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Current Standards Development

Category 6

The ISO/IEC and TIA Standards development groups have been making steady progress on the category 6/class E cabling standard. Their primary objective is to achieve the highest level of performance possible from unshielded and screened twisted-pair cabling. With an aggressive PS ACR target of 200 MHz - category 6/class E cabling delivers twice the usable bandwidth of category 5e. Since work began on the standard back in September of 1997, significant progress has been made toward reaching this goal.

At the June 2001 meeting of the TIA TR-42.7 Copper Cabling Systems working group, the committee developed Draft 9 of the category 6 standard. Draft 9 comments began review in August, and preliminary modifications were incorporated into Draft 9a by TIA TR-42.7. Upon completion of the comments, Draft 10 will be compiled. Once Draft 10 is accepted, it will be submitted submitted for industry ballot and could be approved in Q1 2002. ISO/IEC requirements for category 6/class E are well aligned with TIA and have advanced to the final committee ballot stage as document ‘SC25 N729.

Key Milestones
Development milestones for the category 6 standard can be divided into three key areas:
     1. Definition of channel and permanent link performance specifications
     2. Development of reliable and repeatable test procedures to measure component performance
     3. Definition of cable and connecting hardware performance requirements

Clearly defined specifications for these items give cabling system manufacturers the guidance needed to turn engineering theory into reality. These specifications are the road map cabling manufacturers use to design and validate component performance and ultimately deliver end-to-end solutions that meet or exceed category 6/class E specifications. A common set of specifications ensures compatibility between products made by diverse cabling and equipment manufacturers (i.e., interoperability).

Status of Channel and Permanent Link Specifications
The good news is that channel and permanent link performance targets are mature and only minor changes have been made to them in the past year. A comparison of Draft 6 (April 2000) with Draft 9 (June 2001) reveals no changes to NEXT values and only a fractional change to insertion loss (see Table 1). Permanent link return loss requirements have actually been relaxed by approximately 1dB at higher frequencies.

With the maturity of category 6 channel and permanent link specifications, significant modifications to performance requirements are unlikely in the future.

Status of Component Testing

Performance is measured on a MAX® 6 outlet at Siemon's R&D lab to ensure the outlet meets or exceeds proposed category 6 requirement specifications.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Measuring the performance on an individual jack is akin to trying to answer this age-old question. How do you measure the performance of a single component without connecting it to a cable or a modular plug? The simple answer is that you cannot.

Fortunately, TIA TR-42.7.1 has devised an innovative means to accurately measure category 6 connecting hardware performance. The critical tool required to accomplish this task is a test plug. A test plug's NEXT and FEXT performance is verified to fall within a well defined range (see Table 2 ) through a de-embedded test procedure. The specified range between "low" and "high" category 6 test plugs accounts for performance differences that result from different plug designs and cable termination. The category 6 plug range was selected as a subset of the category 5e range to ensure that category 6 plugs and jacks are backward compatible with lower categories. Qualified test plugs that fall within this range can then be used by manufacturers to design and validate category 6 jacks.

Thanks to the efforts of a small group of technical experts working on the de-embedded test method, performance targets for test plugs are now stable. A comparison of de-embedded plug NEXT values from Draft 6 to Draft 9 are shown in Table 2. Although some of the numbers have changed, the reality is that the new values are more indicative of real-world plug performance than earlier drafts.

Now that TIA TR-42.7.1 has clearly defined test plug requirements, their remaining work is focused on refining de-embedded test procedures. The goal is to deliver a reliable, repeatable procedure manufacturers can use for connector qualification. There were several presentations at the June 2001 TIA meeting demonstrating improvements that can be implemented to significantly improve the de-embedded test plug qualification test procedure. TIA experts are currently finalizing these refinements. Their recommendations should be presented at an upcoming TIA meeting for inclusion in Draft 10.

Status of Hardware Performance Specifications — Connectors
There have been no changes to insertion loss, NEXT, and FEXT in the past year and a half. Return loss is the only parameter that has been revised (only at 1 MHz due to measurement accuracy considerations). Table 3 shows the comparison of connector performance specifications from Draft 6 to Draft 9.

Status of Hardware Performance Specifications — Patch Cords
The same "de-embedded" performance targets mentioned earlier for test plugs also apply to modular plug terminations of category 6 modular patch cords. A standardized test to benchmark modular patch cord performance is critical to delivering a category 6 compliant system. TIA TR-42.7 has defined a modular cord test procedure and requirements that have been incorporated into Draft 9a.

While those unfamiliar with the standards development process may view the various category 6 draft revisions as a sign that the standard is in flux, those involved in the development process realize this is the natural evolution of the standard. Draft improvements are steps along the way to a completed quality document the industry can use to develop end-to-end category 6 cabling solutions. The short-term benefit is better performance and reliability as network capacity is pushed to its limits by increased bandwidth per-node and an ever-expanding number of IP devices. Category 6 cabling has been proven to deliver better network performance with a wider range of network equipment and operating environments than any other type of installed cabling. The long-term benefit is the capability to service higher data transmission rates for emerging networking applications.

All of the obstacles that have been preventing category 6 from becoming a published standard are now being overcome. All technical issues will be addressed in Q3 2001 and TIA TR-42.7 should be circulating this final draft for approval later this year. Barring any unforeseen issues, category 6 will be ready for industry release early in 2002.

Those who want to install a category 6 cabling solution prior to the finalization of the standard should adhere to a few simple guidelines. It is wise to purchase category 6 systems with margin above the proposed standard's specifications and to have channel/link performance verified after installation. Customers can ensure they are getting category 6 compliant components by looking for manufacturers who have invested in the R&D resources needed to design category 6 connectors and maintain tight quality control over their manufacturing processes. ISO certification and automated video inspection of components are two signs that a manufacturer has the ability to produce category 6 compliant components. Customers can also request independent lab verification certifying component and channel compliance to draft specifications before they make a purchasing decision. Of course, any system should be backed by a manufacturer's warranty covering both system performance and support of future applications.

Category 7

Can an "RJ-style" connector meet category 7/class F requirements up to 600 MHz?

This is the question that ISO/IEC has been trying to answer since backward compatibility provisions were added to the draft in 1997. The ISO/IEC group working on the standard would like to standardize on an 8-position modular "RJ-style" interface for use at the Telecommunications Outlet (TO) given the widespread acceptance of the RJ design. However, the "RJ-style" connector must demonstrate both category 7/class F performance requirements and backward compatibility with earlier standards such as category 5e and 6. Despite years of development and testing, an "RJ-style" connector that complies with these objectives is not yet available.


Category 7 "Non RJ-Style" Connector
IEC 61076-3-104 (draft)

Proposed Category 7 "RJ-Style" Connector
IEC 60603-7-7 (draft)

At the most recent ISO/IEC meeting in August 2001, the group amended the category 7/class F draft to allow use of the "non-RJ" style connector interface for situations where backward compatibility with lower standards is not an issue or where applications require higher performance. This is a significant change, since earlier drafts classified the "non-RJ" connector as a fall back option in the event the "RJ-style" connector could not meet category 7/class F requirements.

ISO/IEC has selected a "non-RJ" connector interface based on the Siemon TERA™ connector. TERA™'s compliance with category 7/class F transmission and reliability performance has already been successfully demonstrated and it is commercially available from multiple suppliers throughout the world.

Customers who wish to install a category 7/class F solution today may use the Siemon TERA™ connector. If backward compatibility with earlier standards and active equipment with RJ-45 or RJ-11 ports is a concern, Siemon offers TERA™ to modular plug cable assemblies.

TERA™ to modular plug cable assemblies
provide backward compatibility with earlier
standards and current network equipment.

Is Category 8 Next?

ISO/IEC has begun work on a potential new standard for fully shielded (SSTP) cabling with up to 1.2 GHz of bandwidth. A new work item proposal, number 48B/970/NP, has been submitted and accepted by the IEC SC48B subcommittee.

The need for performance is, in part, being driven by the desire to run broadband video signals over twisted-pair cabling. Additionally, SSTP cables are already commercially available that can deliver in excess of 1 GHz of bandwidth. The committee's objective is to specify a connector that can match the cable's performance.

This project is still in the preliminary stages. The design has not been fixed by any means and is open for input.

Building Automation Systems

In most buildings today there are a variety of different cables used to serve lighting, heating and cooling, security, and fire alarm needs. Typical media types are coax and a variety of low voltage electrical wiring. While current cabling is adequate for simple applications (e.g., turning devices on/off, relay limited data, sense basic events), it is not enough for new intelligent devices. Intelligent control devices offer enhanced system management and savings for building owners and increased efficiency, comfort, and security for occupants.

BAS Topologies

Back in August 1999, TIA recognized the trend toward intelligent building systems and began work on a new standard for building automation systems (BAS), TIA tracking number SP-3-4655, to be published as ANSI/TIA/EIA-862. The standard will specify a generic structured cabling infrastructure to accommodate the needs of diverse control devices. It defines requirements for cabling topology architecture, design, installation practices, test procedures, and requirements for components that comprise the cabling system.

The following are a few highlights from the proposed new standard:

Telecommunications Room
The BAS structured cabling shares all telecommunications facilities with the voice/data cabling specified in the EIA/TIA-568-B.1 standard such as Entrance Facility, Equipment Room and Tele-communications Room.

Recognized Media for the BAS backbone and horizontal cabling may be:

  • 100 ohm balanced twisted-pair cable
  • multimode optical fiber cable, either 62.5/125 or 50/125 µm
  • singlemode optical fiber cable

The horizontal cabling is installed in a star topology and the backbone cabling in the hierarchical star topology as specified in EIA/TIA-568-B.1. The maximum horizontal and backbone distances for BAS applications comply with the EIA/TIA-568-B.1 standard.

Coverage Area
The coverage area refers to the space served by one BAS device. The coverage area begins at either a BAS outlet/connector or at a horizontal connection point and ends at the first BAS device. Unlike traditional voice/data cabling, a single horizontal cabling link or channel can serve more than one coverage area. Additionally, a variety of coverage area topologies may be used, including discrete star, bridge, chain, multipoint bus, multipoint ring/fault, and tolerant circuit.

Connector Interface
The recognized telecommunications outlet/connector for BAS is an interface that complies with the horizontal cabling requirements specified in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.1.

The BAS standard also references the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.1 for testing.

Additionally, the BAS standard contains several normative appendixes on power feeding BAS devices over twisted-pair cabling, separation of services, and optional coverage area topologies.

Thanks to TIA TR-42.1's efforts, the foundation has been built for a new cabling solution that will enhance and improve the efficiency of the many services we use every day at the office. This standard is scheduled for approval in Q1 2002.

SOHO (Small Office Home Office)

If you are a small office or residential building owner searching for a cabling standard to assist you in the design and configuration of a cost-effective cabling infrastructure, ISO/IEC will soon have a standard just for you.

The ISO/IEC JCT 1/SC 25 N708 Draft titled Fourth CD: Integrated Cabling for Residential and SOHO (Small Office Home Office) Environment has been distributed for comments.

This standard specifies a single integrated cabling infrastructure consisting of balanced cables and coaxial cables for the following applications:
     1. Commands, Controls and Communications in Building (CCCB)
     2. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)
     3. Home Entertainment and Multimedia (HEM)

A common cabling platform can reduce SOHO installation costs while increasing flexibility and performance.

The typical cabling infrastructure for both CCCB and ICT is specified for frequencies up to 100 MHz. Two choices of media are recommended for these applications. The CCCB allows for 100 ohm balanced cable and electrical grade cable. On the other hand, 100 ohm balanced cable is specified for the ICT.

Currently, HEM cabling is characterized to an upper frequency value of 1.0 GHz with 2 choices of cable — 100 ohm balanced and 75 ohm coax.

For HEM outlets and plugs, the technical committee responsible for the development of the draft has selected the IEC 61076-3-104 interface (The Siemon Company's TERA™ connector). The TERA™ connector is a fully shielded, 4-pair, balanced connector that exceeds all pending ISO/IEC specifications for category 7/class F cabling.

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