Kreager puts consumers on a pedestal

"I`ll bet you a chocolate milk shake that perhaps 60% or more of the installed high-performance twisted-pair and fiber-optic cabling systems will have to be tweaked or replaced to run emerging transmission schemes such as Gigabit Ethernet." So says Paul S. Kreager, chairman of two high-profile standards committees, the tia/eia-606 Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings and the tia/eia-569a Commercial Building Standard for Telecommunications Path

Ron Karjian

"I`ll bet you a chocolate milk shake that perhaps 60% or more of the installed high-performance twisted-pair and fiber-optic cabling systems will have to be tweaked or replaced to run emerging transmission schemes such as Gigabit Ethernet." So says Paul S. Kreager, chairman of two high-profile standards committees, the tia/eia-606 Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings and the tia/eia-569a Commercial Building Standard for Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces. "Back in 1986," Kreager recalls, "I suggested that we needed more than just a cabling standard. And if you suggest something to the tia, you usually get stuck with the responsibility for doing something about it."

Kreager says, "Because of the constant pressure to put out standards and products earlier than we should, we have never really developed proper testing standards for the cabling media before offering media specs to the consumer. We have been `passing` cabling plants with test equipment blessed by a standards committee but that really tests only a portion of what it should to protect the consumer. The frustrating thing is that had we originally done these testing procedures properly, we`d have had installed copper and fiber products guaranteed to handle emerging technologies. Since we didn`t, the next five years are going to be a very painful experience for many consumers when they encounter these capability problems--and many will."

Frustrating, yes, but is he being overly pessimistic? "Not so," says Kreager, who was honored recently by the tia for his innovative leadership. "Our industry is going through a very normal evolution in bring-ing high-performance cabling systems to the marketplace. Every new technology goes through this cycle. Twisted-pair is as old as the hills, but when we decided to push its performance, we really had to develop a whole new product line of cable and termination hardware--actually a whole new technology--for twisted-pair. It should not be surprising that we are having to remove a few warts in the development and deployment of this technology."

But wart removal is not restricted to copper cabling. "Look at multimode fiber," he says. "It will now start through the same cycle. Multimode fiber is not quite as old as the hills, but it has been around for a long time. Now it`s being pushed by new transmission technologies such as Gigabit Ethernet, and its limitations are beginning to show. The old adage from the optical-fiber industry that `fiber is forever` was and is just marketing hype. Wouldn`t it be ironic if we clean up Category 5 utp cabling relatively soon so that it runs the `new stuff` with little problem, while multimode fiber remains the bottleneck for a few years until its problems are cleared up? Any bets on that happening?" Another chocolate milk shake, perhaps?

Despite his extraordinary efforts to handle these high-profile standards responsibilities, Kreager finds time to run his namesake telecommunications consulting firm, Kreager Associates Inc. (kai), and education company, Level 0-1. A licensed electrical engineer and registered communications distribution designer (rcdd), Kreager holds a bachelor`s degree in mathematics and a master`s degree in computer science. He was an engineering manager and telecommunications planner as well as an instructor at Washington State University, where he was twice named "professor of the year" by his electrical-engineering students.

Kreager has authored several magazine articles on communications networks, and most of his more than 200 lectures at seminars and conferences around the world, including South Korea, Australia, and England, have focused on telecommunications infrastructures in commercial buildings. He`s currently chairman of bicsi`s Engineering and Methods Committee, Panel 7, and a major technical contributor to the organization`s tdmm.

For more than 20 years, Kreager was on a mission that culminated in 1994, when the tia/eia-607 standard for commercial building grounding and bonding requirements was published. "It may not have been a significant event in itself," remarks Kreager, "but it was the final standard in a comprehensive family of standards produced by the tia that encompasses the overall infrastructure for telecommunications and addresses the fundamental long-term needs of commercial office structures. This was a goal of mine since the 1970s." In addition to grounding and bonding, he says, that infrastructure includes cable pathways and spaces to house the equipment (tia/eia-569a), cabling to move the information about (tia/eia-568a), and administration to keep track of everything (tia/eia-606).

Behind-the-scene maneuvers

Kreager, along with Dunn Harvey, Ross Cotton, and Ron Provost, wrote the eia/tia-569 standard`s initial draft over many weeks in various and sundry hotel meeting rooms all over North America. "The debate got so heavy at times that hotel management would break up our meetings because of complaints by other hotel guests," jokes Kreager.

Among his passions, when not embroiled in standards debates, are fishing ("though the pole is getting rusty"), flying private planes, and reading the history of theoretical physics. Married 36 years, he has two sons--one is a robotics engineer, while his other son turned his father`s love of fishing into a short-term career for himself as a commercial fisherman in Alaska.

When Kreager talks about his own career of more than 30 years in the telecommunications and cabling industry, he refers to his ongoing commitment to protecting the role that equipment users will play in the overall health and maturation of the industry. Right now, he explains, "the consumer is snugly in bed with Category 5 cabling and thinking all is well, while the cabling marketeers are spinning their Category 6 and 7 nets, readying for the next `catch,` now that Category 5 is becoming a commodity market. The tia`s standards committee members are madly trying to finish up Category 5 specs while simultaneously moving toward Category 6 and 7. Only when the consumer is smarter than the marketing folks will we work out the remaining bugs in our industry."

More in Home
And the Winner is Cat 6A!
Sponsored
And the Winner is Cat 6A!