Cabling: The Complete Guide to Network Wiring / Edition 3

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The physical linkages responsible for carrying a company's data continue to be the most neglected components of the typical network—to the extent that nearly 70% of all network-related problems result from poor cabling.

In this third edition of a widely acclaimed resource, three networking experts share their extensive experience, teaching you the cabling skills you need to build a reliable, efficient, and cost-effective network cabling infrastructure. As you master these techniques, you'll learn to avoid common pitfalls and troubleshoot problems as quickly as they arise. Coverage includes:

  • Choosing the right cables and components for your network architecture and topology
  • Avoiding unnecessary and unexpected costs
  • Understanding the current limitations of data communications and network cabling
  • Understanding how laws and building codes constrain cabling
  • Understanding the function and importance of universal cabling standards
  • Determining when you have a cabling-related network problem
  • Assembling a complete cabling toolkit
  • Integrating voice and data on the same cable system
  • Setting up an infrastructure in which desktops, printers, copiers, and other nodes share cabling
  • Understanding issues of bandwidth, impedance, resistance, attenuation, crosstalk, capacitance, propagation, delay, and delay skew
  • Working effectively with USB and Firewire
  • Knowing when to discard legacy cabling and begin anew
  • Documenting your cabling
  • Creating an RFP and selecting a vendor
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
By one estimate, nearly 70 percent of all network-related problems are traceable to cabling. Worse, cable problems are brutally hard to trace and equally brutal on network performance. You need expert advice on managing cable. If you’re planning, contracting, or building new or upgraded cable plant, you desperately need it. And here it is.

Lead author David Barnett has spent 20-plus years in the cabling industry (so you don’t have to). He’ll tell you how to figure out whether your problem’s cabling or not. How to decide if you need new cabling -- and if so, how to set it up efficiently for the long-term, while avoiding hidden costs. How to choose a vendor. How to integrate voice and data cabling. The skinny on building codes. That just scratches the surface: This “Complete” guide is seriously complete. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2003 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780782143317
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 7/14/2004
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 720
  • Product dimensions: 191.00 (w) x 228.60 (h) x 42.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David Barnett is a network consultant and is revising the book in consultation with the authors of the first edition- Jim McBee and David Groth, authors of several Sybex books on Networking.

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Read an Excerpt


By David Barnett

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7821-4331-8

Chapter One

Introduction to Data Cabling

The Golden Rules of Data Cabling

The Importance of Reliable Cabling

The Legacy of Proprietary Cabling Systems

Cabling and the Need for Speed

Cable Design

Data Communications 101

Speed Bumps: What Slows Down Your Data

The Future of Cabling Performance

"Data cabling! It's just wire. What is there to plan?" the newly promoted programmer-turned-MIS-director commented to Jim. The MIS director had been contracted to help the company move its 750-node network to a new location. During the initial conversation, the director had a couple of other "insights":

He said that the walls were not even up in the new location, so it was too early to be talking about data cabling.

To save money, he wanted to pull the old Category 3 cabling and move it to the new location. ("We can run 100Base-TX on the old cable.")

He said not to worry about the voice cabling and the cabling for the photocopier tracking system; someone else would coordinate that.

Jim shouldn't have been too surprised by the ridiculous nature of these comments. Too few people understand the importance of a reliable, standards-based, flexible cabling system. Fewer still understand the challenges of building a high-speed network. Some of the technical problems associated with building a cabling system to support a high-speed network are comprehended only by electrical engineers. And many believe that a separate type of cable should be in the wall for each application (PCs, printers, terminals, copiers, etc.).

Data cabling has come a long way in the past 20 years. This chapter discusses some of the basics of data cabling, including topics such as:

The golden rules of data cabling

The importance of reliable cabling

The legacy of proprietary cabling systems

The increasing demands on data cabling to support higher speeds

Cable design and materials used to make cables

Types of communications media

Limitations that cabling imposes on higher-speed communications

The future of cabling performance

You are probably thinking right now that all you really want to know is how to install cable to support a few 10Base-T workstations. Words and phrases such as attenuation, crosstalk, twisted pair, modular connectors, and multimode optical-fiber cable may be completely foreign to you. Just as the world of PC LANs and WANs has its own industry buzzwords, so does the cabling business. In fact, you may hear such an endless stream of buzzwords and foreign terminology that you'll wish you had majored in electrical engineering in college. But it's not really that mysterious and, armed with the background and information we'll provide, you'll soon be using cablespeak like a cabling professional.

The Golden Rules of Data Cabling

Listing our own golden rules of data cabling is a great way to start this chapter and the book. If your cabling is not designed and installed properly, you will have problems that you can't even imagine. From our experience, we've become cabling evangelists, spreading the good news of proper cabling. What follows is our list of rules to consider when planning structuredcabling systems:

Networks never get smaller or less complicated.

Build one cabling system that will accommodate voice and data.

Always install more cabling than you currently require. Those extra outlets will come in handy someday.

Use structured-cabling standards when building a new cabling system. Avoid anything proprietary!

Quality counts! Use high-quality cabling and cabling components. Cabling is the foundation of your network; if the cabling fails, nothing else will matter. For a given grade or category of cabling, you'll see a range of pricing, but the highest prices don't necessarily mean the highest quality. Buy based on the manufacturer's reputation and proven performance, not the price.

Don't scrimp on installation costs. Even quality components and cable must be installed correctly; poor workmanship has trashed more than one cabling installation.

Plan for higher speed technologies than are commonly available today. Just because 1000Base-T Ethernet seems unnecessary today does not mean it won't be a requirement in five years.

Documentation, although dull, is a necessary evil that should be taken care of while you're setting up the cabling system. If you wait, more pressing concerns may cause you to ignore it.

The Importance of Reliable Cabling

We cannot stress enough the importance of reliable cabling. Two recent studies vindicated our evangelical approach to data cabling. The studies showed:

Data cabling typically accounts for less than 10 percent of the total cost of the network infrastructure.

The life span of the typical cabling system is upwards of 16 years. Cabling is likely the second most long-lived asset you have (the first being the shell of the building).

Nearly 70 percent of all network-related problems are due to poor cabling techniques and cable-component problems.


If you have installed the proper Category or grade of cable, the majority of cabling problems will usually be related to patch cables, connectors, and termination techniques. The permanent portion of the cable (the part in the wall) will not likely be a problem unless it was damaged during installation.

Of course, these were facts that we already knew from our own experiences. We have spent countless hours troubleshooting cabling systems that were nonstandard, badly designed, poorly documented, and shoddily installed. We have seen many dollars wasted on the installation of additional cabling and cabling infrastructure support that should have been part of the original installation.

Regardless of how you look at it, cabling is the foundation of your network. It must be reliable!

The Cost of Poor Cabling

The costs that result from poorly planned and poorly implemented cabling systems can be staggering. One company that had recently moved into a new office space used the existing cabling, which was supposed to be Category 5 cable. Almost immediately, 100Mbps Ethernet network users reported intermittent problems.

These problems included exceptionally slow access times when reading e-mail, saving documents, and using the sales database. Other users reported that applications running under Windows 98 and Windows NT were locking up, which often caused them to have to reboot their PC.

After many months of network annoyances, the company finally had the cable runs tested. Many cables did not even meet the minimum requirements of a Category 5 installation, and other cabling runs were installed and terminated poorly.


Often, network managers mistakenly assume that data cabling either works or it does not, with no in-between. Cabling can cause intermittent problems.

Is the Cabling to Blame?

Can faulty cabling cause the type of intermittent problems that the aforementioned company experienced? Contrary to popular opinion, it certainly can. In addition to being vulnerable to outside interference from electric motors, fluorescent lighting, elevators, cellular phones, copiers, and microwave ovens, faulty cabling can lead to intermittent problems for other reasons.

These reasons usually pertain to substandard components (patch panels, connectors, and cable) and poor installation techniques, and they can subtly cause dropped or incomplete packets. These lost packets cause the network adapters to have to time out and retransmit the data.

Robert Metcalfe (inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3Com, columnist for InfoWorld, industry pundit, and Jim's hero) helped coin the term drop-rate magnification. Drop-rate magnification describes the high degree of network problems caused by dropping a few packets. Metcalfe estimates that a 1 percent drop in Ethernet packets can correlate to an 80 percent drop in throughput. Modern network protocols that send multiple packets and expect only a single acknowledgement (such as TCP/IP and Novell's IPX/SPX) are especially susceptible to droprate magnification, as a single dropped packet may cause an entire stream of packets to be retransmitted.

Dropped packets (as opposed to packet collisions) are more difficult to detect because they are "lost" on the wire. When data is lost on the wire, the data is transmitted properly but, due to problems with the cabling, the data never arrives at the destination or it arrives in an incomplete format.

You've Come a Long Way, Baby: The Legacy of Proprietary Cabling Systems

Early cabling systems were unstructured, proprietary, and often worked only with a specific vendor's equipment. They were designed and installed for mainframes and were a combination of thicknet cable, twinax cable, and terminal cable (RS-232). Because no cabling standards existed, an MIS director simply had to ask the vendor which cable type should be run for a specific type of host or terminal. Frequently, though, vendor-specific cabling caused problems due to lack of flexibility. Unfortunately, the legacy of early cabling still lingers in many places.

PC LANs came on the scene in the mid-1980s; these systems usually consisted of thicknet cable, thinnet cable, or some combination of the two. These cabling systems were also limited to only certain types of hosts and network nodes.

As PC LANs became popular, some companies demonstrated the very extremes of data cabling. Looking back, it's surprising to think that the ceilings, walls, and floor trenches could hold all the cable necessary to provide connectivity to each system. As one company prepared to install a 1,000-node PC LAN, they were shocked to find all the different types of cabling systems needed. Each system was wired to a different wiring closet or computer room and included the following:

Wang dual coaxial cable for Wang word-processing terminals

IBM twinax cable for IBM 5250 terminals

Twisted-pair cable containing one or two pairs, used by the digital phone system

Thick Ethernet from the DEC VAX to terminal servers

RS-232 cable to wiring closets connecting to DEC VAX terminal servers

RS-232 cable from certain secretarial workstations to a proprietary NBI word-processing system

Coaxial cables connecting a handful of PCs to a single NetWare server

Some users had two or three different types of terminals sitting on their desks and, consequently, two or three different types of wall plates in their offices or cubicles. Due to the cost of cabling each location, the locations that needed certain terminal types were the only ones that had cables that supported those terminals. If users moved-and they frequently did-new cables often had to be pulled.

The new LAN was based on a twisted-pair Ethernet system that used unshielded twisted-pair cabling called Synoptics Lattisnet, which was a precursor to the 10Base-T standards. Due to budget considerations, when the LAN cabling was installed, this company often used spare pairs in the existing phone cables. When extra pairs were not available, additional cable was installed. Networking standards such as 10Base-T were but a twinkle in the IEEE's (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) eye, and guidelines such as the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568 series of cabling Standards were not yet formulated (see the next section for more information on TIA/EIA-568-B). Companies deploying twisted-pair LANs had little guidance, to say the least.

Much of the cable that was used at this company was sub-Category 3, meaning that it did not meet minimum Category 3 performance requirements. Unfortunately, because the cabling was not even Category 3, once the 10Base-T specification was approved, many of the installed cables would not support 10Base-T cards on most of the network. So three years into this company's network deployments, it had to rewire much of its building.


application Often you will see the term application used when referring to cabling. If you are like me, you think of an application as a software program that runs on your computer. However, when discussing cabling infrastructures, an application is the technology that will take advantage of the cabling system. Applications include telephone systems (analog voice and digital voice), Ethernet, Token Ring, ATM, ISDN, and RS-232.

Proprietary Cabling Is a Thing of the Past

The company discussed in the last section had at least seven different types of cables running through the walls, floors, and ceilings. Each cable met only the standards dictated by the vendor that required that particular cable type.

As early as 1988, the computer and telecommunications industry yearned for a versatile standard that would define cabling systems and make the practices used to build these cable systems consistent. Many vendors defined their own standards for various components of a cabling system. Communications product distributor Anixter ( codeveloped and published a document called Cable Performance Levels in 1990, which provided a purchasing specification for communication cables. It was an attempt to create a standard by which cabling performance could be measured. Veterans in the networking industry will remember cables often being referred to as Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 cables. Anixter continues to maintain the Anixter levels program; it is currently called Anixter Levels XP.

The Need for a Comprehensive Standard

Twisted-pair cabling in the late 1980s and early 1990s was often installed to support digital or analog telephone systems. Early twisted-pair cabling (Level 1 or Level 2) often proved marginal or insufficient for supporting the higher frequencies and data rates required for network applications such as Ethernet and Token Ring. Even when the cabling did marginally support higher speeds of data transfer (10Mbps), the connecting hardware and installation methods were often still stuck in the "voice" age, which meant that connectors, wall plates, and patch panels were designed to support voice applications only.

The original Anixter Cables Performance Levels document only described performance standards for cables. A more comprehensive standard had to be developed to outline not only the types of cables that should be used but also the standards for deployment, connectors, patch panels, and more.

A consortium of telecommunications vendors and consultants worked in conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA), and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to create a Standard originally known as the Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard or ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-1991. This Standard has been revised and updated several times. In 1995, it was published as ANSI/ TIA/EIA-568-A or just TIA/EIA-568-A. In subsequent years, TIA/EIA-568-A was updated with a series of addenda. For example, TIA/EIA-568-A-5, covered requirements for enhanced Category 5 (Category 5e), which had evolved in the marketplace before a full revision of the Standard could be published. A completely updated version of this Standard was released as ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B in May 2001; it is discussed at length in Chapter 2.

The structured cabling market is estimated to be worth $4 billion worldwide, due in part to the effective implementation of nationally recognized standards.

Cabling and the Need for Speed

The past few years have seen some tremendous advances not only in networking technologies but also in the demands placed on them. In the past 20 years, we have seen the emergence of standards for 10Mb Ethernet, 16Mb Token Ring, 100Mb FDDI, 100Mb Ethernet, 155Mb ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode), 655Mb ATM, 1Gb Ethernet, 2.5Gb ATM., and 10Gb Ethernet (over optical fiber only as of this writing). Network technology designers are already planning technologies to support data rates of up to 100Gbps.


Excerpted from Cabling by David Barnett Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I Technology and components 1
Ch. 1 Introduction to data cabling 3
Ch. 2 Cabling specifications and standards 61
Ch. 3 Choosing the correct cabling 115
Ch. 4 Cable system and infrastructure constraints 151
Ch. 5 Cabling system components 177
Ch. 6 Tools of the trade 203
Pt. II Network media and connectors 235
Ch. 7 Copper cable media 237
Ch. 8 Wall plates 279
Ch. 9 Connectors 299
Ch. 10 Fiber-optic media 325
Ch. 11 Unbounded (wireless) media 349
Pt. III Cabling design and installation 373
Ch. 12 Cabling-system design and installation 375
Ch. 13 Cable-connector installation 411
Ch. 14 Cable-system testing and troubleshooting 445
Ch. 15 Creating a request for proposal (RFP) 481
Ch. 16 Cabling @ work : experience from the field 509
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