Designing telecom infrastructure

Your column of November '99 (see "Ask Donna," page 12) referred to the New Jersey requirement that only a PE can design telecommunications infrastructure.

Th Donna New

Designing telecom infrastructure

Q: Your column of November '99 (see "Ask Donna," page 12) referred to the New Jersey requirement that only a PE can design telecommunications infrastructure. Where can I find the statute or regulation that describes this requirement?

R. T. Jones
Network Installations Corp.
Berkeley Heights, NJ

A: Funny that you should ask. I learned about the requirement in New Jersey while complaining to my husband after I had received a cease-and-desist order for engineering without a license from Texas Board of Professional Engineers.

It seems that they had received a copy of my bio stating "...Ms. Ballast is also president of dbi, which provides consulting and design services for structured cabling systems for voice, data, and video networks." In several certified letters of correspondence, I attempted to explain that I do not currently, nor have I ever represented myself as an engineer. I advised that I do not currently represent, nor have I ever represented, the services that I perform as "engineering." I am a designer...make that was a designer. In Texas, I cannot design, plan, or otherwise create telecommunications infrastructure documents. That is engineering work and must be performed by a professional engineer. I continue to copy the BICSI Governmental Relations Committee on all my correspondence with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers.

Enough about Texas. Now for the specifics in New Jersey. My husband worked for the deregulated side of New Jersey Bell in the early 1990s, which is where he first became aware of this issue. The New Jersey Permanent Statute Title 45, Professions and Occupations Section 8-28 2 (b), defines the terms "practice of engineering" or "professional engineering" as "any service or creative work the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences to such services or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, and design of engineering works and systems, planning the use of land and water, engineering studies, and the administration of construction for the purpose of determining compliance with drawings and specifications; any of which embraces such services or work, either public or private, in connection with any engineering project including: utilities, structures, buildings, machines, equipment, processes, work systems, projects, telecommunications, or equipment of a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic or thermal nature, insofar as they involve safeguarding life, health, or property, and including such other professional services as may be necessary to the planning, progress, and completion of any engineering services."

Title 45, Section 8-28-2 (k), states that the term "telecommunications" shall mean, as it is applied to the practice of engineering, subjects which deal with the generation, transmission, receiving, and processing of information bearing signals for the purpose of fulfilling a particular communication need. The most common forms of signals are those encountered in voice, image, and data transmission. Subjects relevant to telecommunications include but are not limited to analog and digital circuits, propagation of electromagnetic energy through guided media such as a transmission line, fibers, waveguides, and unguided media such as free space as in broadcast and mobile communications systems, communication theory, including modulation, noise interference, and the interface with computers.

The chapter concludes with an exemption for corporations in the field of telecommunications that are subject to the jurisdiction of the State Board of Public Utilities or the Federal Communications Commission or whose primary business is research and technical development manufacturing or product design. That does not sound like designers and installers of telecommunications cabling to me but, rather, like the regional Bell operating companies and the R&D houses. For the entire document see

Cat 5 cable on an outdoor run

Q: Would there be any problems with using Category 5 cable on an outdoor run?

Jed Bowes
Branch Manager
Data Link Services

A: Problems? Not as long as you use cable with a sheath designed to withstand the outdoor environmental conditions and electrical protectors at either end of the cable. Yes, there is outside-plant cable with electrical characteristics very similar to those of Category 5 cable. This cable is also known as broadband outside-plant (BBOSP) cable. ANSI/ICEA S-98-689 describes filled cable and ANSI/ICEA S-98-688 describes air-core cable. Remember that you are using components to construct a channel so length of the cable is important. Your equipment will only care about the overall channel performance and not the label stamped on the jacket every few feet. It has been my experience that when you estimate the cost and deliver time involved in procurement of the BBOSP cable and the Category 5 electrical protectors, you could have installed a multimode optical-fiber cable with bandwidth to spare. This spare bandwidth will more than offset the additional cost of the fiber transceivers.

Standard colors for applications

Q: We are currently under renovation, and I need to know the standards for topology colors. What color is standard for a Token Ring connection? For fiber, coaxial cable, etc.?

Dan Poirier
Telecommunications Specialist
Costco Canada Inc.
Jacques-Bureau Laval, QC, Canada

A: As far as I know, there are no standard colors for applications. The TIA family of cabling standards is devoted to design and installation of universal cabling systems. ANSI/TIA/EIA-606, the Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Building, only addresses the color- coding of cabling-system components based on their performance category of physical location in the infrastructure, which will not change over the lifecycle of the cabling system. The standard doesn't address the application that is running on the cabling today-which could be different tomorrow.

I suggest that you consult the online catalog of your connecting-hardware manufacturer for its particular rainbow of colors and icon choices and then devise a scheme that is acceptable for your site.

Interference between old and new cable

Q: I am writing to see if you can allay my fears about some cabling that is going to be done on a new building. The contractors intend to run fiber-optic cable and old-style cable through the same conduit. They will be in close proximity. Can one interfere with the other? Rookie question, I know, but this is not my area of expertise!

Nicholas Ross

A: Interference as in crosstalk? No. But I would suggest that the fiber-optic and copper cable be placed in separate innerducts inside the conduit, which will be a big help in future cabling upgrades by not having to disturb the fiber cable when the copper is being removed.

Th Donna New
Click here to enlarge image

Donna Ballast is a communications analyst at the University of Texas at Austin and a BICSI registered communications distribution designer (RCDD). Questions can be sent to her at Cabling Installation & Maintenance or at PO Drawer 7580, the University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713; tel: (512) 471-0112, fax: (512) 471-8883, e-mail:

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