As technical innovation and development speeds ahead, the demand for faster, more efficient and larger cabling networks escalates. Steve Davis discusses the importance of installing the right containment system.
With today’s evolving needs for higher bandwidth and faster networks, most companies or organisations need to run applications for their day-to-day activities that push their current technology to its limit. Demands such as large file transfers, gigabytes in size, of mechanical drawings, streamline digital video and audio conferencing, and the installation of several applications through the network simultaneously, can put a strain on a system incapable of handling all these demands at once.
Although most structured cabling networks are based currently on Cat5e and Cat 6 UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cables, developments have moved towards even faster and larger bandwidth solutions.
Over the last 12 months we have seen greater demand for the specification and installation of CAT6a (augmented Cat6), which provides a data transmission speed of 10 Gigabits and 500 MHz of bandwidth. Some structured cabling manufacturers are supplying a new Cat6a UTP solution. Others are actively promoting Cat6 STP or Cat7 screened solutions, which will also operate at 10 Gigabits.
Although Cat6a was originally designed for use in data centres, we have seen a significant increase of installations to the desktop within modern buildings.
Whichever high-density structured-cabling solution is specified by the client or consultant, be assured it will have a tremendous impact on specifying and installing the correct cable management solution.
All too often we see cable management as an afterthought.
End users spend tens of thousands of pounds on the latest structured cabling networks with high-end 25 year warranties, but the use of unsuitable or inadequate containment systems for high-speed, high-bandwidth protocols, which form the heart of all structured cabling network, can increase installation time and costs, as well as dramatically reducing the network performance and reliability.
An unsuitable structured-cabling system can also place severe limits on the flexibility in meeting new physical layouts and network configurations as well as limiting the possibility for future expansion. In all cases, the choice of cable management by client, consultant or installer will have a direct impact on probability and performance.
Over the last few years cable management and structure cabling manufacturers have been working closer together to ensure the correct criteria are met. With the increase of Cat6, Cat6a and shielded solutions, we have seen the diameter of cables vary from 6 to 12 mm, increased twist rates for the paired cables, and larger connectors.
When specifying or installing the correct containment system, key factors have to be considered. Whether the application is for underfloor, perimeter dado trunkings, steel-wire cable trays or desktop applications, these solutions must be able to offer the correct bend radius and have sufficient depth and cable capacity to future-proof for further cabling requirements.
It is vital that we keep up to date with the latest standards which cable management will be a part of including American standards (TIA), International (ISO), and European (Cenelec). In the UK, Part M has become more prominent in recent years and today forms in an important part of the specification process.
Part M of the Building Regulations for England and Wales sets out requirements and offers direction relating to access and use of buildings for wiring devices and controls, incorporating three key areas: accessibility, visibility and ease of use. The application of these three areas is dependent on whether the building is classed as a ‘dwelling’ or ‘building other than a dwelling’; all three elements need to be considered.
Part M implies that all functions which are likely to be required by a user are taken into account, whether this is a socket, light switch or a power control switch. The three elements (accessibility, visibility and ease of use) have several basic implications on the selection of wiring devices to achieve Part M compliance in buildings that must be adhered to. To achieve the visibility requirements, designers need to ensure a difference of at least 30 points in light reflectance value (LRV) between the accessory and its surroundings.
To achieve Part M, most cable-containment manufacturers have altered their existing trunking range with contrasting colours on the central lid or backplate, offering a cost-effective solution with no compromise on quality, style or durability. At Marco, we are seeing a substantial increase in the level of enquiries by customers requiring different specifications to meet Part M regulations over the last 12 months.
As market pressures in the data industry force the pace of product development, parallel advances in manufacturing technologies are providing new cable-management solutions. Taking a right-from-the-start approach in matching the correct product to a specific structured-cable application will not just save the contractor and installer time and money, but will provide the client with the cost effective and future-proof system which maintains the integrity of critical network performance.
Steve Davis is market development manager with Marco Cable Management.