Multimedia outlets get needed face-lift

Multimedia outlets are those ugly, square boxes that are available in any color you want, as long as it`s ivory, gray or white, and they end up somewhere behind or over a desk with unsightly cables protruding from the sides, right?

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Steve Vallejos

Multimedia outlets are those ugly, square boxes that are available in any color you want, as long as it`s ivory, gray or white, and they end up somewhere behind or over a desk with unsightly cables protruding from the sides, right?

That may have been the case a couple of years ago, but multimedia outlets have evolved significantly since then (see Product Update table, page 64). Moreover, there have been many needed changes, says David Lacasse, manager of cabling services for InterBridge Communications llc (Waterford, CT). "They are no longer these square clunkers. It`s kind of like going from a boxy `57 Chevy to a sleek, aerodynamic `99 Corvette," he says.

With any type of cabling job, Lacasse says the customer mainly sees two things: the telecommunications closets and the outlets. "That`s why I look for outlets that are aesthetically pleasing," he adds. "I don`t want anything that`s gaudy or sticks out like a sore thumb. I like things that look neat, and I like to choose from a variety of colors."

Aesthetically pleasing and available in a variety of colors? Lacasse almost sounds as if he`s shopping for a suit. And just as a suit says a lot about a man, so do multimedia outlets about an installation. "I cringe when I see an outlet just hanging there," he says, adding that his nickname is the Stealth Cable installer. "It should be neat, and if it is, that says a lot about the pride an installer has in his work."

The tia/eia-568a standard recommends a minimum of two ports at each work-area outlet that can be placed side by side or over and under in the same receptacle, if possible. Initially, manufacturers developed multimedia outlets with six, 10, and 12 ports to accommodate comprehensive installations of copper, fiber, and coaxial cable. Recent developments have been geared not only to end-users, but also to the installers.

Lacasse says he uses all brands of multimedia outlets. Which type to use is usually a call the customer makes. If Lacasse has his druthers, multimedia outlets from Hubbell Premise Wiring are the choice.

Two of Hubbell`s multimedia outlets, the amo12 and ofppl, were designed to be subtle, yet configurable, says Todd Harpel, technical services manager. "The amo12 has 12 configurable ports, while the ofppl has 10 ports that you can accommodate any combination of media by using different connector brackets," he says. "Another advantage, we feel, is that they are compatible with our surface raceways. They can also be mounted over a single- or double-gang wall box."

Further evolution of multimedia outlets is evident by multimedia outlets in three cabling systems manufactured by Leviton Telcom--Power Sum, GigaMax, and eXtreme. Jacqueline Smith-Coyote, senior writer/editor for the company, says Power Sum supports Category 5, 1000Base-T and 622-megabit-per-second Asynchronous Transfer Mode applications. GigaMax Category 5E exceeds specifications on near-end crosstalk and attenuation, and eXtreme exceeds the proposed Category 6 standard and provides great latitude for applications such as video over unshielded twisted-pair (utp) cable.

All three systems feature QuickPort snap-in connectors, S-video modules for audio-visual applications, and rcs modules for audio.

Like Leviton, Ortronics Inc. manufactures outlets with future protocols and standards in mind. The OR-62100014 Series II Fib-or-Cop and two models of its low-profile multimedia outlets were designed with the support to meet Category 5E and the proposed Category 6 standards. The Fib-or-Cop has 12 ports for up to six SC or ST fiber connections in its base and up to six copper connections in the opening of the faceplate.

An adherence to standards and innovations like color-coded icons separate Ortronics from its competitors, says George Wojtan, vice president of distribution programs at Ortronics. "We are trying to provide a product that adheres to the standards and doesn`t cause customers to say, `That`s the ugliest thing I`ve ever seen.` "

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Superior Modular Products offers numerous workstation solutions for applications using any combination of media.

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