Copper discussion at FIA event

Technical manager Funnell presented 10 and 40GBaseT as one step forward and offered his view that 2.5 & 5GBaseT could be interpreted as three steps backwards; countering this to ask whether it suggests that the cabling industry had moved too far ahead of the market.

Speaking on the second day of the FIA event at Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire, Funnell explained that the IEEE is planning to deliver a standard for 40Gb/s Ethernet over Category 8.x cabling in the next few months. Quoting Cisco’s 2013-2017 Visual Network Index, he pointed to the suggestion that data centre traffic is expected to reach 7.1 zettabytes by 2017. With this prediction and other evidence, he therefore concluded that the need for 10GBaseT and the proposed 40GBaseT (Category 8 and 8.1) makes sense and qualified it as ‘one step forward’.

He went on to say that, in an unheard of reversal of strategic planning, the body is also considering the development of 2.5, 5 and 25Gb/s copper solutions. He suggested that these apparent ‘backward steps’ are mirrored by the consideration of 25Gb/s solutions for optical fibre. Based on this understanding, Funnell questioned whether these copper implementations are likely to provide a new impetus for installed Category 6 cabling, or perhaps to simply offer a more ‘cost effective’, measured approach to network evolution. 

During his talk, Funnell called on a myriad of industry sources to define the challenge for data traffic and storage, before highlighting IDC’s prediction that over half (57 per cent) of all IP traffic will originate with non-PC LAN devices by 2018. Whilst in 2013 wired devices accounted for the majority of IP traffic at 56 per cent, by 2016, wired devices will account for 46 per cent of IP traffic, with Wi-Fi and mobile devices accounting for the majority. As Funnell asserted in his speech, the unprecedented growth in smartphones demonstrates the need for growth in wireless, DAS and even 5G cellular technologies. He went on to highlight the relative importance therefore of IEEE 802.11ac; this fifth generation Wi-Fi is a 5GHz technology, which supports up to 1.3Gb/s data rates with equipment available today and theoretically the potential to support up to 6.93Gb/s and higher data rates in the future.

Recently appointed as council member for the Intelligent Buildings Group, Funnell offered an expert view on cabling smart buildings to fulfil wireless demand: He cautioned that 802.11ac wireless access points need two Category 5e or higher connections to deliver  1.3 Gbps and Type 2 remote powering for optimum performance, suggesting, he said, that the cabling infrastructure should ideally be shielded Category 6A or Category 7A. 

However, he explained that Next Generation Enterprise Access Ethernet Working party (NGEABT) was formed in November 2014 to focus on 802.11 Wave 2 Wireless access points (802.3bz), with the aim of being congruent with cabling plant which is compliant to ISO 11801: 2002.  The NGEABT also sets out to define a 2.5G PHY to support 100m Category 5e (Class D) and a 5G PHY to support 100m Category 6 (Class E). With these aims in mind Funnell cautions that the important impact of alien crosstalk and EMC on UTP cables, may be overlooked.

Sponsored by The Siemon Company, Metz Connect, Fluke Networks, Fujikura, ITW Chemtronics and Networks Centre, the FIA event took place on 1st-2nd June 2015 and was held near Towcester, in the Northamptonshire countryside, at Whittlebury Hall. Attendance was notably high in the FIA’s ‘Silver Jubilee year’, building on its success of 25 years as the fibre industry’s focal point.

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