Researcher predicts fiber-to-the-desk will finally become reality

Sept. 26, 2001
September 26, 2001 FTM Consulting concludes what some in the industry have been opining: that end-user organizations will choose fiber-to-the-desk over shielded twisted-pair systems when they move beyond Category 6.

September 26, 2001 In a new study of the high-performance structured cabling systems market, FTM Consulting concludes what some in the industry have been opining: that end-user organizations will choose fiber-to-the-desk over shielded twisted-pair systems when they move beyond Category 6.

"Our assessment is that Category 7 in the U.S. market will not be a copper-based UTP or STP system, but rather a fiber-cabling system," said Frank Murawski, president of FTM Consulting. "This will mark the long-awaited arrival of fiber-to-the-desk."

But the industry still has a way to go before it reaches that point, as the study also says. "At the current time, Category 5 cabling systems account for the majority of the total, at 50.3%," the research organization said in a statement announcing the study�s release. �Category 5e has recently generated a large share, at 35.7%. Even without the release of the TIA standard for a Category 6 system, Category 6 shipments are already at 14% of the total market.

"The use of the new Category 5e and Category 6 cabling systems are indicative of users� needing to futureproof for newer broadband applications anticipated in the future," FTM continued. "Category 7 cabling is still in limbo now, with no activities currently underway by the TIA standards body."

The study predicts that by 2006, Category 6 will be the dominant cabling system, accounting for 59.9% of market shipments, while Category 5 will diminish to 9.2%. "At this point, Category 5 cabling is far below its peak shipments in 1999, but will still be used in the aftermarkets for additions and changes to the large installed base," FTM continued. "Category 5e is viewed as an interim solution, with its share at only 27.1%. The initial impact of Category 7 is expected to be small, accounting for only 3.8%, but is anticipated to dramatically impact the market in the post-2006 era."

Murawski cites usability issues as one cause of the U.S. market's expected rejection of shielded systems. "The ISO standards body activities for their equivalent Category 7, called Level F, is fostering the use of a shielded cabling system to hand the 600-MHz requirements of Category 7 in international markets," he says. "The use of shielded cabling is prevalent internationally, specifically in the European countries. The foreign PTTs require shielding to eliminate electromagnetic emissions inside buildings. On the other hand, the U.S. market is primarily using unshielded cabling systems. Early experience using shielded cabling in the U.S. market with the IBM Cabling System proved to be cumbersome and difficult. Maintaining the outside cable shield at ground without introducing any ground loops was one of the more significant problems."

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