable.
  • Use cable ties (not tape) to keep data cables in the same location together.

When in doubt, always call in the professionals. In this case, BACS, your San Francisco Bay Area data cabling experts, who you can reach at (650) 887-4601 or by email online for more info on getting the type of data cable in the Bay Area that will keep your business network optimally connected!

Published on 12th September 2017 by James Berger.