19_future_cabling(Note: The following has been submitted as a guest post to CommScope Blogs by Danny Cohen, account manager at LINX. LINX is a member of CommScope’s PartnerPRO Network and provider of IT networking solutions in the United States. Opinions and comments provided in this guest post, as with all posts to CommScope Blogs, are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CommScope.)

It’s hard to imagine what the future will look like. 2001: A Space Odyssey didn’t get too many things right. I mean we didn’t even get the iPhone until 2007. Flying around space with an AI computer still seems far out, even on today’s standards. Stanley Kubrick took a risk in predicting the future of technology. Some things take off like mini computers that fit in my pocket and talking thermostat. Others seems to die before becoming real. It’s 2019, where is my flying car?

Technology trends in our personal life are now driving trends in the business world. If you don’t believe me, pull out your work-issued Blackberry and spend 10 minutes writing me an email about how you disagree. The Netflix Model, otherwise known as Software as a Service (SaaS), has changed the way we operate day-to-day business. 

What will be the next technology trend that changes the way we do business? It’s easy to look at the next five years and say things like cloud, co-located data centers, and IoT (Internet of Things) will continue to drive changes. But what comes next? 

CLICK TO TWEET:  Danny Cohen from LINX tries to predict the future of cabling.

The short answer is no one knows. Businesses must look at the future and prepare for it. No one wants to be that company in 2013 to invest millions in a new onsite data center only to move to the cloud in 2014. Trust me, that happened (and is still happening). Businesses that are too short sided to look at future trends can end up spending way more in the long run.

Cabling is the infrastructure that supports business operations today and it will only continue to be more important. One thing is clear about the future of cabling, bandwidth requirements will only continue to go up. While some think cables will go away with wireless, they forget that those wireless units (access points) still need to be wired. So, while the cabling needs and designs will change, the importance of cabling will continue to grow.

Today’s best copper cable, Category 6a, can support 10 Gbps speed at 100 meters. That’s a lot. It’s crazy to think we’ll ever need more than that. On the other hand, in 1990 when Category 3 cable was created and supported 10 Mbps I’m sure we had the same thinking. We thought 10 Mbps was a fast speed back then. At the time, few devices would even support that much speed. 

The main difference between Category 6a cable and Category 6 is the diameter. Category 6a essentially has more copper, thus increasing its capability. Category 7, which is not widely available yet, will be even thicker, filled with more copper to support even more distance and speed. At some point, we’re going to run into physical issues with using copper. 

Now, in comes fiber optic cable. Unless you’re in the industry, you probably have to thank Google if you’ve heard of fiber. You probably have other things to thank Google for, but that’s for another blog. Fiber is made from thin strands of glass. Instead of sending a signal over copper, fiber sends bursts of light through the thin glass strand. This different cable construction allows for fiber to have much higher bandwidth and distance limitations compared to copper. 

Today, we mainly use fiber for underground (outside plant) or backbone (riser) cable. One reason for this is cost. The cost of fiber has always been more than copper. That’s still the case today; however, the difference between the two is shrinking and has never been closer than it is today. The price will continue to fall as more of it get produced. At some point, cost won’t be a factor. The other factor in how fiber is used is the end devices. Today’s devices don’t directly support a fiber connection. Look on the back of your computer and see if there’s a fiber port. Since the end devices don’t connect to fiber directly, a copper conversion must happen at some point.

As cost continues to come down and more devices come out with a direct fiber connection, you’ll see the use of fiber cabling increase. Some wireless access points and security cameras take a direct fiber connection today, so it’s only a matter of time until that becomes the standard. Fiber can support speeds over 100 Gbps and has even been tested at a terabyte per second. That’s crazy speeds and again it’s hard to imagine needing all that. 

As a low voltage contractor, a lot of our work is ripping and replacing old cable with new ones. Most just upgrade to the newest version of copper, knowing that we’ll be back out in a handful of years to do the same thing again. I encourage customers to look ahead and see if there is a better way to do this. While a fiber install today might cost a little more, it will save money in the long run. It doesn’t take a special company to take advantage of a fiber infrastructure, just a company that’s willing to ask, “is there a better way to do this”?

About the Author

Danny Cohen

Danny Cohen is an Account Manager at LINX LLLP, a technology integrator that specializes in the design, installation and support of network cabling, multimedia, security and wireless. Danny works with all project stakeholders and is involved throughout the project, spearheading the consistent flow of communication. He has 10 years of industry experience.

See all posts by this author


4 comments for "The future of cabling"
Kerry A Engmark Monday, June 17, 2019 9:45 PM

Danny is right; it is difficult to predict where the future takes structured cabling. Ten years ago, I expected the market to be in contraction by now. With a (current) CAGR of 6% or more expected thru 2025, the future of cabling looks bright.
Data Center / Colocation facilities will surely drive demand. WLAN/WIFI isn't going away any time soon, and neither is our beloved LAN cabling. Digital DAS (like your Era platform) will swing infrastructure design away from LMR400 type coax...
POE lighting represents significant opportunity for the greater cabling infrastructure community. As BAS and "Smart Buildings" evolve, I won't be surprised to see POE lighting play an increasingly important roll in data harvesting and smart utilities management.
Ultimately, POE lighting sets the domestic stage for "Li-Fi" which, IMHO, is the most exciting technology in the commercial TI space today.

Jay Major Monday, June 17, 2019 10:07 PM

Too many inaccuracies to post all. Many, many devices use fiber now, backbone is not riser cable. OSP cable is not 'underground cable'. Fiber cable is not more expensive than copper cable, but it's really in context to it's use.

Danny Cohen Tuesday, June 18, 2019 4:28 PM

Hi Jay and Kerry,

First, thanks for reading and commenting!

Jay - I did use some generalities, and your comments are valid. In writing a blog about something that hasn't happened yet, I did my best to stay high level. The target for this blog was folks who don't necessarily have a lot of understanding of cabling. This was really intended to show that cabling will have more an more impact on businesses in the future. Again, thanks for your thoughts.

Kerry - Great comments across the board. It'll be really interesting to watch PoE lighting and if it ever takes off. As you mentioned, it opens the door to a whole new world (cue the Aladdin soundtrack), but it's just not being embraced yet.

Dave Lester Thursday, July 11, 2019 8:12 PM

Good post. We thought fiber to the desk would happen back in the 90s, but copper lower cost ruled the day. Fiber still will grow in usage.

There really is no Category 7, but people can't seem to get that for some reason due to poor marketing practice. Never accepted by ANSI/TIA.
ISO 11801 Channel F now, and the Western World skipped it to go for Cat. 8. Cat 6A shielded does what is needed.

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