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.
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. collapse
Black Box Explains…Terminating fiber.
Terminating fiber cable used to be a job for experts only. But today, prepolished connectors make it possible for anyone to terminate multimode fiber—all you need is a bit of... more/see it nowpatience and the right tools. Here’s how to terminate fiber with ST connectors:
Step 1 — Slide the connector strain-relief boot, small end first, onto the cable.
Step 2 — Using a template, mark the jacket dimensions to be stripped (40 mm and 52 mm from the end).
Step 3 — Remove the outer jacket from the cable end to the 40 mm mark. Cut the exposed Kevlar. Carefully remove the jacket to the 52-mm mark, exposing the remaining length of Kevlar.
Step 4 — Fan out the Kevlar fibers and slide the crimp ring of the connector approximately 5 mm over the fibers to hold them out of the way. Mark the fiber buffer 11 mm from the end of the cable jacket. Also, mark the buffer where it meets the jacket.
Step 5 — Bit by bit, strip off the buffering until you reach the 11-mm mark. Check the mark you made on the buffer at the jacket. If it’s moved, carefully work the buffer back into the jacket to its original position.
Step 6 — Clean the glass fiber with an alcohol wipe. Cleave the fiber to an 8-mm length.
Step 7 — Carefully insert the fiber into the connector until you feel it bottom out and a bow forms between the connector and the clamp. Cam the connector with the appropriate tool.
Step 8 — Crimp the connector.
Step 9 — Slide the crimp ring up the jacket away from the connector, releasing the Kevlar fibers. Fan the fiber so they encircle the buffer. The ends of the fibers should just touch the rear of the connector—if they’re too long, trim them now.
Step 10 — Crimp the connector again.
Step 11 — Slide the strain-relief boot over the rear of the connector. You might want to put a bead of 411 Loctite adhesive for extra strength on the rear of the boot where it meets the jacket.
Although the details may vary slightly with different connectors and termination kits, the basic termination procedure is the same. 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.
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.
Fiber optic cable construction and types.
Multimode vs. single-mode
Multimode cable has a large-diameter core and multiple pathways of light. It is most commonly available in two core sizes: 50-micron and 62.5-micron.
Multimode fiber optic cable can... more/see it nowbe used for most general data and voice fiber applications such as adding segments to an existing network, and in smaller applications such as alarm systems and bringing fiber to the desktop. Both multimode cable cores use either LED or laser light sources.
Multimode 50-micron cable is recommended for premise applications?(backbone, horizontal, and intrabuilding connections). It should be considered for any new construction and for installations because it provides longer link lengths and/or higher speeds, particularly in the 850-nm wavelength, than 62.5-micron cable does.
Multimode cable commonly has an orange or aqua jacket; single-mode has yellow. Other colors are available for various applications and for identification purposes.
Single-mode cable has a small (8–10-micron) glass core and only one pathway of light. With only a single wavelength of light passing through its core, single-mode cable realigns the light toward the center of the core instead of simply bouncing it off the edge of the core as multimode does.
Single-mode cable provides 50 times more distance than multimode cable does. Consequently, single-mode cable is typically used in high-bandwidth applications and in long-haul network connections spread out over extended areas, including cable television and campus backbone applications. Telcos use it for connections between switching offices. Single-mode cable also provides higher bandwidth, so you can use a pair of single-mode fiber strands full-duplex at more than twice the throughput of multimode fiber.
Fiber optic cable consists of a core, cladding, coating, buffer strengthening fibers, and cable jacket.
The core is the physical medium that transports optical data signals from an attached light source to a receiving device. It is a single continuous strand of glass or plastic that’s measured (in microns) by the size of its outer diameter.
All fiber optic cable is sized according to its core’s outer diameter. The two multimode sizes most commonly available are 50 and 62.5 microns. Single-mode cores are generally less than 9 microns.
The cladding is a thin layer that surrounds the fiber core and serves as a boundary that contains the light waves and causes the refraction, enabling data to travel throughout the length of the fiber segment.
The coating is a layer of plastic that surrounds the core and cladding to reinforce the fiber core, help absorb shocks, and provide extra protection against excessive cable bends. These coatings are measured in microns (µ); the coating is 250µ and the buffer is 900µ.
Strengthening fibers help protect the core against crushing forces and excessive tension during installation. This material is generally Kevlar® yarn strands within the cable jacket.
The cable jacket is the outer layer of any cable. Most fiber optic cables have an orange jacket, although some types can have black, yellow, aqua or other color jackets. Various colors can be used to designate different applications within a network.
Simplex vs. duplex patch cables
Multimode and single-mode patch cables can be simplex or duplex.
Simplex has one fiber, while duplex zipcord has two fibers joined with a thin web. Simplex (also known as single strand) and duplex zipcord cables are tight-buffered and jacketed, with Kevlar strength members.
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.
Use duplex multimode or single-mode fiber optic cable for applications that require simultaneous, bidirectional data transfer. Workstations, fiber switches and servers, Ethernet switches, backbone ports, and similar hardware require duplex cable.
PVC (riser) vs. plenum-rated
PVC cable (also called riser-rated cable even though not all PVC cable is riser-rated) features an outer polyvinyl chloride jacket that gives off toxic fumes when it burns. It can be used for horizontal and vertical runs, but only if the building features a contained ventilation system. Plenum can replace PVC, but PVC cannot be used in plenum spaces.
“Riser-rated” means that the jacket is fire-resistant. However, it can still give off noxious fumes when overheated. The cable carries an OFNR rating and is not for use in plenums.
Plenum-jacketed cables have FEP, such as Teflon®, which emits less toxic fumes when it burns. A plenum is a space within the building designed for the movement of environmental air. In most office buildings, the space above the ceiling is used for the HVAC air return. If cable goes through that space, it must be “plenum-rated.”
Distribution-style vs. breakout-style
Distribution-style cables have several tight-buffered fibers bundled under the same jacket with Kevlar or fiberglass rod reinforcement. These cables are small in size and are typically used within a building for short, dry conduit runs, in either riser or plenum applications. The fibers can be directly terminated, but because the fibers are not individually reinforced, these cables need to be terminated inside a patch panel, junction box, fiber enclosure, or cabinet.
Breakout-style cables are made of several simplex cables bundled together, making a strong design that is larger than distribution cables. Breakout cables are suitable for riser and plenum applications.
Loose-tube vs. tight-buffered
Both loose-tube and tight-buffered cables contain some type of strengthening member, such as aramid yarn, stainless steel wire strands, or even gel-filled sleeves. But each is designed for very different environments.
Loose-tube cable is specifically designed for harsh outdoor environments. It protects the fiber core, cladding, and coating by enclosing everything within semi-rigid protective sleeves or tubes. 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 also expand and contract with temperature changes. Gel-filled loose-tube cable is not the best choice for indoor applications.
Tight-buffered cable, in contrast, is optimized for indoor applications. Because it’s sturdier than loose-tube cable, it’s best suited for moderate-length LAN/WAN connections, or long indoor runs. It’s easier to install as well, because there’s no messy gel to clean up and it doesn’t require a fan-out kit for splicing or termination.
Indoor/outdoor cable uses dry-block technology to seal ruptures against moisture seepage and gel-filled buffer tubes to halt moisture migration. Comprised of a ripcord, core binder, a flame-retardant layer, overcoat, aramid yarn, and an outer jacket, it is designed for aerial, duct, tray, and riser applications.
Interlocking armored cable
This fiber cable is jacketed in aluminum interlocking armor so it can be run just about anywhere in a building. Ideal for harsh environments, it is rugged and rodent resistant. No conduit is needed, so it’s a labor- and money-saving alternative to using innerducts for fiber cable runs.
Outside-plant cable is used in direct burials. It delivers optimum performance in extreme conditions and is terminated within 50 feet of a building entrance. It blocks water and is rodent-resistant.
Interlocking armored cable is lightweight and flexible but also extraordinarily strong. It is ideal for out-of-the-way premise links.
Laser-optimized 10-Gigabit cable
Laser-optimized multimode fiber cable assemblies differ from standard multimode cable assemblies because they have graded refractive index profile fiber optic cable in each assembly. This means that the refractive index of the core glass decreases toward the outer cladding, so the paths of light towards the outer edge of the fiber travel quicker than the other paths. This increase in speed equalizes the travel time for both short and long light paths, ensuring accurate information transmission and receipt over much greater distances, up to 300 meters at 10 Gbps.
Laser-optimized multimode fiber cable is ideal for premise networking applications that include long distances. It is usually aqua colored.
Black Box Explains...Power over Ethernet (PoE).
What is PoE?
The seemingly universal network connection, twisted-pair Ethernet cable, has another role to play, providing electrical power to low-wattage electrical devices. Power over Ethernet (PoE) was ratified by the... more/see it nowInstitute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) in June 2000 as the 802.3af-2003 standard. It defines the specifications for low-level power delivery—roughly 13 watts at 48 VDC—over twisted-pair Ethernet cable to PoE-enabled devices such as IP telephones, wireless access points, Web cameras, and audio speakers.
Recently, the basic 802.3af standard was joined by the IEEE 802.3at PoE standard (also called PoE+ or PoE plus), ratified on September 11, 2009, which supplies up to 25 watts to larger, more power-hungry devices. 802.3at is backwards compatible with 802.3af.
How does PoE work?
The way it works is simple. Ethernet cable that meets CAT5 (or better) standards consists of four twisted pairs of cable, and PoE sends power over these pairs to PoE-enabled devices. In one method, two wire pairs are used to transmit data, and the remaining two pairs are used for power. In the other method, power and data are sent over the same pair.
When the same pair is used for both power and data, the power and data transmissions don’t interfere with each other. Because electricity and data function at opposite ends of the frequency spectrum, they can travel over the same cable. Electricity has a low frequency of 60 Hz or less, and data transmissions have frequencies that can range from 10 million to 100 million Hz.
There are two types of devices involved in PoE configurations: Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE) and Powered Devices (PD).
PSEs, which include end-span and mid-span devices, provide power to PDs over the Ethernet cable. An end-span device is often a PoE-enabled network switch that’s designed to supply power directly to the cable from each port. The setup would look something like this:
End-span device → Ethernet with power
A mid-span device is inserted between a non-PoE device and the network, and it supplies power from that juncture. Here is a rough schematic of that setup:
Non-PoE switch → Ethernet without PoE → Mid-span device → Ethernet with power
Power injectors, a third type of PSE, supply power to a specific point on the network while the other network segments remain without power.
PDs are pieces of equipment like surveillance cameras, sensors, wireless access points, and any other devices that operate on PoE.
PoE applications and benefits.
• Use one set of twisted-pair wires for both data and low-wattage appliances.
• In addition to the applications noted above, PoE also works well for video surveillance, building management, retail video kiosks, smart signs, vending machines, and retail point-of-information systems.
• Save money by eliminating the need to run electrical wiring.
• Easily move an appliance with minimal disruption.
• If your LAN is protected from power failure by a UPS, the PoE devices connected to your LAN are also protected from power failure.
Black Box Explains…VoIP
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a recently developed, cost-saving alternative to traditional telephone service that enables voice data to be transported over IP networks, like the Internet, instead of... more/see it nowthe public switched telephone network (PSTN) or a cellular network.
VoIP, which operates strictly over IP networks, can connect to other VoIP nodes or traditional phone lines. The IP network used may be the Internet or a private network.
In either instance, the actual data-transport portion of this network can still be made up of the full gamut of network services: high-speed leased lines, Frame Relay, ATM, DSL, copper, fiber, wireless, satellite, and microwave signals. VoIP simply digitizes voice data and adds it to other information traveling along the same network.
With this flexible technology, a phone call can be placed between two PCs, between a PC and a standard telephone, between a PC and an IP phone, between
an IP phone and a standard telephone, or between two IP phones. It will take a long time for the PSTN to support this technology seamlessly, but this seems to be the direction in which phone systems are headed.
Benefits of VoIP
Because VoIP is inexpensive, has a worldwide reach, and operates on a few simple principles, it’s exploded in popularity in recent years—especially among both small and large businesses that incur significant long-distance telephone expenses.
Without question, the primary benefit
of a VoIP system is decreasing or eliminating long-distance telephone charges. Organizations with a high volume of long-distance voice traffic stand to save quite a lot of money by implementing a VoIP system. However, this factor alone may not warrant a full commitment to VoIP for some companies.
Setup fees for VoIP are usually quite low so your organization can generally start saving money after only a month or two of service. And with the wide variety of VoIP products and services on the market, it’s easier than ever to set up a VoIP phone system over your network.
VoIP can be set up in a way that enables you to use phone numbers in exactly the same way as you did before VoIP. Most of the services you get with traditional phone service—Voice Mail, Call Waiting, and Call Routing, for instance—are also available with VoIP.
VoIP doesn’t interfere with other network services either, so you can surf the Web while making a VoIP call.
VoIP doesn’t tie you to one phone or to a single location. Anywhere you find high-speed reliable Internet access, you can use VoIP. Your phone number stays the same wherever you are—office, home, hotel,
or even traveling overseas.
Although the ITU standards for VoIP have evolved significantly in the last few years, VoIP is still suffering from a lack of generally accepted interoperability standards.
H.323, a standard for real-time audio, video, and data communications across IP-based networks (including the Internet), is almost universally accepted as the primary standard for VoIP call setup and signaling. It’s actually a collection of standards that works together for sending multimedia and data over networks that don’t provide guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS).
The H.323 standard includes:
- Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) specifies end-to-end network transport functions for applications transmitting real-time data such as video. RTP provides services like payload type identification, sequence numbering, time stamping, and delivery monitoring to real-time applications. Plus, it works with RTCP.
- Real-time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) works with RTP to provide a feedback mechanism, providing QoS status and control information to the streaming server.
- Registration, Admission, Status (RAS) is a gateway protocol that manages functions such as signaling, registration, admissions, bandwidth changes, status, and disengage procedures.
- Q.931 manages call setup and termination.
- H.245 negotiates channel usage and capabilities.
- H.235 provides security and authentication.
As VoIP product manufacturers began conducting interoperability tests for more complex operations, they recognized that they needed a simpler and more adaptable standard for call handling and signaling protocol.
To this end, the IETF developed the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP is built with less computer code than H.323 is, so it’s less cumbersome. Because SIP is similar in nature to HTML—it uses ASCII text for configuration—users can adapt it more easily for specific VoIP systems. In contrast, modifying H.323 for VoIP applications requires a knowledgeable computer programmer.
Both H.323 and SIP are considered “thick clients,” where intelligence is maintained in the end devices such as IP telephones. In this respect, H.323 has a head start, although most VoIP systems today support both H.323 and SIP.
Despite the fact that VoIP standards are still developing, providers are already flooding the market with products and services while forming partnerships and matching expertise to strengthen their position in this new market. The biggest of these players and alliances—the ones who have the size and experience to grasp technical issues and quickly build infrastructures over which to offer VoIP services—are able to keep up with (and often influence) the continual changes in this market and keep rolling out new services.
A VoIP system depends on devices that connect your traditional phone or phone system to an IP network. Components that you’ll see in a VoIP system include:
- End-user devices
- Gateways or gatekeepers
- IP Networks
End-user devices are usually VoIP telephones or PCs running VoIP software. End-user devices have their own IP address and make a direct connection to the IP network.
A gateway is a device that converts circuit-switched analog voice calls from a traditional PBX into VoIP packets and transmits them over an IP network either
to another gateway or directly to an end-user device.
A gateway can have additional features such as voice compression, echo cancellation, and packet prioritization.
Because VoIP-enabled end-user devices can communicate directly with each other over an IP network, a gateway is not a required component of a VoIP system as long as the VoIP devices are connected directly to the IP network.
An IPBX is a PBX with a built-in gateway. IPBX systems are equipped for hundreds of telephone ports, with WAN support for trunk connections to the PSTN, and with high-speed IP WAN links. In addition to VoIP features, these systems usually include other features typical of traditional PBX systems such as music on hold, auto-attendant, and call management. Often, they include Ethernet ports to support VoIP telephones.
VoIP can be set up with or without a connection to standard PSTN phone service. You can, of course, place calls over the Internet directly from your PC or IP phone to another VoIP-enabled device. But what makes VoIP so versatile is that, through the use of a gateway service, it can also be used to call the numbers of phones connected to standard land-line or cellular phone services. They can also receive calls from standard telephones.
Not all fun and free calls
There are still things to consider when you’re deciding whether or not to invest in VoIP.
Much of the government regulation of VoIP is still being worked out. The U.S. government hasn’t decided whether VoIP is going to be regulated as phone service
or whether to tax it. VoIP isn’t available worldwide because some governments fear the loss of tax revenue or control.
Although older VoIP equipment may still have some compatibility issues, current VoIP products from different vendors generally work together.
For all the popular talk about VoIP being free, it isn’t truly free. Any VoIP system has costs associated with its implementation—equipment, high-speed Internet access, and gateway service. So, although it’s inexpensive, it’s a long way from being free. For organizations with a high volume of long-distance calls, especially to international locations, VoIP almost always pays for itself quickly. However, private users or organizations with a low volume of long-distance calls primarily within the U.S., may find that a standard service is actually more economical in the short- to mid-term.
VoIP depends on having a fast, reliable network to operate. A fast network connection with guaranteed bandwidth is not a problem in a corporate intranet where you have complete control over
the network. However, if you’re using the Internet for VoIP, you’re using a public network that may be subject to slowdowns that cause drop-outs and distortion. You may find that your high-speed Internet connection is faster than the actual Internet and that the quality of your connection is generally unacceptable or is unacceptable at times when Internet usage is high.
There are four common network issues that can cause problems with a VoIP system:
- Latency is a delay in data transmission. With VoIP, this usually results in people speaking over one another because neither can tell when the other is finished talking.
- Loss. Losing a small percentage of voice transmission doesn’t affect VoIP, but too much (more than 1%) compromises the quality of the call.
- Jitter—is common to congested networks with bursty traffic. Jitter can be managed to some degree with software buffers.
- Sequence errors—or changes in the order of packets when they’re recompiled at the receiving station, degrades sound quality.
If you subscribe to a VoIP gateway service that enables you to use your VoIP phone like a regular phone, be aware that you may not be able to call 911 for emergencies. If 911 service is important to you because you don’t have an alternative way to call 911, shop for a VoIP provider who does provide this service.
Consider, too, that VoIP needs both working Internet access and power to work. If you lose your Internet service, your phone goes, too. And, unlike regular phone service that can keep basic telephones working when the power goes out, VoIP needs power—if you lose power, you lose your phone.
Before VoIP technology becomes truly universal, the current worldwide PSTN will have to migrate to a packet-based IP equivalent. Industry inertia alone dictates this will not occur instantly. The current worldwide PSTN system has grown to what it is over a period of 125 years. Given the sheer complexity of the existing PSTN, the migration to an IP packet network will probably occur during several decades.
As migration from the PSTN to IP-based networks proceeds, businesses and home users will gradually discover reasons of their own to implement VoIP. It won’t happen right away, but we predict that VoIP will become a big part of telecommunications
in the not-so-distant future.
Although it’s not quite as convenient as conventional phone service, VoIP can offer serious savings—particularly if you now regularly pay for multiple overseas phone calls. Keep in mind though, VoIP isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But with a little planning, VoIP could spell savings for you! collapse
Black Box Explains... Fan-out kits.
Furcating is the process of adding protective tubing to each fiber within a loose-tube cable. It can be a headache-inducing task if you dont have the right tools. If you... more/see it nowbend the cable or buffer tubes past their recommended bend radius, or if you allow them to kink, youll end up with substandard cable connections and splices that can break down over time. And, if the cable is outdoors, it can become exposed to the elements. The end result: a damaged cable without optimal transmission performance.
Thats why a fan-out kit is an absolute must during furcation. These kits enable you to branch out the fragile fiber strands from a buffer tube into protective tubing so you can add a connector. And, you can do it without using splicing hardware, trays, and pigtails.
To separate the fibers, use the kits fan-out assembly, which is color-coded to match the fiber color scheme. The assembly protects the cables bend radius. It also eliminates excessive strain on the fibers by isolating them from tensile forces.
Several types of fan-out kits are available for both indoor and outdoor cross-connects. The outdoor kits include components that compensate for wider temperature fluctuations. Some kits are used to terminate loose-tube cables with 6 or 12 fibers per buffer tube. Others enable you to furcate and terminate more than 200 loose-tube cable fibers, sealing the cable sheath and providing a moisture barrier at the point of termination. These kits require no additional hardware.
Although its recommended that you terminate loose-tube cable at a patch panel, that might not always be possible. For this, there are spider type fan-out kits, which affix a stronger tubing to the bare fiber. The tubing is typically multilayered, consisting of a FEP inner tube that holds the individual fiber, an aramid yarn strength member, and an outer protective PVC jacket. Once you strip back the cable jacket, you thread the fibers into the fan-out inserts. collapse
Using optical break locators and OTDRs.
An optical time-domain reflectometer, or OTDR,
is an instrument used to analyze optical fiber. It sends a series of light pulses into the fiber under test and analyzes the light... more/see it nowthat is scattered and reflected back. These reflections are caused by faults such as breaks, splices, connectors, and adapters along the length of the fiber. The OTDR is able to estimate the overall length, attenuation or loss, and distance to faults. It’s also able to “see” past many of these “events” and display the results. The user is then able to see all the events along the length of the fiber run.
However, OTDRs do have a weakness?—?a blind spot that prevents them from seeing faults in the beginning of the fiber cable under test. To compensate for this, fiber launch boxes are used. Launch boxes come in predetermined lengths and connector types. These lengths of fiber enable you to compensate for this blind spot and analyze the length of fiber without missing any faults that may be in the first 10–30 meters of the cable.
An optical break locator, or OBL, is a simplified version of an OTDR. It’s able to detect high-loss events in the fiber such as breaks and determine the distance to the break. OBLs are much simpler to use than an OTDR and require no special training. However, there are limitations. They can only see to the first fault or event and do not display information on the portion of fiber after this event. collapse
Black Box Explains...Firestop Basics
Cables pose a fire risk.
Most cables are constructed with standard polymer jackets, which are combustible. Copper and aluminum are the most common metals used as conductors. Unfortunately, theyre good conductors... more/see it nowof heat. The conductors can spread a fire by igniting surrounding flammable materials, such as the cable jacket. Then the jacket burns away, the conductors melt together, and the size of the cable bundle shrinks and causes gaps to develop within the cabling opening.
Successful firestop planning.
A well-designed cabling system requires careful planning to meet the needs of future cabling requirements and fire protection. Most people tend to underestimate the size of the openings required for cabling and often forget about future expansion. When planning on how large to make the opening to run your cable, you must consider the diameter of the cable itself, how much room you need for firestopping materials, and whether youll be adding more cables in the future.
Permanent vs. retrofittable cabling.
There are two basic types of cabling systems: permanent and retrofittable. Permanent cabling systems, such as electrical cables, do not change. But most cabling systems, such as data and voice, have to accommodate moves, adds, and changes so they need to be retrofittable. You use different firestops with each system.
In permanent installations, a sealant is used in and around the cables. This is also appropriate for external areas, including conduits and sleeves.
In retrofittable systems, firestops need to be removed and reinstalled easily as cable needs change. Common firestops include pillows, putty, and fire-rated pathways. These products are packed in and around a cable bundle rather than being injected the way sealant is. The product to use often depends on the size of the cable opening and the frequency of changes.
Passive vs. intumescent firestopping.
There are two basic types of materials used in firestopping: Passive firestopping uses nonintumescent materials, which draw heat away or insulate the cables. Passive materials include mortars, silicone sealants, foam, and grout. Cabling runs with passive firestopping are generally thicker and are more limited in the types of cables they can protect.
Intumescent materials expand when exposed to heat or fire and compensate for the loss of mass in cable bundles. Theyre a good choice for sealing and surrounding cable holes and runs. collapse