Kishs trialblazing tia trek

When Paul Kish talks about the cabling industry and the accomplishments of the Telecommunications Industry Association (tia--Arlington, VA), he likes to drop names--not to impress but to unselfishly hand out credit where it`s due. Kish is chairman of the all-important TR-41.8 subcommittee that oversees the five working groups responsible for the various tia commercial and residential cabling standards.

Ron Karjian

When Paul Kish talks about the cabling industry and the accomplishments of the Telecommunications Industry Association (tia--Arlington, VA), he likes to drop names--not to impress but to unselfishly hand out credit where it`s due. Kish is chairman of the all-important TR-41.8 subcommittee that oversees the five working groups responsible for the various tia commercial and residential cabling standards.

It`s not easy getting two people to agree on anything when their own interests are at stake. Imagine how difficult it would be to get representatives of more than 100 companies that comprise today`s TR-41.8.1 working group responsible for writing and revising the eia/tia-568 Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard to agree on anything. But Kish has managed to do just that. He takes great satisfaction in harnessing the industry`s wealth of innovative technologies, products, and people to produce comprehensive tia standards and bulletins that protect end-users and manufacturers alike, while ensuring the welfare of premises cabling. Kish joined the tia in 1989 as a technical expert representing the Cable Group of Northern Telecom, which was purchased by Cable Design Technologies in 1996 and became nordx/cdt (Pointe-Claire, QC, Canada). Today, he is the company`s senior product manager responsible for ibdn systems and cabling standards.

"Since the beginning, I have been actively promoting the development of better cabling for high-speed applications and local area networks [lans]," says Kish. He initiated the work that led to the publication of the tia`s telecommunications systems bulletin tsb-36, which defines Category 3, 4, and 5 unshielded twisted-pair (utp) cable. This bulletin led to a host of new developments in the industry, including better connecting hardware (tsb-40/40a), end-to-end channel performance (tia/eia-568a), and field-test requirements and procedures (tsb-67). "At the time," he now wonders, "I never realized that the tia cabling standards would have such an impact on the cabling industry throughout the world."

Quarter-century of cabling savvy

Kish, who graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1972 with a master`s degree in electrical engineering, has worked in the cabling industry for more than 25 years. "In my current position at nordx/cdt," he says, "I do a lot of traveling, but I need to balance that with my family and personal life." Kish and his wife recently purchased a 70-acre farm: "It keeps us both busy looking after the animals and maintaining the property."

Reflecting on the accomplishments of the tia, Kish gives kudos to what he describes as "the hard work, dedication, and motivation of a core group of active tia members. Their pioneering lab work and ongoing technical contributions have enabled cabling systems today to support data rates as high as 1000 megabits per second over twisted-pair copper media." He points to some of the more notable technical issues that the tia has addressed and resolved over the past five years:

- The concept of structured cabling was defined in the first publication of the eia/tia-568 standard and its companion eia/tia-569 Commercial Building Standard for Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces. These two documents "have since revolutionized the industry," Kish observes. "There are many people who influenced the standard, but most notable were the efforts of George Lawrence, who oversaw the different working groups and was a master of the standards process; Eric Hanson, my predecessor, who chaired the working group responsible for eia/tia-568; and Paul Kreager and Dunn Harvey, who co-chaired the working group for eia/tia-569. Many different views were presented, but in the end, consensus prevailed."

- The issue of short-link resonance has been uncovered and addressed. "Many experts," says Kish, "were caught by surprise that crosstalk coupling at high frequencies in a 5-centi-meter [2-inch] modular connector can sometimes exceed the crosstalk levels in over 100 meters of cable. John Siemon has led the connector task group that has come up with many innovative solutions and detailed specifications for qualification of connecting hardware."

- The development of reliable, accurate field-test instruments and test methods for installed cabling "was a long, arduous process," says Kish, "but Masood Shariff brought the work to completion, and tsb-67 establishes levels of accuracy for field testers and a reference test procedure for comparison with lab measurements using a network analyzer."

- A fiber-to-the-desk cabling solution was developed and became a recognized part of the revised basic cabling standard, tia/eia-568a. "This included the adoption of the duplex SC connector for new installations and a graceful migration path for the installed-base ST connector," notes Kish. "Tony Beam, who has always been a strong proponent of fiber-to-the-desk solutions, has been such a powerful and respected debater that copper-cabling proponents have viewed him as a worthy opponent for promoting the fiber-cabling option."

- The ongoing efforts to harmonize the tia cabling standards with the iso/iec SC-25/WG-3 global standards, as well as the liaison work with other industry organizations, have been an important adjunct to the tia`s quarterly committee meetings. "Bob Prichard and John Siemon carry forward the U.S. position and Dunn Harvey the Canadian position into the international standards bodies for telecommunications cabling," Kish says. "Donna Ballast, who represents bicsi [Tampa, FL] at tia standards meetings, is the voice for the end-users. Chris Diminico is a spokesperson for systems developers and has maintained an official liaison with the ieee 802.3 committees, currently very active in developing application standards for Gigabit Ethernet."

High-speed creativity

"Innovation is proceeding at a very fast pace in the cabling industry," warns Kish. "There are many more innovative and enhanced products on the market and many more competitors. Many of the performance claims being made, especially for Category 5 and beyond, can be confusing to the end-user and raise many logical questions: `What performance is actually guaranteed after installation? What performance is typical? What is worst-case? Are these numbers meaningful? What are the benefits to the end-user?` Unfortunately, until a standard is in place, the equipment developers cannot make use of the better performance numbers to develop future applications."

Kish emphasizes that the tia "is now balloting a standard for enhanced Category 5, called Category 5E, and has started to work on a standard for Category 6, which will have an available bandwidth of at least 200 megahertz." Still, he adds, "we have a lot more to learn about the transmission performance of cabling as we push the envelope of copper to 200 MHz or even 300 MHz. There are major testing issues as well as design and manufacturing issues. Precision is more important. At 300 MHz, imperfections on the order of 3 cm are visible to the signal, compared to 10 cm at 100 MHz and 1 meter at 10 MHz."

It is also hard to ignore the hardware that can affect the transmission performance of cables. Kish sees a trend toward "testing and certifying products to work together as part of an end-to-end cabling solution. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Component interaction can be critical at higher frequencies and can lead to unexpected behavior."

In his position as a standards chairman as well as a product manager, Kish enjoys the many opportunities he has at customer seminars to report on current cabling standards and future technological changes, and he never neglects to mention the people responsible for them. Talking both philosophically and realistically, he says, "There is a lot more to cabling and the industry than meets the eye."

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