Smart Buildings

2 Ways to Extend Category 6/6A Networks Outdoors

Josh Goyke

In today’s connected world, networks can’t stop working when users step outside. They expect their devices to function seamlessly as they move throughout a building and then head outdoors, whether they’re walking to a parking lot, headed across a campus or spending the afternoon in an outdoor workspace or collaboration area.


There’s an increasing need to extend indoor Category 6 and 6A networks to the outdoors without degrading performance. The same connectivity expectations that exist for indoor networks now apply to outdoor networks, too.


This became even more apparent during the pandemic, when people were relying on outdoor networks to stay connected to their workplaces and education institutions because they didn’t have access at home and couldn’t enter buildings.


Schools and campuses use outdoor networks to connect students and teachers. Cities provide outdoor network access for citizens and mobile workers who travel from site to site. Businesses improve worker productivity by making sure employees and visitors can connect to enterprise networks outside. And many organizations need their networks to reach to the outdoors so they can connect exterior cameras and wireless access points.


To extend indoor Category 6 and 6A networks outside, there are two cabling choices. Let’s review them here.


1. OSP Cables


Telecommunications systems located outside a building are considered outside plant (OSP) systems and need OSP cables that can withstand prolonged exposure to natural elements, like sunlight, water, wind and extreme high and low temperature fluctuations.


OSP cabling is more difficult to design and deploy than indoor cabling. It’s often flooded or filled with a messy, water-blocking gel that’s difficult to work with. Before termination, it must be completely cleaned off the OSP cable’s conductors. This adds a step to the installation process and increases the likelihood of rework.


And, if the OSP cable lacks a suitable indoor rating, like riser or plenum, then it needs to transition to an indoor cable when brought into a building. To transition OSP cable to indoor cable, a connection must be added to the Ethernet channel. This connection can introduce crosstalk, which creates signal transmission issues that disrupt data flow.


That’s why Belden designed its new Dry Core OSP Category Cables. They feature a gel-free design to simplify termination at transition points. This OSP cable can be terminated just as quickly and easily as indoor cable with no messy, water-blocking gels—which means no more sticky fingers for installers! It’s the only cable of its kind in the market today.


To reduce crosstalk issues and further reduce installation time and costs, you can also combine this OSP cable with our REVConnect® Coupler, which doesn’t introduce additional crosstalk. It’s nearly invisible or transparent in terms of impact and provides the best controlled electrical performance possible.


2. Indoor/Outdoor Cables


Indoor/outdoor (I/O) cables are designed to eliminate the need for a transition point when bringing cabling into a building. They’re available with many types of fire ratings, including plenum, riser and LSZH.


When indoor and outdoor boundaries are crossed, and an OSP and indoor enterprise network need to come together, using these cables means you no longer have to worry about connecting two different cable types. A dual-rated I/O plenum cable can be used for indoor, plenum-rated applications and outdoor networks as well.


Belden’s new Dry Core I/O Plenum-Rated Category Cable features innovative water-blocking technology that means it can extend from indoors to outdoors—even in wet environments—without sticky gels.


Cables that Defend Against Failure


Whether protecting against flooding or moisture, extremely low temperatures or sunlight, these outdoor products are designed to defend against failure. They’re easy to handle and install, too, with a small diameter, lighter weight and more flexibility thanks to a single-jacket design.


Both the Dry Core I/O Plenum-Rated Category Cable and Dry Core OSP Category Cables are available in Category 6 and 6A and U/UTP and F/UTP constructions.


Read more about our new cables.


Related Links:


One Coupler—Many Different Ways to Use It

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cables – Which Should You Choose?

Expanding a Wireless Network Across a Growing College Campus