Category 3 versus category 5

Q: I have been assigned to find out if we should be installing Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair cable in our buildings as we modernize. Currently, we have a wiring plan that specifies two Category 3 four-pair, UTP cables to each workstation. We have been asked to run at least one Category 5 and one Category 3 cable to each workstation. Is the current philosophy to install Category 5 now just in case there will be a requirement later? And isn`t the price of a Category 5 cable plant increased by

Q: I have been assigned to find out if we should be installing Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair cable in our buildings as we modernize. Currently, we have a wiring plan that specifies two Category 3 four-pair, UTP cables to each workstation. We have been asked to run at least one Category 5 and one Category 3 cable to each workstation. Is the current philosophy to install Category 5 now just in case there will be a requirement later? And isn`t the price of a Category 5 cable plant increased by all the jacks, connecting hardware and crossconnects, which must also be Category 5? And finally, aren`t equipment manufacturers building systems to take advantage of Category 3 cable rather than having a customer change the wire out to Category 5?

Wally Brockway

Internal Revenue Service

Washington, DC

A: The demand for bandwidth to the workstation is increasing on a logarithmic scale. Whether you are working with remodeled space or in new construction, placing Category 5 over Category 3 for data is sound advice. I recommend that you install the media with the greatest bandwidth that will support hardware within the client`s budget. Then, when the hardware is upgraded in two to five years, you will not be recabling. Big bucks are not spent on upscaling the cabling system components; instead, they are spent on the labor to assemble those components into a telecommunications infrastructure. Choose the wrong medium and you will have to do the job again.

I caution you that not all applications are being designed to run on a Category 3 cabling system. For those that are, you are going to have to pay for the additional electronics in the hardware that facilitates such transmission.

I do not know how it works in your world, but at the University of Texas at Austin, the clients decide what hardware to purchase, and we supply the media to support it. They don`t call and ask if the cable in their building will support XYZ technology; instead, they shop for the best and most affordable solution to their networking needs. Hardware that requires Category 5 performance is shipping today.

You are correct in assuming that to have a Category 5-compliant cabling system, all the components of the cabling system must be Category 5-compliant. The cost differential between Category 3 and Category 5 connecting hardware will vary according to product line. You will have to perform a cost comparison based on the hardware of your choice.

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