A Tribute to 1061 Category 5e Cable—25 Years at the Top

Where would we be without the SYSTIMAX 1061 cable? It’s been 25 years since this innovative cable was introduced. It has stood the test of time creating a revolution in the communication infrastructure world. James Donovan explains how this simple cabling infrastructure laid the foundation for the way we communicate with the world today.

Systimax_1061_imageNew technologies are being introduced at a rapid pace. It seems like PCs, mobile phones and tablets have been around forever. It seems like every couple of weeks, we see advertisements for a new computing/communication device that processes data at faster speeds than current models. Networks that, only a short time ago, bragged about being able to transmit at kilobit speeds are now testing at gigabit and terabit speeds for future networks.

Where will it end? It won’t. Refining processes and improving performance has been the driving force of research and development throughout the 21st century. If anything, the pace is likely to quicken.

Well, more than 25 years ago, the systems engineers in the cabling section of Bell Labs (now part of CommScope) proposed the use of existing unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable plant for data applications and pioneered the BALUN, allowing many data applications requiring coaxial cable or shielded twisted pair (STP) to run over the telephone wires of the time. This concept became the basis for the SYSTIMAX cabling system.

The early work in this area concentrated on analyzing the potential of UTP systems to support high-speed data. Sophisticated analytical and experimental techniques were developed to understand the concept and potential. The early results showed the untapped potential for transmitting in the Mbps range, obviously now expanded into the Gbps range. SYSTIMAX solutions led the way by demonstrating technical feasibility and actively supporting the IEEE standards process until successful conclusion with the first 1Base-5 standard for running 1Mbps over UTP. The support continued for the IEEE 802.3 committee, to assist in the development of the 10Base-T standard for running 10Mbps over UTP.

However, at that time, 10Base-T pushed the existing twisted pair technology to its limit and it became clear that crosstalk performance and temperature dependence of this media would present problems with running higher speeds. The cabling at the time would be classed as Category 3 in the cabling standards. In 1990, this problem was solved by the introduction of the 1061 Category 5 cable—a patented design that revolutionized cabling performance for local area network (LAN) support. The tight twist scheme allowed for significant improvement in performance by controlling the crosstalk of the cable. The acceptance of this high performance cable by standards organizations such as TIA, NEMA and IEC followed. The result was the Category 5 and later the Category 5e cable specification.

Connecting hardware and patch cables continued to further develop, and these too led to the publication of Category 5 standards for the connecting hardware and patch cords. This created an end-to-end solution—SYSTIMAX SCS—capable of supporting LAN speeds far in excess of the planned development of the time. It now became possible to support such data protocols as 100Mbps Twisted Pair Physical-layer Medium Dependent (TPPMD), 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet and 155 Mbps ATM. Technical feasibility and support for the networking standards continued with IEEE, ANSI and the ATM Forum to prove that new LAN protocols would be supported over the this type of cabling, to the extent that in 1996, with the release of the SYSTIMAX PowerSum solution, the cabling could support 622 Mbps and 1Gbps speeds. However, one component remained constant—the 1061 cable.

These developments in the early 1990s were subsequently adopted into the now widely recognized cabling standards—EIA/TIA 568A, ISO IS11801, and Cenelec EN50173. This instigated the real introduction of structured cabling as we know it today.

The SYSTIMAX 1061 cable is an IT product that has truly gone the distance, supporting even the highest of speed networks of today, and showing a return on investment second-to-none in the communications industry. It was a key development that created a revolution in communications infrastructure and formed the basis for all high-speed transmission in buildings today, and it still outperforms imitations which have been developed since.

In a world where everyone is pushing to launch the next new thing, I think it is appropriate that we salute the achievements of the 1061 cable. It is one networking component that has proven its longevity and lived up to the promises of a 25-year lifespan, so common in cabling warranties today.