By Patrick McLaughlin
When I began to gather information on what was new in the TIA's Category 8 standard-development efforts, I did a double-take when I realized it had been six months since we covered the topic at any real length in this magazine (see "Category 8 dominates cabling standard developments," May 2013). The article beginning on page 21 of this issue covers some of those goings-on over the past six months.
The TIA's Subcommittee TR-42.7 Telecommunications Copper Cabling Systems, which is the group primarily responsible for the development of Category 8, has held three live in-person meetings over that period of time. Each of those meetings was a multiple-day event. I don't know how many conference calls they've had in that span of time, or the amount of meeting time taking place among certain task groups within TR-42.7. But suffice it to say the frequency with which these groups are discussing what ultimately will become a Category 8 standard is greater than normal. There is just that much work to be done before a set of specifications really can take shape. And even though the common belief is that a Category 8 standard will be finalized sometime around late 2015, that two-year timeframe leaves very little room for some aspect of the specification's development to derail and set the process back.
The article in this month's issue points out that glimpses of some of the technical debates going on within TR-42.7 are visible to the general marketplace in the forms of published papers, presentations and other media. Based on early positioning of some of the companies involved in the standard's development (detailed in the article), it looks like it could be a while before divergent technical viewpoints come together. If they ever do. In that sense, the task of keeping this standard-development effort on track could be like the proverbial and comical task of herding cats. Except in this case, it's herding Cats, as in Cat 7, Cat 7A and Cat 8. Although the performance levels of 7 and 7A never were adopted by the TIA, they could creep in and have an impact on the TIA's development of Category 8.
As of November 2013, any discussion about the development of Category 8 must be peppered with terms like "if," "could" and "maybe." As is mentioned in this month's article, the wait-and-see approach probably will suit many. In those cases, I suggest that those two actions, waiting and seeing, are done simultaneously. What you learn today, even if accurate, may not apply tomorrow.
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