Do you remember or still have four conductor drop cable as the infrastructure for your home telephone? 

Category “nothing” cable carried many of our analog conversations then and still does today. The innovation and drive to create that next generation solution pushed the industry to subsequently create Category 3, 4, 5, 5E, 6, and 6A cables (not to mention fiber and twinaxial advancements). Designing and engineering the backbone for that next generation application can be a bit of a guessing game, because you wonder if the rest of the industry is going to latch on and use that product. 

For me, one of those products that left me a bit uncomfortable was when the industry introduced Category 6A cable. In 2004, the industry was telling the world that this would “future proof” their network infrastructure capable of supporting those future 10G applications over twisted pair, even though the industry was still primarily using 10/100BASE-T or 100BASE-T. There were customers that were using leading edge technologies needing that next generation solution; however, they were also looking at fiber. Fiber was working for them. 

The Category 6A cable was expensive, bulky and different. For 10G traffic to work over twisted pair it would take some special engineering from transistor development, PHYceivers development and ultimately switch development (which really didn’t happen until recently). Eight years later (in fact, just a couple of months ago), Cisco finally started selling a 2U switch whose base chassis has 32 10GBASE-T ports and has three expansion modules for an additional 36 10GBASE-T ports. 

OK, for everyone who installed Category 6A cable in the last eight years, you can take a deep breath and slowly exhale. What’s really cool about all this is my four conductor landline phone is still working great.

About the Author

Steve Schmerber

Steve Schmerber is the regional technical sales manager for CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. He is responsible for all the south regional technical managers, as well as for the Houston, Austin, Louisiana, and Mississippi presale opportunities in the NAR sales region. Mr. Schmerber has been at CommScope since the 1994 acquisition of Avaya and Lucent Technologies, where he had worked in various roles for nine years. At CommScope, Mr. Schmerber had previously served as a territory sales manager before taking on his current role. He has been a BICSI certified RCDD since 1986 and NTS since 2009. Mr. Schmerber graduated from Texas A&M University in 1985 with a BS in Engineering Technology. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with his family.

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