Do I need Copper or Fiber Cable?
In most cases, copper cable up to 10 GB/Sec is available through the use of copper cabling, and is typically less expensive to install, maintain & modify than its counterpart, fiber optics. Cat 6A cable is generally available and dependable and has been for many years. Exceptions to Cat 6A’s success include lengths exceeding 328 feet maximum, or if noise is a known factor that causes noise to be induced on copper cabling thereby reducing signal to noise rations, generally reducing performance or increasing errors & connection problems.
Fiber optic cable is immune to electromagnetic interference and has far greater length performance than that of copper cabling. While two primary types of fiber optic cables exist to choose from, both offer increased performance in speed and distance characteristics and must be considered for any larger network installation. Fiber Optic cable and work remains more expensive than copper cabling, so Cat 6 & 6A are recommended for consideration first before deciding to go with fiber optic cable for economic reasons.
Summary: Use Cat 6 or 6A when possible. Use Fiber for longer lengths or noisy environments.
Do I need Plenum or Non-Plenum Cable?
Your building ventilation system determines that requirement. Check with your property manager or HVAC maintenance provider for this answer. Newer high-rise buildings have a plenum rated ceiling. The upshot of this means that the air flowing through the ceiling is an active part of the ventilation system and therefore must be treated as such with a special flame rating on the outer jacket of the cable. There is no performance benefit with plenum rated cable, it is not even nontoxic. It only generates less smoke at higher heat levels to those as compared with no plenum rated cables. Plenum cable is more expensive and may be used whether or not the environment is plenum. In other words, plenum can (almost) always be used but non-plenum may only be used in a non-plenum environment (such as warehouse or open ceiling offices).
Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6A?
There are only 2 speed differences in these 3 cables. Both Cat 5e & Cat 6 cables are rated at up to 1GB/Sec according to the standards. Cat 6A is rated at 10 GB/Sec in comparison. Most of the time 1Gb/Sec works for our computers and network devices. In cases where a single cable is used to connect a remote network switch, then there will be benefit in a Cat 6A cable which has the option of transmitting speeds up to 10Gb/Sec. This is common practice for larger networks with remote network equipment closets and multiple devices sharing a single connection back to the main network equipment closet.
If your network is a single network with 1 Gb/Sec speeds needed, then either Cat 5e or Cat 6 will work. The price differences are narrowing and the performance is a little better with Cat 6. BICSI says Cat 5e is no accepted but no longer recommended for new installations. The margin between acceptable performance and the available performance in the Cat 5e cable is minimal with optimum conditions as compared with Cat 6 performance. Depending on the environment and existing noise conditions, there could be enough noise induced on the cable itself to cause a speed reduction to 100 Mb/Sec if the higher speeds cannot be clearly identified by the receiving modulation equipment.
Consider sources of noise in your network environment including electric motors, fluorescent lights, electric panels, large printers & visible power conduits or cords. If your cables are shorter with minimal noise being induced, then Cat 5e will probably work fine at 1 Gb/Sec speeds throughout. Results are less likely to be as rosy if there is too much noise over cables that are long (close to 300 feet).
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FIBER OPTIC CABLE:
There are multiple fiber optic types of cable to choose from. Determining the best type of fiber optic cable for your needs can be a challenging task. The following is a cheat sheet intended to streamline the selection process.This is not intended to cover every variable and option available, but should help in most instances.
IS FIBER OPTIC CABLE REQUIRED / RECOMMENDED?
Fiber optic cable may not always be the best choice of cable for every situation. Standard copper twisted pair cables can offer substantial speed at cost effective prices, but sometimes fiber just works best.
CHOOSE FIBER OPTIC CABLE IF:
FIBER CORE SELECTION:
The main categories of fiber optic cores to choose from are:
While we all want the fastest speeds possible, remember that typically the price increases along with the speeds. Singlemode fiber can actually be less expensive than multimode fiber, however the equipment used to transmit over singlemode fiber is typically more expensive than that of multimode.
INDOOR / OUTDOOR SELECTION:
The two main categories of the jackets (exterior surface of the cable) include:
Outdoor cables can be ran a maximum of 50 feet within a building, unless ran inside conduit. Otherwise, use indoor cable for indoor purposes. Indoor / Outdoor hybrid cables are available, but can be more expensive than indoor only. Outdoor cables typically have a gel or water blocking tape that turns to gel when exposed to water.
Determining whether to use plenum or non-plenum depends on the HVAC system within the building. Use plenum cable (only) within buildings that have a plenum ceiling (used for air handling) If cable is exterior only / runs less than 50 feet within a building at both ends, then outdoor cable should be used. You could always use plenum rated cable, even if not required, but you may not like the price increase. There is no performance difference between plenum & no plenum rated cables.
BUFFER TUBING SELECTION
Buffer tubing is the material that wraps around the glass portion of fiber optic cable. It comes in a thick and a thin version, known as tight buffer ([email protected] 900 micron) and loose tube (very [email protected] 200-250 micron)
The two options of fiber optic buffer tubing include: