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In part one of this blog series I stated that with new protocols and equipment for repurposing cabling in buildings, you may feel tempted to continue using either Category 5e or Category 6 cables. Part of the reasons is that the new Ethernet protocols (2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T) are promoting these cables as “good enough” for any cabling installation.
Let’s think about an existing building with the cabling already deployed. For each project, every customer will need to consider capital expenditures, operating expenditures, return on investments and all those other enthralling financial concepts. Every facility manager will need to reach his/her own conclusion; however, the inherent pains of the recabling process need to be considered quite heavily, and I will provide you my opinion.
Considering the headaches that recabling poses, it is understandable that many facilities managers seek options to improve network performance (i.e., infrastructure plus equipment) without disturbing the facility’s day-to-day operations. Here is where the new protocols and equipments for 2.5GBASE-T and 5GBASE-T Ethernet come in handy. If I were a facility manager that had an existing Category 5e or Category 6 network in need of performance improvements, then I would consider two options:
- Option 1: Repurpose the existing cabling by adding new 2.5G or 5G network equipment, investing only in sophisticated assets. Remember to re-certify the quality and performance of the cable (don’t forget that ISO/IEC now considers Category 5e obsolete).
- Option 2: Deploy new Category 6A cabling to support 10G Ethernet, investing in proven cabling and equipment. 10G equipment was designed for Category 6A, so it will certainly work and negotiate the speed down if needed.
If I don’t need additional outlets and just more capacity in ones already deployed, then I would consider the first option. However, many IT or facilities managers want to extend their cabling infrastructure to the ceiling to improve a facility’s Wi-Fi coverage as well. They might want to also install in-building wireless systems for mobile phones or an intelligent LED lighting system. Is it reasonable to deploy new Category 5e or Category 6 cable for such systems; definitely not. When deploying new cable, it is important you consider your long-term goals and not just immediate urgencies.
Replacing cabling is always expensive and disruptive, so make sure you will not need to do it by choosing Category 6A for new runs instead of Category 5e or 6.
Sophisticated protocols can broaden Category 6 cabling performance, but remember to ask yourself what you will be able to do with Category 6A cabling. I can answer that for you—double your bandwidth. My opinion is that for new installations (and even extensions of existing ones), it makes sense to deploy Category 6A.
What categories are you considering for your next deployments?