Accusations, actuaries, and Augmented Category 6

Among the many timeless quotes attributed to Mark Twain is one of my favorites: “There are three types of lies-lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Among the many timeless quotes attributed to Mark Twain is one of my favorites: “There are three types of lies-lies, damn lies, and statistics.” I embrace that quote often, because frequently, I see statistics given with the sole purpose of providing one dimension of a story.

For example, a debate among gubernatorial candidates included an exchange in which the incumbent said that, during his term, more jobs had been created than under any previous governor. The challenger stated that the state’s unemployment level was at its highest point in years. Both had statistics to back their claims.

Similarly, truths that serve to warp an overall picture are presented during many a sports broadcast. When a network decides it wants to portray a football team’s rushing offense as weak, it may flash a stat showing the team has a total of six yards rushing in the current quarter. Forget that the team just completed an 85-yard drive, thanks largely to an effective passing game.

In fairness to the sports programmers (who cares about being fair to politicians?), the statistics provided during the course of a game usually are intended to point out trends in the ebb and flow of a contest. A team may start a game running the ball consistently, then alter its game plan and throw the ball more.

Hopefully, you find the statistical information we bring you this month more along the lines of trend detecting than political gamesmanship. The article that begins on page 20 includes information from original research we at Cabling Installation & Maintenance conducted within the past couple months. For the most part, it starts with the here-and-now then looks into the future that users of structured cabling systems anticipate for themselves.

Having been through this type of research a few times, I believe it necessary to offer a disclaimer before proceeding: Every one of the professionals surveyed is a subscriber to this magazine. Why is that so important? From what I understand, it’s one of those facts that actuaries go crazy about. I guess it can be analogized this way: Just as people who commute less than two miles to work each day do not represent the entire universe of automobile drivers, cabling-system end users who subscribe to this magazine do not represent the entire universe of end users. So, it would be going too far for me to pronounce that the numbers produced from this research represent the cabling industry across the board.

With that disclaimer, I’d like to take a magnified look at the survey results from those who manage networks and cabling systems for educational institutions. I chose that field because it was the single largest vertical among our survey respondents (other verticals included government/military, finance, health care, and manufacturing).

So, here are some quick facts about the educational institutions represented in our survey. 91% have networks that span multiple buildings. Nearly half, 48.6%, use Category 6 cabling to the desktop, while 6.8% use Augmented Category 6. 55.1% use wireless as a data-backbone connectivity technology. 28.2% use wireless in their horizontal, and that number is expected to increase to 34.6% after the next round of system upgrades.

Evidence of a dichotomy exists if you consider that 26.9% of those surveyed anticipated undertaking a major cable-plant upgrade or installation between October and December 2005, while 28.2% are not sure when their next upgrade will take place. And finally, 6.4% say they currently use 10-Gbit Ethernet as a data-communications backbone, and 23.1% say they expect to have 10-GbE backbones once they complete their next upgrades. As the article on page 20 suggests, 10-Gbit Ethernet by all appearances is the application that will drive the cabling industry ahead in the coming years, in the educational field as well as others.

And since I opened by quoting Mark Twain, I’ll close by referencing one of his quotes that seems particularly appropriate to this column: “Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge.” I’m not pretending that a survey of some portion of our audience tells all about our industry’s future. It’s a decent barometer, I believe. But I believe even more strongly I will have a better future, and so will you, if we go out and create it rather than waiting for it to fall into our laps.

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