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Black Box Explains...50-µm vs. 62.5-µm fiber optic cable.

As today’s networks expand, the demand for more bandwidth and greater distances increases. Gigabit Ethernet and the emerging 10 Gigabit Ethernet are becoming the applications of choice for current and... more/see it nowfuture networking needs. Thus, there is a renewed interest in 50-micron fiber optic cable.

First used in 1976, 50-micron cable has not experienced the widespread use in North America that 62.5-micron cable has.

To support campus backbones and horizontal runs over 10-Mbps Ethernet, 62.5-micron fiber, introduced in 1986, was and still is the pre-dominant fiber optic cable because it offers high bandwidth and long distance.

One reason 50-micron cable did not gain widespread use was because of the light source. Both 62.5- and 50-micron fiber cable can use either LED or laser light sources. But in the 1980s and 1990s, LED light sources were common. Because 50-micron cable has a smaller aperture, the lower power of the LED light source caused a reduction in the power budget compared to 62.5-micron cable—thus, the migration to 62.5-micron cable. At that time, laser light sources were not highly developed and were rarely used with 50-micron cable — and, when they were, it was mostly in research and technological applications.

The cables share many characteristics. Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core (the light-carrying portion of the fiber), both 50- and 62.5-micron cable use the same cladding diameter of 125 microns. Because they have the same outer diameter, they’re equally strong and are handled in the same way. In addition, both types of cable are included in the TIA/EIA 568-B.3 standards for structured cabling and connectivity.
As with 62.5-micron cable, you can use 50-micron fiber in all types of applications: Ethernet, FDDI, 155-Mbps ATM, Token Ring, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet. It is recommended for all premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections. And it should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. IT managers looking at the possibility of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and future scalability will get what they need with 50-micron cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...Straight-pinned and crossover cable.

Straight-pinned cable has the most common type of pinning. The send and receive pairs are wired straight-through on either end of the cable.

Crossover cable is generally used for peer-to-peer connections.... more/see it nowThe send and receive pairs are crossed between Connector A to Connector B on either end of the cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...Token Ring Cabling

The original Token Ring specifications called for shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable using either a DB9 connector or a unique square connector called the IBM data connector. Later, Token Ring was... more/see it nowadapted to use conventional unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable with RJ-45 connectors. The most common kinds of Token Ring cabling in use to day are Type 1 and Type 6 STP as well as Type 3 UTP.

Type 1 shielded twisted-pair (STP) cable is the original wiring for Token Ring. In Type 1 cabling, each wire is constructed of 22 AWG solid copper. Type 1 cable is not as flexible as Type 6 cable and is generally used for long runs in areas where twists and turns are less likely, such as in walls or conduits.

Type 6 Token Ring cable is a lighter, more pliable version of Type 1 cable. It’s constructed of two stranded 26 AWG copper pairs that are surrounded by an overall braided shield. Type 6 cable is commonly used in offices and open areas, and its flexible construction enables it to negotiate multiple twists and turns.

Type 3 or UTP Token Ring cabling uses the same twisted-pair CAT3, CAT5, or CAT5e cabling with RJ-45 connectors as 10BASE-T Ethernet does. Attaching older Type 1 Token Ring to UTP Token Ring requires a balun or adapter. collapse


Black Box Explains...Type 1 vs. Type 6 Cable

Type 1 Cable is made of solid wire, typically 22 AWG bare copper. It has braided shielding around each pair. It’s recommended for long runs in walls, conduits, etc.

Type 6... more/see it nowCable is typically made of 26 AWG stranded copper and has one shield around both pairs. It’s lighter and more flexible than Type 1 Cable and has a better “look.” It’s recommended for use in office environments. collapse


Black Box Explains...Component video.

Traditional Composite video standards—NTSC, PAL, or SECAM—combine luminance (brightness), chrominance (color), blanking pulses, sync pulses, and color burst information into a single signal.

Another video standard—S-Video—separates luminance from chrominance to provide... more/see it nowsome improvement in video quality.

But there’s a new kind of video called Component video appearing in many high-end video devices such as TVs and DVD players. Component video is an advanced digital format that separates chrominance, luminance, and synchronization into separate signals. It provides images with higher resolution and better color quality than either traditional Composite video or S-Video. There are two kinds of Component video: Y-Cb-Cr and Y-Pb-Pr. Y-Cb-Cr is often used by high-end DVD players. HDTV decoders typically use the Y-Pb-Pr Component video signal.

Many of today’s high-end video devices such as plasma televisions and DVD players actually have three sets of video connectors: Composite, S-Video, and Component. The easiest way to improve picture quality on your high-end TV is to simply connect it using the Component video connectors rather than the Composite or S-Video connectors. Using the Component video connection enables your TV to make use of the full range of video signals provided by your DVD player or cable box, giving you a sharper image and truer colors.

To use the Component video built into your video devices, all you need is the right cable. A Component video cable has three color-coded BNC connections at each end. For best image quality, choose a high-quality cable with adequate shielding and gold-plated connectors. collapse


Black Box Explains...Fiber.


Fiber versus copper.

When planning a new or upgraded cabling infrastructure, you have two basic choices: fiber or copper. Both offer superior data transmission. The decision on which one... more/see it nowto use may be difficult. It will often depend on your current network, your future networking needs, and your particular application, including bandwidth, distances, environment, cost, and more. In some cases, copper may be a better choice; in other situations, fiber offers advantages.


Although copper cable is currently more popular and much more predominant in structured cabling systems and networks, fiber is quickly gaining fans.


Fiber optic cable is becoming one of the fastest-growing transmission mediums for both new cabling installations and upgrades, including backbone, horizontal, and even desktop applications. Fiber optic cable is favored for applications that need high bandwidth, long distances, and complete immunity to electrical interference. It’s ideal for high data-rate systems such as Gigabit Ethernet, FDDI, multimedia, ATM, SONET, Fibre Channel, or any other network that requires the transfer of large, bandwidth-consuming data files, particularly over long distances. A common application for fiber optic cable is as a network backbone, where huge amounts of data are transmitted. To help you decide if fiber is right for your new network or if you want to migrate to fiber, take a look at the following:



The advantages of fiber.

Greater bandwidth-Because fiber provides far greater bandwidth than copper and has proven performance at rates up to 10 Gbps, it gives network designers future-proofing capabilities as network speeds and requirements increase. Also, fiber optic cable can carry more information with greater fidelity than copper wire. That’s why the telephone networks use fiber, and many CATV companies are converting to fiber.


Low attenuation and greater distance-Because the fiber optic signal is made of light, very little signal loss occurs during transmission so data can move at higher speeds and greater distances. Fiber does not have the 100-meter (304.8-ft.) distance limitation of unshielded twisted-pair copper (without a booster). Fiber distances can range from 300 meters to 40 kilometers, depending on the style of cable, wavelength, and network. (Fiber distances are typically measured in metric units.) Because fiber signals need less boosting than copper ones do, the cable performs better.


Fiber networks also enable you to put all your electronics and hardware in one central location, instead of having wiring closets with equipment throughout the building.


Security-Your data is safe with fiber cable. It does not radiate signals and is extremely difficult to tap. If the cable is tapped, it’s very easy to monitor because the cable leaks light, causing the entire system to fail. If an attempt is made to break the security of your fiber system, you’ll know it.


Immunity and reliability-Fiber provides extremely reliable data transmission. It’s completely immune to many environmental factors that affect copper cable. The fiber is made of glass, which is an insulator, so no electric current can flow through. It is immune to electromagnetic interference and radio-frequency interference (EMI/RFI), crosstalk, impedance problems, and more. You can run fiber cable next to industrial equipment without worry. Fiber is also less susceptible to temperature fluctuations than copper is and can be submerged in water.


Design-Fiber is lightweight, thin, and more durable than copper cable. And, contrary to what you might think, fiber optic cable has pulling specifications that are up to ten times greater than copper cable’s. Its small size makes it easier to handle, and it takes up much less space in cabling ducts. Although fiber is still more difficult to terminate than copper is, advancements in connectors are making temination easier. In addition, fiber is actually easier to test than copper cable.


Migration-The proliferation and lower costs of media converters are making copper to fiber migration much easier. The converters provide seamless links and enable the use of existing hardware. Fiber can be incorporated into networks in planned upgrades.


Standards-New TIA/EIA standards are bringing fiber closer to the desktop. TIA/EIA-785, ratified in 2001, provides a cost-effective migration path from 10-Mbps Ethernet to 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet over fiber (100BASE-SX). A recent addendum to the standard eliminates limitations in transceiver designs. In addition, in June 2002, the IEEE approved a 10-Gigabit Ethernet standard.


Costs-The cost for fiber cable, components, and hardware is steadily decreasing. Installation costs for fiber are higher than copper because of the skill needed for terminations. Overall, fiber is more expensive than copper in the short run, but it may actually be less expensive in the long run. Fiber typically costs less to maintain, has much less downtime, and requires less networking hardware. And fiber eliminates the need to recable for higher network performance.


Multimode or single-mode, duplex or simplex?

Multimode-Multimode fiber optic cable can be used for most general fiber applications. Use multimode fiber for bringing fiber to the desktop, for adding segments to your existing network, or in smaller applications such as alarm systems. Multimode cable comes with two different core sizes: 50 micron or 62.5 micron.


Single-mode-Single-mode is used over distances longer than a few miles. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable features an 8.5-micron glass core.


Duplex-Use duplex multimode or single-mode fiber optic cable for applications that require simultaneous, bidirectional data transfer. Workstations, fiber switches and servers, fiber modems, and similar hardware require duplex cable. Duplex is available in single- and multimode.


Simplex-Because simplex fiber optic cable consists of only one fiber link, you should use it for applications that only require one-way data transfer. For instance, an interstate trucking scale that sends the weight of the truck to a monitoring station or an oil line monitor that sends data about oil flow to a central location. Simplex fiber comes in single- and multimode types.


50- vs. 62.5-micron cable.

Although 50-micron fiber cable features a smaller core, which is the light-carrying portion of the fiber, both 62.5- and 50-micron cable feature the same glass cladding diameter of 125 microns. You can use both in the same types of networks, although 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications: backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections, and should be considered especially for any new construction and installations. And both can use either LED or laser light sources.


The big difference between 50-micron and 62.5-micron cable is in bandwidth-50-micron cable features three times the bandwidth of standard 62.5-micron cable, particularly at 850 nm. The 850-nm wavelength is becoming more important as lasers are being used more frequently as a light source.


Other differences are distance and speed. 50-micron cable provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds in the 850-nm wavelength. See the table below.




The ferrules: ceramic or composite?

As a general rule, use ceramic ferrules for critical network connections such as backbone cables or for connections that will be changed frequently, like those in wiring closets. Ceramic ferrules are more precisely molded and fit closer to the fiber, which gives the fiber optic cables a lower optical loss.


Use composite ferrules for connections that are less critical to the network’s overall operation and less frequently changed. Like their ceramic counterparts, composite ferrules are characterized by low loss, good quality, and a long life. However, they are not as precisely molded and slightly easier to damage, so they aren’t as well-suited for critical connections.


Testing and certifying fiber optic cable.

If you’re accustomed to certifying copper cable, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to certify fiber optic cable because it’s immune to electrical interference. You only need to check a few measurements.

Attenuation (or decibel loss)-Measured in decibels/kilometer (dB/km), this is the decrease of signal strength as it travels through the fiber cable. Generally, attenuation problems are more common on multimode fiber optic cables.

Return loss-This is the amount of light reflected from the far end of the cable back to the source. The lower the number, the better. For example, a reading of -60 decibels is better than -20 decibels. Like attenuation, return loss is usually greater with multimode cable.

Graded refractive index-This measures how the light is sent down the fiber. This is commonly measured at wavelengths of 850 and 1300 nanometers. Compared to other operating frequencies, these two ranges yield the lowest intrinsic power loss. (NOTE: This is valid for multimode fiber only.)

Propagation delay-This is the time it takes a signal to travel from one point to another over a transmission channel.

Optical time-domain reflectometry (OTDR)-This enables you to isolate cable faults by transmitting high-frequency pulses onto a cable and examining their reflections along the cable. With OTDR, you can also determine the length of a fiber optic cable because the OTDR value includes the distance the optic signal travels.


There are many fiber optic testers on the market today. Basic fiber optic testers function by shining a light down one end of the cable. At the other end, there’s a receiver calibrated to the strength of the light source. With this test, you can measure how much light is going to the other end of the cable. Generally, these testers give you the results in dB lost, which you then compare to the loss budget. If the measured loss is less than the number calculated by your loss budget, your installation is good.


Newer fiber optic testers have a broad range of capabilities. They can test both 850- and 1300-nanometer signals at the same time and can even check your cable for compliance with specific standards.


Fiber precautions.

A few properties particular to fiber optic cable can cause problems if you aren’t careful during installation.

Intrinsic power loss-As the optic signal travels through the fiber core, the signal inevitably loses some speed through absorption, reflection, and scattering. This problem is easy to manage by making sure your splices are good and your connections are clean.

Microbending-Microbends are minute deviations in fiber caused by excessive bends, pinches, and kinks. Using cable with reinforcing fibers and other special manufacturing techniques minimizes this problem.

Connector loss-Connector loss occurs when two fiber segments are misaligned. This problem is commonly caused by poor splicing. Scratches and dirt introduced during the splicing process can also cause connector loss.

Coupling loss-Similar to connector loss, coupling loss results in reduced signal power and is from poorly terminated connector couplings.


Remember to be careful and use common sense when installing fiber cable. Use clean components. Keep dirt and dust to a minimum. Don’t pull the cable excessively or bend it too sharply around any corners. That way, your fiber optic installation can serve you well for many years.

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Black Box Explains...RS-232.

RS-232, also known as RS-232C and TIA/EIA-232-E, is a group of electrical, functional, and mechanical specifications for serial interfaces between computers, terminals, and peripherals. The RS-232 standard was developed by... more/see it nowthe Electrical Industries Association (EIA), and defines requirements for connecting data communications equipment (DCE)—modems, converters, etc.—and data terminal equipment (DTE)—computers, controllers, etc.) devices. RS-232 transmits data at speeds up to 115 Kbps and over distances up to 50 feet (15.2 m).

The standard, which is functionally equivalent to ITU V.24/V.28, specifies the workings of the interface, circuitry, and connector pinning. Both sync and async binary data transmission fall under RS-232. Although RS-232 is sometimes still used to transmit data from PCs to peripheral devices, the most common uses today are for network console ports and for industrial devices.

Even though RS-232 is a “standard,” you can’t necessarily expect seamless communication between two RS-232 devices. Why? Because different devices have different circuitry or pinning, and different wires may be designated to perform different functions.

The typical RS-232 connector is DB25, but some PCs and other data communication devices have DB9 connectors and many newer devices have RJ-45 RS-232 ports. To connect 9-pin PC ports or RJ-45 to devices with 25-pin connectors, you will require a simple adapter cable. collapse


Black Box Explains...USB.

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) hardware (plug-and-play) standard makes connecting peripherals to your computer easy. USB 1.1, introduced in 1995, is the original USB standard. It has two data rates:... more/see it now12 Mbps and 1.5 Mbps. USB 2.0, or Hi-Speed USB 2.0, was released in 2000. It increased the peripheral-to-PC speed from 12 Mbps to 480 Mbps, or 40 times faster than USB 1.1. This increase in bandwidth enabled the use of peripherals requiring higher throughput, such as CD/DVD burners, scanners, digital cameras, and video equipment. It is backward-compatible with USB 1.1.

The newest USB standard, USB 3.0 (or SuperSpeed USB), (2008) provides vast improvements over USB 2.0. It promises speeds up to 4.8 Gbps, nearly ten times that of USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has the flat USB Type A plug, but inside there is an extra set of connectors and the edge of the plug is blue instead of white. The Type B plug looks different with an extra set of connectors.

USB 3.0 adds a physical bus running in parallel with the existing 2.0 bus. USB 3.0 cable contains nine wires, four wire pairs plus a ground. It has two more data pairs than USB 2.0, which has one pair for data and one pair for power. The extra pairs enable USB 3.0 to support bidirectional async, full-duplex data transfer instead of USB 2.0’s half-duplex polling method.

USB 3.0 provides 50% more power than USB 2.0 (150 mA vs 100 mA) to unconfigured devices and up to 80% more power (900 mA vs 500 mA) to configured devices. Also, USB 3.0 conserves more power when compared to USB 2.0, which uses power when the cable isn’t being used. collapse


Black Box Explains...Gold plating.

Get premium-quality connectors from Black Box. The 24-karat gold plating ensures better signal transmission and no corrosion. The shielding and heavy gold conductors provide improved performance.


Black Box Explains...Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered fiber optic cable.

There are two styles of fiber optic cable construction: loose tube and tight buffered. Both contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or... more/see it noweven gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.

Loose tube cables, the older of the two cable types, are specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. They protect the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. In loose-tube cables that hold more than one optical fiber, each individually sleeved core is bundled loosely within an all-encompassing outer jacket.

Many loose-tube cables also have a water-resistant gel that surrounds the fibers. This gel helps protect them from moisture, so the cables are great for harsh, high-humidity environments where water or condensation can be a problem. The gel-filled tubes can expand and contract with temperature changes, too.

But gel-filled loose-tube cables are not the best choice when cable needs to be submerged or where it’s routed around multiple bends. Excess cable strain can force fibers to emerge from the gel.

Tight-buffered cables, in contrast, are optimized for indoor applications. Because they’re sturdier than loose-tube cables, they’re best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, long indoor runs, and even direct burial. Tight-buffered cables are also recommended for underwater applications.

Instead of a gel layer or sleeve to protect the fiber core, tight-buffered cables use a two-layer coating. One is plastic; the other is waterproof acrylate. The acrylate coating keeps moisture away from the cable, like the gel-filled sleeves do for loose-tube cables. But this acrylate layer is bound tightly to the plastic fiber layer, so the core is never exposed (as it can be with gel-filled cables) when the cable is bent or compressed underwater.

Tight-buffered cables are also easier to install because there’s no messy gel to clean up and they don’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination. You can crimp connectors directly to each fiber.

Want the best of both worlds? Try a hybrid, breakout-style fiber optic cable, which combines tight-buffered cables within a loose-tube housing. collapse

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