Is copper wire the proverbial bad penny?

There`s an old saying that goes something like: "He`s like a bad penny; he just keeps turning up." That saying came to mind recently when we received a Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) advisory about possible delay-skew problems in Category 5 copper cabling (see "TIA issues warning about Category 5 cable," page 67). Is copper wire the proverbial bad penny?

Jun 1st, 1996

There`s an old saying that goes something like: "He`s like a bad penny; he just keeps turning up." That saying came to mind recently when we received a Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) advisory about possible delay-skew problems in Category 5 copper cabling (see "TIA issues warning about Category 5 cable," page 67). Is copper wire the proverbial bad penny?

Without answering that question directly, it is safe to say that copper cable and components have contributed more than their share of technical issues to the copper/fiber debate over the last few years. Who can forget Category 4 cabling, 8-pin modular jacks, handheld cable testers, near-end crosstalk and Level 1 versus Level 2 accuracy, to name just a few of the recent controversies covered in the pages of Cabling Installation & Maintenance?

And these issues continue to arise with alarming frequency. For example, within the last few months, we have been confronted with a proposed Category 6 cabling classification, a European electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference directive, separation from power cables in modular furniture, and grounding and bonding issues. And now, we are hearing about delay skew in Category 5 cables, and a hint that connector imbalance is soon to follow.

Nor is it just the parade of technical issues that is troubling. Brian Griggs of Hitachi Cable Manchester (see "What kind of Category 5 cable are you buying?," page 62) claims that cable manufacturers have been aware of the delay-skew problem for some time, but have chosen neither to solve it nor to speak out about it. His company, he says, has chosen not to manufacture hybrid cabling designs because of delay skew, and in fact, opposed ratification of the TIA/EIA-568A standard last fall because the issue skew went unaddressed. Hitachi, however, is one of the few Category 5 cable manufacturers to eschew hybrid designs.

Several years ago, before PennWell Publishing Co. launched Cabling Installation & Maintenance, those of us slated to work on the magazine visited many industry players to test the waters. I recall that one vendor told us that we would not have enough to write about to sustain a monthly magazine. It is telling that this vendor manufactured fiber-optic test equipment. If everyone in the industry were running fiber-to-the-desk today, the vendor`s prophecy might have proved correct--we might not have had enough issues, controversy and debate to fill the magazine`s pages each month.

However, copper wire is still around, and like a bad penny, it just keeps coming back. As long as this is the case, there will be plenty for me to write about.

More in Cabling Installation