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 its 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 theyre sturdier than loose-tube cables, theyre 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 theres no messy gel to clean up and they dont 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
Black Box Explains…OM3 and OM4.
There are different categories of graded-index multimode fiber optic cable. The ISO/IEC 11801 Ed 2.1:2009 standard specifies categories OM1, OM2, and OM3. The TIA/EIA recognizes OM1, OM2, OM3, and OM4.... more/see it nowThe TIA/EIA ratified OM4 in August 2009 (TIA/EIA 492-AAAD). The IEEE ratified OM4 (802.ba) in June 2010.
OM1 specifies 62.5-micron cable and OM2 specifies 50-micron cable. These are commonly used in premises applications supporting Ethernet rates of 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps. They are also typically used with LED transmitters. OM1 and OM2 cable are not suitable though for today's higher-speed networks.
OM3 and OM4 are both laser-optimized multimode fiber (LOMMF) and were developed to accommodate faster networks such as 10, 40, and 100 Gbps. Both are designed for use with 850-nm VCSELS (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) and have aqua sheaths.
OM3 specifies an 850-nm laser-optimized 50-micron cable with a effective modal bandwidth (EMB) of 2000 MHz/km. It can support 10-Gbps link distances up to 300 meters. OM4 specifies a high-bandwidth 850-nm laser-optimized 50-micron cable an effective modal bandwidth of 4700 MHz/km. It can support 10-Gbps link distances of 550 meters. 100-Gbps distances are 100 meters and 150 meters, respectively. Both rival single-mode fiber in performance while being significantly less expensive to implement.
OM1 and 2 are made with a different process than OM3 and 4. Non-laser-optimized fiber cable is made with a small defect in the core, called an index depression. LED light sources are commonly used with these cables.
OM3 and 4 are manufactured without the center defect. As networks migrated to higher speeds, VCSELS became more commonly used rather than LEDs, which have a maximum modulation rate of 622 Mbps. Because of that, LEDs can’t be turned on and off fast enough to support higher-speed applications. VCSELS provided the speed, but unfortunately when used with older OM1 and 2 cables, required mode-conditioning launch cables. Thus manufacturers changed the production process to eliminate the center defect and enable OM3 and OM4 cables to be used directly with the VCSELS.
850 nm High Performance EMB (MHz/km)
850-nm Ethernet Distance
OM3: 1000 m
OM4: 1000 m
OM3: 300 m
OM4: 550 m
OM3: 100 m
OM4: 150 m
OM3: 100 m
OM4: 150 m
Black Box Explains...Industrial Ethernet (Ethernet/IP) and IP-rated connectors.
Ethernet technology is coming to the factory floor. Once limited to office environments, Ethernet has proven to be a robust alternative to the RS-232 interface traditionally used with industrial devices... more/see it nowsuch as programmable logic controllers. Ethernet brings speed, versatility, and cost savings to industrial environments.
The requirements of industrial environments are different than offices, so there are industrial Ethernet standards. The most common is the Ethernet/Industrial Protocol (Ethernet/IP) standard, usually called Industrial Ethernet. Industrial Ethernet adapts ordinary, off-the-shelf IEEE 802.3 Ethernet communication chips and physical media to industrial applications.
The Ingress Protection (IP) ratings developed by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) specify the environmental protection an enclosure provides.
An IP rating consists of two or three numbers. The first number refers to protection from solid objects or materials; the second number refers to protection from liquids; and the third number, commonly omitted from the rating, refers to protection against mechanical impacts. An IP67 rating means that a connector is totally protected from dust and from the effects of immersion in 5.9 inches (15 cm) to 3.2 feet (1 m) of water for 30 minutes.
Because office-grade RJ-45 connectors do not stand up to an industrial environment, the Ethernet/IP standard calls for sealed industrial RJ-45 connectors that meet an IP67 standard, meaning the connectors are sealed against dust and water. collapse
Black Box Explains...Breakout-style cables.
With breakout- or fanout-style cables, the fibers are packaged individually. A breakout cable is basically several simplex cables bundled together in one jacket. Breakout cables are suitable for riser and... more/see it nowplenum applications, and conduit runs.
This differs from distribution-style cables where several tight-buffered fibers are bundled under the same jacket.
This design of the breakout cable adds strength to the cable, although that makes it larger and more expensive than distribution-style cables.
Because each fiber is individually reinforced, you can divide the cable into individual fiber lines. This enables quick connector termination, and eliminates the need for patch panels.
Breakout cable can also be more economical because it requires much less labor to terminate.
You may want to choose a cable that has more fibers than you actually need in case of breakage during termination or for future expansion. collapse
Black Box Explains...Category wiring standards
The ABCs of standards
There are two primary organizations dedicated to developing and setting structured cabling standards. In North America, standards are issued by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA),... more/see it nowwhich is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The TIA was formed in April 1988 after a merger with the Electronics Industry Association (EIA). That’s why its standards are commonly known as ANSI/TIA/EIA, TIA/EIA, or TIA.
Globally, the organizations that issue standards are the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standards are often listed as ISO/IEC. Other organizations include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardizations), and the Japanese Standards Association (JSA/JSI).
The committees of all these organizations work together and the performance requirements of the standards are very similar. But there is some confusion in terminology.
The TIA cabling components (cables, connecting hardware, and patch cords) are labeled with a ”category.” These components together form a permanent link or channel that is also called a ”category.” The ISO/IEC defines the link and channel requirements with a ”class” designation. But the components are called a ”category.”
Category 5 (CAT5) —ratified in 1991. It is no longer recognized for use in networking.
Category 5e (CAT5e) —ISO/IEC 11801 Class D, ratified in 1999, is designed to support full-duplex, 4-pair transmission in 100-MHz applications. The CAT5e standard introduced the measurement for PS-NEXT, EL-FEXT, and PS-ELFEXT. CAT5e is no longer recognized for new installations. It is commonly used for 1-GbE installations.
Category 6 (CAT6) – Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).
10-GbE over CAT6 introduces Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TIA TSB-155-A and ISO/IEC 24750 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 over channels of 121 to 180 feet (37 to 55 meters) and requires it to be 100% tested, which is extremely time consuming. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that the cables be unbundled, that the space between cables be increased, and that non-adjacent patch panel ports be used. If CAT6 F/UTP cable is used, mitigation is not necessary and the length limits do not apply. CAT6 is not recommended for new 10-GbE installations.
Augmented Category 6 (CAT6A) –Class Ea was ratified in February 2008. This standard calls for 10-Gigabit Ethernet data transmission over a 4-pair copper cabling system up to 100 meters. CAT6A extends CAT6 electrical specifications from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. It introduces the ANEXT requirement. It also replaces the term Equal Level Far-End Crosstalk (ELFEXT) with Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio, Far-End (ACRF) to mesh with ISO terminology. CAT6A provides improved insertion loss over CAT6. It is a good choice for noisy environments with lots of EMI. CAT6A is also well-suited for use with PoE+.
CAT6A UTP cable is significantly larger than CAT6 cable. It features larger conductors, usually 22 AWG, and is designed with more space between the pairs to minimize ANEXT. The outside diameter of CAT6A cable averages 0.29"–0.35" compared to 0.21"–0.24" for CAT6 cable. This reduces the number of cables you can fit in a conduit. At a 40% fill ratio, you can run three CAT6A cables in a 3/4" conduit vs. five CAT6 cables.
CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP. Although shielded cable has the reputation of being bigger, bulkier, and more difficult to handle and install than unshielded cable, this is not the case with CAT6A F/UTP cable. It is actually easier to handle, requires less space to maintain proper bend radius, and uses smaller conduits, cable trays, and pathways. CAT6A UTP has a larger outside diameter than CAT6A F/UTP cable. This creates a great difference in the fill rate of cabling pathways. An increase in the outside diameter of 0.1", from 0.25" to 0.35" for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity than CAT6A UTP. In addition, innovations in connector technology have made terminating CAT6A F/UTP actually easier than terminating bulkier CAT6A UTP.
Category 7 (CAT7) –Class F was published in 2002 by the ISO/IEC. It is not a TIA recognized standard and TIA plans to skip over it.
Category 7 specifies minimum performance standards for fully shielded cable (individually shielded pairs surrounded by an overall shield) transmitting data at rates up to 600 MHz. It comes with one of two connector styles: the standard RJ plug and a non-RJ-style plug and socket interface specified in IEC 61076-2-104:2.
Category 7a (CAT7a) –Class Fa (Amendment 1 and 2 to ISO/IEC 11801, 2nd Ed.) is a fully shielded cable that extends frequency from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz.
Category 8 – The TIA decided to skip Category 7 and 7A and go to Category 8. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is establishing specs for a 40-Gbps twisted-pair solution with a 2-GHz frequency. The proposed standard is for use in a two-point channel in a data center at 30 meters. It is expected to be ratified in February 2016. The TR-42.7 subcommittee is also incorporating ISO/IEC Class II cabling performance criteria into the standard. It is expected to be called TIA-568-C.2-1. The difference between Class I and Class II is that Class II allows for three different styles of connectors that are not compatible with one another or with the RJ-45 connector. Class I uses an RJ-45 connector and is backward compatible with components up to Category 6A.
Black Box Explains...What to look for in a channel solution.
Channel solution. You hear the term a lot these days to describe complete copper or fiber cabling systems. But what exactly is a channel solution and what are its benefits?... more/see it now
A channel solution is a cabling system from the data center to the desktop where every cable, jack, and patch panel is designed to work together and give you consistent end-to-end performance when compared with the EIA/TIA requirements.
A channel solution is beneficial because you have some assurance that your cabling components will perform as specified. Without that assurance, one part may not be doing its job, so your entire system may not be performing up to standard, which is a problem — especially if you rely on bandwidth-heavy links for video and voice.
What to look for.
There are a lot of channel solutions advertised on the Internet and elsewhere. So what exactly should you be looking for?
For one, make sure it’s a fully tested, guaranteed channel solution. The facts show an inferior cabling system can cause up to 70 percent of network downtime — even though it usually represents only 5 percent of an initial network investment. So don’t risk widespread failure by skimping on a system that doesn’t offer guaranteed channel performance. You need to make sure the products are engineered to meet or go beyond the key measurements for CAT5e or CAT6 performance.
And, sure, they may be designed to work together, but does the supplier absolutely guarantee how well they perform as part of a channel — end to end? Don’t just rely on what the supplier says. They may claim their products meet CAT5e or CAT6 requirements, but the proof is in the performance. Start by asking if the channel solution is independently tested and certified by a reputable third party. There are a lot of suppliers out there who don’t have the trademarked ETL approval logo, for example.
What ETL Verified means.
The ETL logo certifies that a channel solution has been found to be in compliance with recognized standards.
To ensure consistent top quality, Black Box participates in independent third-party testing by InterTek Testing Services/ETL Semko, Inc. Once a quarter, an Intertek inspector visits
Black Box and randomly selects cable and cabling products
The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Solid Bulk Cable are ETL Verified at the component level to verify that they conform to the applicable industry standards.
The GigaTrue® CAT6 and GigaBase® CAT5e Channels, consisting of bulk cable, patch cable, jacks, patch panels, and wiring blocks, are tested and verified according to industry standards in a LAN environment under InterTek’s Cabling System Channel Verification Program. For the latest test results, contact our FREE Tech Support.
Black Box Explains...Category 6.
Category 6 (CAT6)–Class E has a specified frequency of 250 MHz, significantly improved bandwidth capacity over CAT5e, and easily handles Gigabit Ethernet transmissions. In recent years, it has been the... more/see it nowcable of choice for new structured cabling systems. CAT6 supports 1000BASE-T and, depending on the installation, 10GBASE-T (10-GbE).
10-GbE over CAT6 introduces the problem of Alien Crosstalk (ANEXT), the unwanted coupling of signals between adjacent pairs and cables. Because ANEXT in CAT6 10-GbE networks is so dependent on installation practices, TSB-155 qualifies 10-GbE over CAT6 up to 55 meters and requires it to be 100% tested. To mitigate ANEXT in CAT6, it is recommended that you unbundle the cables and increase the separation between the cables.
You can always contact Black Box Tech Support to answer your cabling questions. Our techs can recommend cable testers and steer you in the right direction when you’re installing new cabling. And the advice is FREE! collapse
Black Box Explains...Fiber connectors.
• The ST® connector, which uses a bayonet locking system, is the most common connector.
• The SC connector features a molded body and a push- pull locking system.
• The FDDI... more/see it nowconnector comes with a 2.5-mm free-floating ferrule and a fixed shroud to minimize light loss.
• The MT-RJ connector, a small-form RJ-style connector, features a molded body and uses cleave-and-leave splicing.
• The LC connector, a small-form factor connector, features a ceramic ferrule and looks like a mini SC connector.
• The VF-45™connector is another small-form factor connector. It uses a unique V-groove design.
• The FC connector is a threaded body connector. Secure it by screwing the connector body to the mating threads. Used in high-vibration environments.
• The MTO/MTP connector is a fiber connector that uses high-fiber-count ribbon cable. Its used in high-density fiber applications.
• The MU connector resembles the larger SC connector. It uses a simple push-pull latching connection and is well suited for high-density applications.
Black Box Explains...How fiber is insulated for use in harsh environments.
Fiber optic cable not only gives you immunity to interference and greater signal security, but it’s also constructed to insulate the fiber’s core from the stress associated with use in... more/see it nowharsh environments.
The core is a very delicate channel that’s used to transport data signals from an optical transmitter to an optical receiver. To help reinforce the core, absorb shock, and provide extra protection against cable bends, fiber cable contains a coating of acrylate plastic.
In an environment free from the stress of external forces such as temperature, bends, and splices, fiber optic cable can transmit light pulses with minimal attenuation. And although there will always be some attenuation from external forces and other conditions, there are two methods of cable construction to help isolate the core: loose-tube and tight-buffer construction.
In a loose-tube construction, the fiber core literally floats within a plastic gel-filled sleeve. Surrounded by this protective layer, the core is insulated from temperature extremes, as well as from damaging external forces such as cutting and crushing.
In a tight-core construction, the plastic extrusion method is used to apply a protective coating directly over the fiber coating. This helps the cable withstand even greater crushing forces. But while the tight-buffer design offers greater protection from core breakage, it’s more susceptible to stress from temperature variations. Conversely, while it’s more flexible than loose-tube cable, the tight-buffer design offers less protection from sharp bends or twists. collapse
Black Box Explains...Cable termination.
Carefully remove the jacketing from the cable and expose one inch of the insulated wire conductors. Do not remove any insulation from the conductors. When the... more/see it nowRJ-45 connector is crimped, the contacts inside will pierce the conductor insulation.
Untwist the wires to within 1/8" of the jacket. Arrange the wires according to the cable spec (568B in this case). Flatten and align the wires. Make one straight cut across all the conductors, removing approximately 1/2" to ensure the ends are of equal length.
Slide the wires into a connector. The cable jacket should extend into the connector about 1/4" for strain relief. Orient the wires so connector Pin 1 aligns with cable Pin 1, etc. Hold the connector in front of you. With the locking tab down, Pin 1 is on the far left.
Insert the connector into a crimp tool. Make sure you’re using the proper die. Firmly squeeze the handles. They’ll lock in a ratcheting action. A final click indicates the connector is firmly latched.
Check your work using a continuity tester or cable certifier rated for the cable standard you’re installing. Your tester should be able to check for shorts, opens, or miswires.