Q: In 1991, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst did a complete rewire for a new Ericsson

Q: In 1991, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst did a complete rewire for a new Ericsson telephone system. They ran a new Tex-Arcana unrated 8-pair wire to each station, terminated with a Suttle 2-RJ-11 screw-type faceplate at one end and a 66M1-50 block at the other. Currently, the same wire is sold as a Category 2 product. At the time, no provision was made for data other than the proprietary solutions offered through the switch.

Q: In 1991, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst did a complete rewire for a new Ericsson telephone system. They ran a new Tex-Arcana unrated 8-pair wire to each station, terminated with a Suttle 2-RJ-11 screw-type faceplate at one end and a 66M1-50 block at the other. Currently, the same wire is sold as a Category 2 product. At the time, no provision was made for data other than the proprietary solutions offered through the switch.

Over time, many areas of campus installed their own local area network solutions--10Base-2, 10Base-5 and 10Base-T--and we interconnected these organically grown networks through a large fiber network that was built in 1992. The telecommunications office came up with a plan that, in essence, reterminated the 8-pair telephony station wire by replacing the Suttle screw-terminal jacks with a modern AT&T faceplate with four jack positions (3-RJ-11 terminated with 1-pair, 1-pair, 2-pair, and 1-RJ-45 with 4-pair cables). They cross-wired at the blocks to Category 5 patch panels, giving a single 10Base-T service to the faceplate with fairly successful results.

Now, the campus has received funding to install networks into more than 70 buildings. The telecommunications office wants to continue with this approach. I am sitting on several committees that are involved and feel that this is a shortsighted, nonstandards-based approach. I would like to see brand new Category 5-rated wire and components installed. Supporters of the retrofit solution say that their approach has been done before on many campuses very successfully.

Have you heard of this being done before ? If so, where? Any other opinions or suggestions would also be welcome.

Scott F. Conti

University of Massachusetts

Amherst, Massachusetts

A: University of Massachusetts at Amherst is not alone. The University of Texas at Austin has a few organically grown networks of its own. I recently did a Q&A session for an IEEE group that is working on 100Base-T2 that would use two pairs of Category 3 cable. They are developing a "next step" product for 10Base-T users and seemed quite amazed when I explained that a lot of 10Base-T networks are not installed on Category 3-compliant cabling systems but on the kludge you describe.

I suggest that you ask the folks in the telecommunications office for a list of the campuses where such retrofits are working so successfully. Contact the site network guru and ask, "How do you plan to support future generations of network hardware?" Then offer them the following Web site as food for thought: http://web.syr.edu/~jmwobus/ comfaqs/lan-technology.

Once they upgrade from 10Base-T to switched, the next step will require a structured cabling system. Whether they choose Category 3 or 5, multimode or singlemode fiber, they will have to recable.

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