Designing Premises Cabling Systems
Here we describe how to design a premises cabling system based on traditional structured cabling. Many new LANs are using Optical LAN designs that are a new generation of equipment based on FTTH. Here is more information on OLANs.
The "telecommunications closet," or as it is now called "telecommunications room (TR)," is the (typically) small equipment room closest to the end user, where the termination of the backbone cabling and connection to "horizontal cabling" which runs to the end user occurs. It will be located in proximity to the end users, officially known as the "work area" but often called the "desktop". These locations are where all switches, hubs and any other networking equipment will be located. All cabling is defined by the necessity to connect all these locations and the desktop of the end user, which is called the "work area". The facilities in which cables are run are referred to as "pathways and spaces."
TIA-568-C revision proposes to change the nomenclature of structured cabling systems. Here is an explanation of the changes.
All equipment rooms require uninterruptible conditioned power, a separate data ground, air conditioning and an adequate amount of floor space. Proper designers and installers of these systems should be consulted if the cabling designer is not familiar with or licensed for this work.
Cabling Design Criteria
Cabling for premises networks has many options, mostly determined by performance of the cabling. Today, one can choose UTP cabling of grades, called categories, commonly referred to as Cat 5 (Category 5), Cat 5e (enhanced Category 5), Cat 6 and Cat 6A (augmented Category 6). Higher ratings are for cables with higher bandwidth and other performance specifications, explained here. Likewise, fiber is rated as OM1, OM2, OM3 and some called OM3+ by manufacturers until OM4 standards are ratified. Again, higher ratings are for fiber with higher bandwidth capability, explained here.
As you might expect higher performance cable supports higher bit rate systems, and in the case of fiber, longer link distances (copper is limited by the standards and the laws of physics) but at a higher cost. Users generally choose the highest bandwidth cabling they can justify as it provides more "headroom" for networks installed today and more likelihood of supporting faster networks in the future.
A general restriction for structured cabling is the permissible distances for cable runs. The table below lists cable distances for various types of permitted cabling. The restrictions on fiber links in the horizontal are arbitrary to be equal to copper cabling and may be exceeded for many network uses. Fiber lengths in the backbone may be restricted by the bandwidth of the fiber when used with high speed networks.
Copper cabling designed into a network is allowed 100 meters total length, comprised of 90m of permanently installed cable (the "permanent link") and up to 10m of patchcords used to interconnect cabling or connect active networking equipment. As long as the installed length does not exceed 90m, it meets the standards, and, if properly installed, should pass certification tests.
Fiber has much more leeway in premises cabling, with longer lengths possible and more options in termination. When designing fiber networks, one must design the paths for the installed cables, estimate the lengths and do an analysis of the losses incurred in that section, called a loss budget, to determine if the link will meet the standards and support the network electonics proposed as well as create pass/fail criteria for testing.
All premises cables, copper or fiber, must be rated per electrical codes for flammability in order to be used indoors. Copper cables are rated differently than fiber, which may be non-conductive or conductive if metallic elements are included in the cable design. Refer to the cable sections for more detail on cable ratings.
Designing Pathways and Spaces
Industry standards cover designing pathways and spaces in great detail. Certainly providing adequate space and proper design of cabling systems is needed for a correct installation. However, the design of pathways and spaces is hardly the sole responsibility of the cabling designer, contractor or installer. It is a cooperative effort that should involve a the owner and/or lessor of the facility, the architects and engineers, information technology personnel and other contractors: mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc. Familiarity of the needs of cabling and industry standards is important to all these parties in order to complete a successful installation.
Horizontal pathways are facilities for the installation of telecommunications cable from the telecommunications closet to the work area telecommunications outlet/connector.
Backbone pathways consist of intra- and interbuilding pathways that provide the means for placing backbone cables between the entrance room or space, telecommunications closets, equipment rooms, or the main terminal space. Backbone pathways may be either vertical or horizontal depending on the building layout. Interbuilding backbone pathways extend between buildings. Intrabuilding backbone pathways are contained within a building.
Pathways encompass underfloor, access floor, conduit, tray and wireway, ceiling, and perimeter facilities. The pathway and cable type will determine the maximum number of cables that can be accomodated and vice versa. The design shall provide a suitable means and method for supporting cables from equipement room to the telecommunications closet (backbone) and from the telecommunications closet to the work areas to be served (horizontal.) Cable shall not be laid directly on the ceiling tile or rails. All pathways shall be installed, grounded and bonded per applicable building, fire and electrical codes.
A work area is where a user is sited. The work area my be an office or area divided by modular office furniture. For planning purposes, a user should be allocated approximately 10 m2 or 100 square feet of floor space. Each work area should have at least one cabling outlet with one voice and one data jack. This outlet should be placed within 1 m ( 3 ft) of a power outlet.
Work areas may be divided into zones encompassing several work areas which are served by multi-user telecom outlet assemblies (MUTOA) mounted on building walls or columns (not above ceilings) and use short drop cables to each user.
Telecommunications Room (Closet)
The telecommunications room on each floor is the location of the common access point for backbone and horizontal pathways. The telecommunications closet is designed to contain telecommunications equipment, cable terminations, and associated cross-connect cable/wiring. The telecommunications closet shall be located as close as practicable to the center of the area served. Telecom rooms should not share space with other facilities including electrical with the exception of electrical services required for the equipment placed in the room.
There should be one telecom room per floor or more where the areas served are greater than 1000 m2 or 10,000 ft2 or the distance to work areas will exceed 90m, the maximum length of permanently installed cable.
Telecom room space should be large enough for the served area. In new buildings, requirements should be coordinated with the architect and mechanical contractors. In existing structures, rooms may need to be constructed.
Telecom Room Floor Area
Telecom rooms need conditioned, uninterruptible power and a data ground. Lighting and other electrical equipment should be run off the normal building power. Adequate AC must be provided to maintain the temperature the same as the surrounding area or at least within the operating limits of the equipment.
The equipment room is a centralized space for telecommunications equipment (e.g., PBX, computing equipment, servers, switches, routers, storage devices, video switches, etc. that serve occupants of the facility. Any or all of the functions of a telecommunications closet or entrance facility may alternately be provided by an equipment room. The equipment room should be restricted to telecom equipment and adequate security provided.
The room should be sized for current and future usage. Guidelines for floor area of the equipment room are given in the table below. Accessibility for large equipment is often necessary and should be provided.
Equipment Room Floor Area
Like telecom rooms, the equipment room needs conditioned, uninterrupbible power and a data ground. Lighting and other electrical equipment should be run off the normal building power. Adequate AC must be provided to maintain the temperature the same as the surrounding area or at least within the operating limits of the equipment.
The entrance facility consists of the telecommunications service entrance to the building, including the entrance through the building wall, and continuing to the entrance room or space. The entrance facility may contain the backbone pathways that link to the main terminal space and to other buildings in campus situations. Antenna entrances may also constitute part of the entrance facility.
All carriers and telecommunications providers involved in providing service to the building shall be contacted to establish their requirements and explore alternatives for delivering service. The location of other utilities, such as electrical, water, gas, and sewer, shall be considered in the selection of the telecommunications entrance facility location. A service entrance pathway shall be provided, The basic methods for provisioning are underground, buried, aerial pathways, and tunnels.
The entrance room or space is the component of the entrance facility that provides space for the placing and termination of protectors on the entrance cable and may contain network interface devices. If network interface devices and telecommunications equipment are required in the entrance room, additional space will be needed.
Other Design Considerations
Numerous issues must be addressed in the construction of a cabling system, many of which involve other parties, e.g. the end user, IT personnel, architects, engineers, electricians and other contractors. Cabling pathways and spaces must maintain separation from electrical conductors per electrical codes, provide protection from lightning and other power surges, be protected from electromagnetic interference (EMI) and be properly grounded and bonded. All penetrations must be properly firestopped per building codes.
Removal and Recycling of Abandoned Cables
Unless directed by the owner or other agency that unused cables are reserved for future use and the cables are marked accordingly, it may be required to remove abandoned optical fiber cable (cable that is not terminated at equipment other than a connector and not identified for future use with a tag) as required by the National Electrical Code or local codes.
At the discretion of the owner of the site, the contractor may be requested to remove other cables (e.g. copper communications or power cables) in addition. Removal of cables is much more time consuming than installation, as each cable must be identified and carefully removed to prevent damaging other cables. No cable should be cut for removal unless it is positively identified as one to be removed.
All cables removed should be recycled properly.
One cannot emphasize strongly enough the value of documentation. Documentation should be part of the design process, creating the nomenclature and database used throughout the installation process. Installation should be done according to the documentation created in design and every cable, patch panel or other equipment marked properly. TIA 606 is the US standard for cable plant administration which includes marking and documentation.Nothing facilitates proper installation, testing, upgrades, moves/adds/changes or restoration more than proper documentation.
Test your comprehension with the section quiz.
Overview of Premises Cabling and Standards