568: The next generation

Have you ever begun what should have been a very simple project and then realized how the thing has sort of taken on a life of its own?

Mar 1st, 2006

Have you ever begun what should have been a very simple project and then realized how the thing has sort of taken on a life of its own?

My husband and I “office” at home, where we consume enough coffee and tea that they could be considered a food group. We really enjoy robust coffee in the morning and soothing tea in the evening.

As with most things, to produce a quality product, you must use quality materials. And freshly filtered water is a key ingredient in quality beverages.

So, a couple of years ago, we decided to install a reverse-osmosis water-filtering system in our kitchen. And being the “weekend warriors” that we are, we decided to do the job ourselves.

First, we purchased the filtering system and unpacked the tank and all five stages. We had just the place for the system, in a “dead” cabinet space near the kitchen sink. We rolled the refrigerator out into the center of the kitchen floor and cut an access hole into the side of the “dead” space in the adjacent cabinet. Then it was off to the hardware store for parts to build the sliding tray to hold the filtering system, and hinges for the new access door.

After a few more holes in intervening cabinets, we were in the target area under the sink. Then it was time to cut the hole for the faucet-a rather cheap-looking thing that only provided for cold water. But what about the steaming hot filtered water from the tap for evening tea?

Now to find a not-so-cheap-looking faucet for both hot and cold filtered water; and, of course, we needed the hot water tank to heat the water, and a new stainless steel sink because cutting a hole in the cast-iron sink would have been a challenge…and then a new city water faucet, because who would ever put an old faucet on a new stainless steel sink with a new faucet that could provide both steaming hot and cold-filtered water?!

All in all, the project cost ten times the cost of the filter system, and it took three weeks before the last of the parts, which had to be ordered from California, arrived. This was not exactly the simple installation that was advertised on the filtering-system box. But was that the fault of the filtering system? No, it was because we kept having better ideas. And they were truly great ideas-the kind that develop with collaboration over time.

So, what does all of this have to do with cabling standards?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI; www.ansi.org) mandates that all ANSI standards be revised, reaffirmed, or withdrawn every five years. Given all the discussions, balloting, resolution of balloting comments and reballoting, etc., the revision process takes at least two years.

ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B had been published in May 2001, so the time came to get busy. As part of the process, TR-42 subcommittee chairs looked at what their groups were producing and questioned, “how can we do this better?” Planning the new document structure began with a conference call in August 2003. The primary concerns were duplication of information in several of the standards produced by the group, which not only served to add pages (read “cost”), but also was confusing to the users. For example, one standard could indicate 3 inches while a more recently revised standard could indicate 4 inches for the same item. Which one is right? That will depend on which one your customer has in-hand.

Several proposals were considered before the group decided the best solution was to create a “Generic Cabling Standard.” It would be generic in the sense that the requirements would be common to all premises environments.

And in the July 2004 issue of the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) “Pulse Online,” there appeared a notice of Project Number 3-0177, to create a new standard known as TIA-568C.0-Generic Customer-Owned Telecommunications Cabling. The die was cast.

In August 2004, several subcommittee chairs and the chair of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (US TAG) met over coffee and Danish to discuss the future of not only TIA-568 but of all the user premises cabling standards. And what has become of the plan they drew on a coffee-stained napkin? It became the plan for the complete rearrangement of the TIA premises standards as we know them.

Cleaning house

Basically, TR-42 is taking the text of all its current standards and telecommunications systems bulletins (TSBs), chopping them into small bits, and reassembling them into a new format. They are not doing this just to make it difficult to find familiar references or to sell more documents, even though that may initially be a result.

In January 2005, the various groups began reviewing the material that was duplicated in several of their standards, and by March 2005, they had developed a spreadsheet to parse out the information in each of the documents-what stays, what goes, and to where.

Work continues on TIA-568-B.2 and its addenda. TR-42.7 is targeting this June for its initial draft of C.2, and 568-C.3 is currently under review within TR-42.8.

This month, the editors will meet and begin the actual drafts of C.0 and C.1.

So far, the plan is to organize the standards by their “unique premises environments,” then referencing “detail component specification” standards and standards of “requirements common to all premises environments.”

For example, a designer would specify requirements in 568-C.1 for commercial building design, and within that standard, a reference would be made to 568-C.0 for generic cabling, and to 568-C.3 for fiber component requirements.

The “detail component specification” standards will primarily be used by component manufacturers, and the others by designers, installers, and end-users.

Did you ever wonder why there is all this duplication in the first place? Because 568 was the parent document for most of the “unique premises environments” standards. Whenever editors would begin drafting the actual text of a new standard, they would simply begin with the text of 568 and add or delete as necessary to achieve their “new standard.”

Next month: details of what we know so far regarding “the plans.”

…and now for a nice cup of hot tea.

DONNA BALLAST is BICSI’s standards representative, and a BICSI registered communications distribution designer (RCDD). Send your question to Donna at: dballast@swbell.net

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