"Cat 6 & 7 Systems"
These days, with more and more data network users talking about Gigabit
Ethernet and other high-speed applications, there's clearly a need for copper cabling
systems that go beyond Category 5. And, indeed, the industry is now working to define and
develop cables and components capable of handling faster bandwidths.
Spearheading this effort is Anixter, the giant distributor of cabling and associated components, which is working with structured cabling and component manufacturers to define two new performance categories, referred to as Level 6 and Level 7.
Level 6 is, in effect, "extended performance" power sum rated Category 5 cable. Defining its performance characteristics should pave the way for manufacturers to develop power sum outlets and other hardware needed to install complete Level 6-rated networks and prepare for the base requirements of Gigabit Ethernet.
Level 7 represents a new generation of products being launched especially for bandwidth-hungry networking applications like Gigabit Ethernet and ATM. Level 7 systems must be able to transmit data at speeds of at least one Gigabit (billion bits per second), plus be capable of supporting multiple applications at different frequencies over the same cable.
Only a limited number of manufacturers are now actually making such components, but Anixter evaluates various combinations of all kinds of existing cables, outlets, patch panels, cross-connects, and other hardware in its testing labs. Those combinations of products that meet performance goals-and only those systems-may use the Anixter Levels Channels designation (ALC 6 or ALC 7).
But considering Anixter's history in defining performance standards, it may not be long before ALC 6 and ALC 7 systems become Cat 6 and Cat 7 products. In the late 1970s-a time when communications cable construction and electrical performance varied widely among different manufacturers, and no uniform standard of measurement existed to compare one brand to another - the company developed a series of five cable performance levels designed to allow users and specifiers to select the most cost-effective product for their applications. These ranged from Level 1 for conventional four-conductor telephone wiring (POTS) up to Levels 3, 4, and 5 for high- frequency computer networks. Anixter's levels were so well-received in the marketplace that EIA/TIA adopted them as the five "categories" defined in the first edition of the 568 standard, published in 1986.
And, in fact, U.S. and international standards organizations are already working to add new Category 6 and 7 requirements to the industry telecommunications standards. Thus, by the millennium, Cat 6 and Cat 7 cabling and their associated components may be as common and widely available as Cat 5 systems are today.
- This article was written by Brooke Stauffer.
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