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Black Box Explains...PC, UPC, and APC fiber connectors.

Fiber optic cables have different types of mechanical connections. The type of connection determines the quality of the fiber optic lightwave transmission. The different types we’ll discuss here are the... more/see it nowflat-surface, Physical Contact (PC), Ultra Physical Contact (UPC), and Angled Physical Contact (APC).

The original fiber connector is a flat-surface connection, or a flat connector. When mated, an air gap naturally forms between the two surfaces from small imperfections in the flat surfaces. The back reflection in flat connectors is about -14 dB or roughly 4%.

As technology progresses, connections improve. The most common connection now is the PC connector. Physical Contact connectors are just that—the end faces and fibers of two cables actually touch each other when mated.

In the PC connector, the two fibers meet, as they do with the flat connector, but the end faces are polished to be slightly curved or spherical. This eliminates the air gap and forces the fibers into contact. The back reflection is about -40 dB. This connector is used in most applications.

An improvement to the PC is the UPC connector. The end faces are given an extended polishing for a better surface finish. The back reflection is reduced even more to about -55 dB. These connectors are often used in digital, CATV, and telephony systems.

The latest technology is the APC connector. The end faces are still curved but are angled at an industry-standard eight degrees. This maintains a tight connection, and it reduces back reflection to about -70 dB. These connectors are preferred for CATV and analog systems.

PC and UPC connectors have reliable, low insertion losses. But their back reflection depends on the surface finish of the fiber. The finer the fiber grain structure, the lower the back reflection. And when PC and UPC connectors are continually mated and remated, back reflection degrades at a rate of about 4 to 6 dB every 100 matings for a PC connector. APC connector back reflection does not degrade with repeated matings. collapse

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...Digital Visual Interface (DVI) and other digital display interfaces.

There are three main types of digital video interfaces: P&D, DFP, and DVI. P&D (Plug & Display, also known as EVC), the earliest of these technologies, supports both digital and... more/see it nowanalog RGB connections and is now used primarily on projectors. DFP (Digital Flat-Panel Port) was the first digital-only connector on displays and graphics cards; it’s being phased out.

There are different types of DVI connectors: DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, DFP, and EVC.

DVI-D is a digital-only connector. DVI-I supports both digital and analog RGB connections. Some manufacturers are offering the DVI-I connector type on their products instead of separate analog and digital connectors. DVI-A is used to carry an analog DVI signal to a VGA device, such as a display. DFP, like DVI-D, was an early digital-only connector used on some displays; it’s being phased out. EVC (also known as P&D) is similar to DVI-I only it’s slightly larger in size. It also handles digital and analog connections, and it’s used primarily on projectors.

All these standards are based on transition-minimized differential signaling (TMDS). In a typical single-line digital signal, voltage is raised to a high level and decreased to a low level to create transitions that convey data. TMDS uses a pair of signal wires to minimize the number of transitions needed to transfer data. When one wire goes to a high-voltage state, the other goes to a low-voltage state. This balance increases the data-transfer rate and improves accuracy. collapse

Black Box Explains…CAT6A UTP vs. F/UTP.

CAT6A is currently the cable of choice for future-proofing cabling installations and for 10-GbE networks.

There are two types of CAT6A cable, unshielded (UTP) and shielded (F/UTP). F/UTP denotes foiled/unshielded... more/see it nowtwisted pair and consists of four unshielded twisted pairs encased in an overall foil shield. This is not to be confused with an S/FTP (screened/foiled twisted pair) cable, which has four individually shielded twisted pairs encased in an overall braided shield.

CAT6A UTP is constructed in a certain way to help eliminate crosstalk and ANEXT. (ANEXT is the measurement of the signal coupling between wire pairs in different and adjacent cables.) This includes larger conductors (23 AWG minimum), tighter twists, an extra internal airspace, an internal separator between the pairs, and a thicker outer jacket. These features also increase the outer diameter of the cable, typically to .35 inches in diameter, up from .25 inches for CAT6 cable. This increased diameter creates a greater distance between pairs in adjacent links, thus reducing the between-channel signal coupling. But CAT6A UTP cable is still affected by ANEXT.

According to the standards, ANEXT can be improved by laying CAT6A UTP cable loosely in pathways and raceways with space between the cables. This contrasts to the tightly bundled runs of CAT6/5e cable we are used to. The tight bundles present a worst-case scenario of six cables around one, thus the center cable would be adversely affected by ANEXT. Testing for ANEXT is a complex and time-consuming process where all possible wire-pair combinations are checked. It can take up to 50 minutes to test one link in a bundle of 24 CAT6A UTP cables.

CAT6A F/UTP denotes foiled/unshielded twisted pairs and consists of four unshielded twisted pairs encased in an overall foil shield. ANEXT, and the time needed to test for it, can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated completely, by using CAT6A F/UTP. The foil shield acts as a barrier preventing external EMI/RFI from coupling onto the twisted pairs. It also prevents data signals from leaking out of the cable, making the cable more difficult to tap and better for secure installations. Studies also have shown that CAT6A F/UTP cable provides significantly more headroom (as much as 20 dB) than CAT6A UTP in 10-GbE over copper systems.

Bigger isn't always better.
CAT6A UTP cable has an overall allowable diameter of 0.354 inches. CAT6A F/UTP cable has an average outside diameter of 0.265–0.30 inches. That’s smaller than the smallest CAT6A UTP cable. An increase in the outside diameter (O.D.) of 0.1 inch, from 0.25 inches to 0.35 inches for example, represents a 21% increase in fill volume. In general, CAT6A F/UTP cable provides a minimum of 35% more fill capacity that CAT6A UTP cable.

Also because of its large diameter, CAT6A UTP requires a larger bend radius, more pathways, less dense patch panel connections, and extensive ANEXT testing.

CAT6A F/UTP cable is actually easier to handle, requires less bend radius, and uses smaller pathways. In addition, innovations in connector technology has made terminating CAT6A F/UTP cable simpler. In terms of grounding, the requirements for both UTP and F/UTP cable fall under TIA/EIA J-STD-607-A Commercial Building Grounding (Earthing) and Bonding Requirements for Telecommunications.

The advantages of CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP
In summary, there are a number of advantages of using CAT6A F/UTP over CAT6A UTP in 10-GbE networks.

1. Shielding eliminates ANEXT and EMI/RFI problems and testing.
2. Data line security is enhanced because of shielding.
3. Lighter, slimmer cable provides higher port density.
4. Smaller outside diameter cable is easier to handle and reduces installation costs.
5. Shielded cable uses less space in conduits.

For more information, see the CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know white paper in the Resources section at blackbox.com. collapse

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 definition.
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.

Its benefits.
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 for testing.

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. collapse

Black Box Explains...Coax connectors.

The BNC (Bayonet-Neill-Concelman) connector is the most commonly used coax connector. This large ”bayonet“ connector features a slotted outer conductor and an inner plastic dielectric, and it offers easy connection... more/see it nowand disconnection. After insertion, the plug is turned, tightening the pins in the socket. It is widely used in video and Radio Frequency (RF) applications up to 2.4 GHz. It is also common in 10BASE2 Ethernet networks, on cable interconnections, network cards, and test equipment.

The TNC connector is a threaded version of the BNC connector. It works in frequencies up to 12 GHz. It‘s commonly used in cellular telephone RF/antenna applications.

The N connector is a larger, threaded connector that was designed in the 1940s for military systems operating at less than 5 GHz. In the 1960s, improvements raised performance to 12 GHz. The connector features an internal gasket and is hand tightened. It is common on 2.4-GHz antennas.

The UHF connector looks like a coarse-threaded, big center-conductor version of the N connector. It was developed in the 1930s. It is suitable for use up to 200–300 MHz and generally offers nonconstant impedance.

The F connector is most often used in cable and satellite TV and antenna applications; and it performs well at high frequencies. The connector has a 3/8–32 coupling thread. Some F connectors are also available in a screw-on style.

The SMA (Subminiature A) connector is one of the most common RF/microwave connectors. This small, threaded connector is used on small cables that won’t be connected and disconnected often. It’s designed for use to 12.4 GHz, but works well at 18, and sometimes even up to 24 GHz. This connector is often used in avionics, radar, and microwave communications.

The SMC (Subminiature C) connector is a small, screw-on version of the SMA. It uses a 10–32 threaded interface and can be used in frequencies up to 10 GHz. This connector is used primarily in microwave environments.

The SMB (Subminiature B) connector is a small version of the SMC connector. It was developed in the 1960s and features a snap-on coupling for fast connections. It features a self-centering outer spring and overlapping dielectric. It is rated from 2–4 GHZ, but can possibly work up to 10 GHz.

The MCX (Micro Coax) connector is a coax RF connector developed in the 1980s. It has a snap-on interface and uses the same inner contact and insulator as the SMB connector but is 30% smaller. It can be used in broadband applications up to 6 GHz. collapse

Black Box Explains...Shielded vs. unshielded cable.

The environment determines whether cable should be shielded or unshielded.

Shielding is the sheath surrounding and protecting the cable wires from electromagnetic leakage and interference. Sources of this electromagnetic activity... more/see it now(EMI)—commonly referred to as noise—include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and photocopiers. To protect data in areas with high EMI, choose a shielded cable.

Foil is the most basic cable shield, but a copper-braid shield provides more protection. Shielding also protects cables from rodent damage. Use a foil-shielded cable in busy office or retail environments. For industrial environments, you might want to choose a copper-braid shield.

For quiet office environments, choose unshielded cable. 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. OM3/OM4 Comparison
850 nm High Performance EMB (MHz/km)

OM3: 2000

OM4: 4700

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


DisplayPort cable.

DisplayPort is a digital video interface that was designed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) in 2006 and has been produced since 2008. It’s incredibly versatile, with the capability... more/see it nowto deliver digital video, audio, bidirectional communications, and accessory power over a single connector.

DisplayPort cables are targeted at the computer world rather than at consumer electronics. DisplayPort is used to connect digital audio/video computers, displays, monitors, projectors, HDTVs, splitters, extenders, and other devices that support resolutions up to 4K and beyond. Unlike HDMI, however, DisplayPort is an open standard with no royalties.

With the proper adapters, DisplayPort cable can carry DVI and HDMI signals, although this doesn’t work the other way around—DVI and HDMI cable can’t carry DisplayPort. Because DisplayPort can provide power to attached devices, DisplayPort to HDMI or DVI adapters don’t need a separate power supply.

DisplayPort supports cable lengths of up to 15 meters with maximum resolutions at cable lengths up to 3 meters. Bidirectional signaling enables DisplayPort to both send and receive data from an attached device.

DisplayPort v1.1: 10.8 Gbps over a 2-meter cable.

DisplayPort v1.2: 21.6 Gbps (4K). DisplayPort v1.2 also enables you to daisychain up to four monitors with only a single output cable. It also offers the future promise of DisplayPort Hubs that would operate much like a USB hub.

DisplayPort v1.3: 2.4 Gbps. (5K)

The standard DisplayPort connector is very compact and features latches that don’t add to the connector’s size. Unlike HDMI, a DisplayPort connector is easily lockable with a pinch-down locking hood, so it can't be easily dislodged. However, a quick squeeze of the connector releases the latch.

The Mini DisplayPort (MiniDP or mDP) is a miniatured version of the DisplayPort interface. It carries both digital and analog computer video and audio signals. Apple® introduced the Mini DisplayPort connector in 2008 and it is now on all new Mac® computers. It is also being used in newer PC notebooks. This small form factor connector fully supports the VESA DisplayPort protocol. It is particularly useful on systems where space is at a premium, such as laptops, or to support multiple connectors on reduced height add-in cards.


Black Box Explains...10-Gigabit Ethernet.

10-Gigabit Ethernet, sometimes called 10-GbE or 10 GigE, is the latest improvement on the Ethernet standard, ratified in 2003 for fiber as the 802.3ae standard, in 2004 for twinax cable... more/see it now as the 802.3ak standard, and in 2006 for UTP as the 802.3an standard.

10-Gigabit Ethernet offers ten times the speed of Gigabit Ethernet. This extraordinary throughput plus compatibility with existing Ethernet standards has resulted in 10-Gigabit Ethernet quickly becoming the new standard for high-speed network backbones, largely supplanting older technologies such as ATM over SONET. 10-Gigabit Ethernet has even made inroads in the area of storage area networks (SAN) where Fibre Channel has long been the dominant standard. This new Ethernet standard offers a fast, simple, relatively inexpensive way to incorporate super high-speed links into your network.

Because 10-Gigabit Ethernet is simply an extension of the existing Ethernet standards family, it’s a true Ethernet standard—it’s totally backwards compatible and retains full compatibility with 10-/100-/1000-Mbps Ethernet. It has no impact on existing Ethernet nodes, enabling you to seamlessly upgrade your network with straightforward upgrade paths and scalability.

10-Gigabit Ethernet is less costly to install than older high-speed standards such as ATM. And not only is it relatively inexpensive to install, but the cost of network maintenance and management also stays low—10-Gigabit Ethernet can easily be managed by local network administrators.

10-Gigabit Ethernet is also more efficient than other high-speed standards. Because it uses the same Ethernet frames as earlier Ethernet standards, it can be integrated into your network using switches rather than routers. Packets don’t need to be fragmented, reassembled, or translated for data to get through.

Unlike earlier Ethernet standards, which operate in half- or full-duplex, 10-Gigabit Ethernet operates in full-duplex only, eliminating collisions and abandoning the CSMA/CD protocol used to negotiate half-duplex links. It maintains MAC frame compatibility with earlier Ethernet standards with 64- to 1518-byte frame lengths. The 10-Gigabit standard does not support jumbo frames, although there are proprietary methods for accommodating them.

Fiber 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards
There are two groups of physical-layer (PHY) 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards for fiber: LAN-PHY and WAN-PHY.

LAN-PHY is the most common group of standards. It’s used for simple switch and router connections over privately owned fiber and uses a line rate of 10.3125 Gbps with 64B/66B encoding.

The other group of 10-Gigabit Ethernet standards, WAN-PHY, is used with SONET/SDH interfaces for wide area networking across cities, states—even internationally.

10GBASE-SR (Short-Range) is a serial short-range fiber standard that operates over two multimode fibers. It has a range of 26 to 82 meters (85 to 269 ft.) over legacy 62.5-µm 850-nm fiber and up to 300 meters (984 ft.) over 50-µm 850-nm fiber.

10GBASE-LR (Long-Range) is a serial long-range 10-Gbps Ethernet standard that operates at ranges of up to 25 kilometers (15.5 mi.) on two 1310-nm single-mode fibers.

10GBASE-ER (Extended-Range) is similar to 10GBASE-LR but supports distances up to 40 kilometers (24.9 mi.) over two 1550-nm single-mode fibers.

10GBASE-LX4 uses Coarse-Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) to achieve ranges of 300 meters (984 ft.) over two legacy 850-nm multimode fibers or up to 10 kilometers (6.2 mi.) over two 1310-nm single-mode fibers. This standard multiplexes four data streams over four different wavelengths in the range of 1300 nm. Each wavelength carries 3.125 Gbps to achieve 10-Gigabit speed.

In fiber-based Gigabit Ethernet, the 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, and 10GBASE-ER LAN-PHY standards have WAN-PHY equivalents called 10GBASE-SW, 10GBASE-LW, and 10GBASE-EW. There is no WAN-PHY standard corresponding to 10GBASE-LX4.

WAN-PHY standards are designed to operate across high-speed systems such as SONET and SDH. These systems are often telco operated and can be used to provide high-speed data delivery worldwide. WAN-PHY 10-Gigabit Ethernet operates within SDH and SONET using an SDH/SONET frame running at 9.953 Gbps without the need to directly map Ethernet frames into SDH/SONET.

WAN-PHY is transparent to data—from the user’s perspective it looks exactly the same as LAN-PHY.

10-Gigabit Ethernet over Copper
10GBASE-CX4 is a standard that enables Ethernet to run over CX4 cable, which consists of four twinaxial copper pairs bundled into a single cable. CX4 cable is also used in high-speed InfiniBand® and Fibre Channel storage applications. Although CX4 cable is somewhat less expensive to install than fiber optic cable, it’s limited to distances of up to 15 meters. Because this standard uses such a specialized cable at short distances, 10GBASE-CX4 is generally used only in limited data center applications such as connecting servers or switches.

10GBASE-Kx is backplane 10-Gigabit Ethernet and consists of two standards. 10GBASE-KR is a serial standard compatible with 10GBASE-SR, 10GBASE-LR, and 10GBASE-ER. 10GBASE-KX4 is compatible with 10GBASE-LX4. These standards use up to 40 inches of copper printed circuit board with two connectors in place of cable. These very specialized standards are used primarily for switches, routers, and blade servers in data center applications.

10GBASE-T is the 10-Gigabit standard that uses the familiar shielded or unshielded copper UTP cable. It operates at distances of up to 55 meters (180 ft.) over existing Category 6 cabling or up to 100 meters (328 ft.) over augmented Category 6, or “6a,” cable, which is specially designed to reduce crosstalk between UTP cables. Category 6a cable is somewhat bulkier than Category 6 cable but retains the familiar RJ-45 connectors.

To send data at these extremely high speeds across four-pair UTP cable, 10GBASE-T uses sophisticated digital signal processing to suppress crosstalk between pairs and to remove signal reflections.

10-Gigabit Ethernet Applications
> 10-Gigabit Ethernet is already being deployed in applications requiring extremely high bandwidth:
> As a lower-cost alternative to Fibre Channel in storage area networking (SAN) applications.
> High-speed server interconnects in server clusters.
> Aggregation of Gigabit segments into 10-Gigabit Ethernet trunk lines.
> High-speed switch-to-switch links in data centers.
> Extremely long-distance Ethernet links over public SONET infrastructure.

Although 10-Gigabit Ethernet is currently being implemented only by extremely high-volume users such as enterprise networks, universities, telecommunications carriers, and Internet service providers, it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s delivering video to your desktop. Remember that only a few years ago, a mere 100-Mbps was impressive enough to be called “Fast Ethernet.” collapse

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