Guide to Copper Structured Cabling
Discover more about Copper Structured Network Cabling
What is copper structured cabling?
Copper structured cabling refers to the copper Ethernet data cabling that interconnects servers and other pieces of IT equipment to form the communications network. The cabling forms the backbone of the network and is structured to either carry voice or data.
There are several core components: installation cable that is installed vertically and horizontally within a building connecting offices to the main equipment or server room, patching frames or racks housing patch panels that aggregate all of the cable connections, and patch cables that provide the cross connects between the various pieces of equipment on the network via the patch panels.
Copper structured cabling is categorised with the various categories indicating the cable’s performance, whether it is shielded and its maximum transmission speed at 100 metres.
What are the differences between Cat5 cable, Cat6 cable and Cat7 cable?
Ethernet cables are grouped into numbered categories (cat) that indicate the specifications of the cable. Whilst all use 4 twisted pair wires and look similar in appearance there are some major differences. The higher the category number so the speed and bandwidth of the wire improves, this is down to more stringent testing that eliminates crosstalk and added isolation between wires.
Cat5 cable is now obsolete but was used for 100Base-T and 1000Base-T networks and provided data transmission at 100Mbps. It was replaced by an Enhanced version known as Cat5e which extended the performance to 125Mbps.
In Cat6 cable the wires are twisted more to improve speed and reduce interference. They often have an outer foil or braided shielding. Cat6 cable has a maximum transmission speed of 1000Mbps / 1Gbps and a maximum bandwidth greater than 250Mhz. Cat6 was updated to Cat6A with the A standing for ‘Augmented’. Cat6A cable maintains higher transmission speeds, supports more bandwidth (500Mhz) and utilises shielding to eliminate crosstalk.
Cat7 cable is an informal reference for ISO/IEC 11801 Class F cabling. The cable utilises more shielding with each pair wrapped in shielding as well as the overall cable shield. The bandwidth is also increased to 600Mhz.
Does the latest Construction Product Regulations (CPR) affect network cable installation?
Construction Product Regulations or CPR as it is sometimes referred to, sets fire rating requirements for all cables used in permanent installations within buildings, and therefore includes network cable installation. Due to the construction of data networks and cable pathways, fire can spread rapidly through a building.
In November 2017 BSI published amendments to BS6701 to clarify Construction Product Regulations within the network cabling industry and as a result set the minimum to meet the CPR requirements of Euroclass Cca s1b d2 a2. EDP Europe distributes Hubbell Cat6, Cat6A and Cat7 installation cable that surpasses this minimum Euroclass rating, making them ideal for use in a network cable installation. The new regulation also requires network cable manufacturers to provide a Declaration of Performance (DOP), along with test results from an authorised test house to prove the cable meets the CPR compliance standard advised.
What patch cable options and cable management systems are there?
EDP Europe offers copper cabling solutions from METZ CONNECT and Hubbell Premise Wiring that include patch cables, patch panels (angled patch panels & flat), cable management bars and the advanced cable management system from Hubbell – iFrame. EDP Europe provide patch cables for Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6A including Cat6A shielded patch cables. Patch cables are available in various lengths and colours. Cat6 and Cat6A patch cables are also available in Hubbell’s latest HCL series; a range of low diameter patch cables. These low diameter cables reduce cable congestion in high-density patching applications improving airflow and making cable management easier.
Cable management starts with the patching panels. Incoming network cables are either terminated to terminals within the patch panel or terminated with the appropriated RJ45 Jack which is then installed into a keystone module patch panel. These can be flat or angled, with angled patch panels making cable management easier when dressing cables from the left and right, often eliminating the need for horizontal cable management trays.
Network cable patching is often managed in 19” network racks or patching frames, which can take up valuable floor space. An alternative option is the advanced network hardware & cable management system from Hubell – iFrame.
Hubbell iFrame saves valuable floor space, provides more than 10% more rack space, looks more organised and uses fewer parts. The cornerstone of the iFrame system is the iFrame Column, a super strong 7’ (2.13m) high I-beam that is bolted vertically to the floor every 2’ (610mm). Network equipment gets mounted between the columns while cables are run and managed within the columns. The result is a more organised, tidier and smarter cable management system.
How using a cable mat protects Ethernet cables
Ethernet cables can be at risk of damage from protrusions, sharp edges, rough / uneven surfaces, pressure points / ridges, potential chemical impurities and water penetration. Damaged Ethernet cabling considerably slows down system performance, causes loss of data and costs hours of additional work time, or leads to complete transmission failure. Using a cable mat, such as Cable Lay, will minimise the risk of damage to Ethernet cables during installation and over the course of a network’s lifecycle, therefore mitigating the need for remedial work. Cable mats come in different widths, lengths and thicknesses depending on the application they are being used for. A 6mm thick cable mat is fine for protecting cables in basket trays, but for cables being run directly on the floor a thicker cable mat of 13mm or even 25mm is better. A thicker cable mat will protect the Ethernet cables from low level flooding and the inevitable need for the cables to be replaced as part of an insurance claim.
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