Network cabling is the basic building block for most local area networks. Cabling challenges arise as these networks reach 100 Mbps and beyond, especially for unshielded twisted pair networks. Cabling standards are rapidly evolving, and performance demands on cable and connecting hardware far exceed those of only a few years ago. Companies spend thousands of dollars upgrading their network equipment, yet the cabling often gets little attention in comparison. This is ironic, because if the cabling doesn't work, the network doesn't work. Some estimates are that cabling issues account for up to 50% of all LAN failures, and the resulting network downtime costs organizations millions of dollars in lost productivity, idle resources, and lost revenues.

If you are a network administrator, it is essential to understand how to get the best performance from your cabling investment, and find a cabling contractor with the knowledge and ability to install and certify a system that's right for you.

Why is certifying category 6 so much harder than certifying category 5? The simple answer is the test limits got significantly stricter but the cabling technology is still catching up to these limits. The result? High failure rate on category 6 installations. Cable installer's need to be up to date on the latest cable installation and conformance techniques to ensure that their work meets changing international standards. It can be difficult to keep track of this rapidly changing area of technology. Many of these new standards will require new measurements, higher bandwidth, and higher dynamic range in field measurements. None of the old Level II field testers will be able to support this new level of performance. To accurately make measurements in these new areas, cable installation companies will be required to purchase advanced field testing and certification technology.

Currently Data Link utilizes Agilent Wirescope 350 handheld cable certification testers. With a 350 MHz test frequency range and measurement accuracy beyond the draft TIA level III specification, the WireScope 350 hardware substantially exceeds the proposed requirements for Category 6 / Class E certification.

As the complexity of cable testing standards increases, it becomes more challenging to clearly present test result data. Data Link and Agilent solve this problem with professionally designed report layouts that include plots of test data, facilitating at-a-glance analysis of cabling quality and headroom vs. limits. Test documentation can be just as valuable as your As-Built drawings whenever you encounter network problems, so demand an installation contractor who can provide simple and accurate certification results. (816)554-8000 Copyright 2002, Data Link Inc., All rights reserved.