Application vs. Cabling Standards: What They Are & How to Test
When most industry professionals think about standards, they picture cabling standards—specifically ANSI/TIA-568 standards for Category cabling. These well-known cabling standards define the minimum performance requirements for twisted-pair copper cabling in a variety of applications.
Cables tested to these Category cabling standards face a length limitation of 100 m channels. As a result, all end devices must be within 100 m of a telecommunications room. This distance limit was imposed to reduce confusion as the industry progressed toward different applications (Ethernet, Power over Ethernet [PoE], etc.) and different cable Categories (Category 3, Category 5e, 6, 6A, etc.).
As more smart building technologies are deployed to improve efficiency, collaboration and security, more low-speed devices and sensors are connecting to enterprise networks. Inevitably, some of these devices are located too far from the nearest telecommunications room to stay within the 100 m distance limitation.
When a building owner needs to extend beyond this distance—to place a surveillance camera in a parking garage, a wireless access point on a multi-story lobby ceiling, an access control system in a warehouse or digital signage screens along a lengthy walkway—there are a few options:
- Add a new telecommunications room within 100 m of the device
- Use an extender device that requires local power
- Use fiber cabling
- Use hybrid cable (a combination of copper and fiber)
- Extend the distance of a Category cable and disregard TIA-568 standards
In most instances, the most practical and cost-effective choice is the last one: to extend the distance of the twisted-pair copper cable being used. It doesn’t require extra space or equipment, and it doesn’t introduce new potential points of failure. Because extended reach isn’t supported by TIA-568, application standards can be used as guidance instead.
How Are Application Standards Different from Cabling Standards?
Application standards, such as IEEE, consider the ability of specific applications, such as wireless or Ethernet, to run on a link segment—no matter the distance or cable used.
An excellent example of cables designed to application standards vs. cabling standards is Belden’s RemoteIP Cables. The cables work with IP cameras, building sensors, wireless access points and PoE LED lighting fixtures—any device or switch that complies with IEEE application standards.
Because RemoteIP Cables can supply data and power to connected devices up to 215 m away, they more than double what Category cabling can achieve in terms of length. It’s possible to achieve 10 Mb/s transmission at 215 m, 100 Mb/s transmission at 200 m and 1 Gb/s transmission at 130 m with RemoteIP Cables.
This allows devices to be placed wherever they’re needed without the cost of adding a new telecommunications room, extender, fiber cabling or hybrid cabling.
While they aren’t tested to Category cabling standards, they’re still a standards cable—just tested to an application standard instead.
What’s the difference? When following application standards, you must follow the limitation of the link—which isn’t defined by length. Instead, it’s defined by characteristics in the application standards.
If you focus on application standards and the electrical limitations of the link, then you can achieve longer distances by lowering the data rate of a cable, which works well for low-speed devices. This allows you to improve insertion loss and achieve longer lengths (extended reach).
Testing the Performance of Extended-Reach Applications
There are two options for testing to application standards vs. cabling standards:
- Channel testing. The channel includes the cable between the telecommunications room switch and the end device.
- Permanent link testing. The permanent link is the fixed portion of the channel (the part that doesn’t change or move). It doesn’t include patch cords or equipment cords.
When testing extended reach in a specific application, the tester should be set up for vendor-specific test limits to allow for easy pass/fail testing.
This way, you can confidently test the performance of your cabling beyond 100 m and verify that there will be no performance degradation.