Cabling industry trends predicted

Oct. 1, 1997
A baker`s dozen thoughtful readers responded to Cabling Installation & Maintenance`s second reader survey, on cabling industry trends, if one includes the replies to an earlier survey on the same topic run in the magazine`s companion publication, Cabling News.

A baker`s dozen thoughtful readers responded to Cabling Installation & Maintenance`s second reader survey, on cabling industry trends, if one includes the replies to an earlier survey on the same topic run in the magazine`s companion publication, Cabling News.

Asked what the most important business trend in the cabling industry was likely to be this year, readers responded with everything from licensing issues to pay for cabling installers to residential networking. Franklin J. Kyne, a cable technician for Norstan Communications (Cedar Rapids, IA), states, for example, that "raising the pay grade of cablers to get people interested in doing this job" is a significant business issue that needs to be addressed.

However, more than half the replies clustered around the question of what high-speed networking medium would prevail in the premises data-communications market. For instance, D.B. Szakaly, a media engineer from Allentown, PA, suggested that the battle would be between plastic optical fiber (pof) and glass fiber. He predicted that a key issue would be "durability in moving and relocating the fiber in floor trench systems." Others thought that optical fiber versus Category 5 utp copper cable would be the heavyweight bout of the year, especially in horizontal cabling where the trend toward fiber to the desktop is being closely observed.

Jim Underwood, president of Northwest Fiberoptic Technologies (Fife, WA), added that an important consideration in the struggle between fiber and copper would be the "development of quick-connect fiber-optic connectors that are field-installable, and that do not require factory termination."

Respondents voted wireless lans the most important technological issue to face the cabling industry in 1997, but again, answers to this question were varied. Several readers saw extended performance beyond the upper Category 5 limit over copper cable as being the key issue, while others thought the emergence of stp or sctp cable would dominate the technological arena. Mitchell Cohen, rcdd, of Fibertron (Buena Park, CA), however, gets the prize for the briefest and most provocative reply; he predicts "the demise of atm [Asynchronous Transfer Mode]" in 1997.

The cabling-industry standard to watch this year was predictably voted to be the tia/eia-568a commercial building wiring standard of the tia. Votes were also cast for a range of other standards and standards issues: the emergence of a Category 6 wiring standard; the need for a pof standard; the recently ratified wireless lan standard; fire codes, especially in medical and commercial environments; and the concern over electromagnetic emissions from Category 5 utp cable. Mike Sullivan, president of Point to Point Network Services (Methuen, MA), offered cabling-industry licensing--a recurrent theme in the survey--as the main standards issue of the year, along with state-level recognition of the rcdd designation of bicsi (Tampa, FL).

Asked to identify the most important trade association or professional group whose activities deserve watching or participating in this year, readers split their votes between the tia and bicsi. Szakaly called bicsi "a class act," and Kyne commented, "I will be watching the tia to see if it can get all the trade schools to follow the same standards and work together."

The final question on the cabling-trends survey elicited a different--and thoughtful--response from everyone who replied. "Is there a single most important thought, theme, or idea," it asked, "that you would like to see examined in print in l997...?" Replies ranged from the general--Category 6--to the specific--a voice/data multiplexer operating over fiber at the desktop.

Cohen suggested as a possible theme "a real cost-over-time estimate of a typical Category 5 installation" versus an installation done with optical fiber. "This analysis would include not only labor and materials," he adds, "but also `bandwidth for the buck.` "

Kyne also had a good suggestion. He said, "I would like to see all the different groups involved in training examined to see which is the best for the money."

Jim Levesque, a telecommunications technician at Providence St. Peter Hospital (Olympia, WA), thinks we need "a federal requirement, including support and funding, for adequate hardware, software, and cabling in every school to allow Internet communications." Levesque`s suggestion is much like a volunteer effort, NetDay, that is being pursued nationwide over the next few years to achieve the same end.

Jeffrey M. Dominique, chief executive of Trueview Products Inc. (Phoenix, AZ), would like to hear more about "the feasibility of singlemode fiber in lan uses, especially where environmental conditions are less than desirable."

And finally, an anonymous correspondent asks an intriguing question: "Exactly how important, if at all, are manufacturer-based system certifications? Are they useful, or is this just smoke?"

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