ACI Quarterly Newsletter


Data Cabling and Wireless

ACI can design or expand your network wiring infrastructure cleanly and effectively, using any combination of copper, fiber and wireless connectivity. Each medium has its own pros and cons, but using them in a blended approach takes advantage of the best features of all three network transmission modes.

Copper cabling is generally used for station cables, patch panels and connectors, from Category 5 up to Category 6A specifications for most office environments.  ACI can do anything from installing a single run, to designing a complete distribution field that serves an entire suite or building, especially for new construction. Category 5 and 5e are adequate for speeds up to 1 gigabit, over distances of 100 meters. Category 6 specifications provide better transmission quality for 1 gigabit, and Cat 6A is necessary for reliably supporting 10 gigabit speeds over the same distance. Both types of Cat 6 infrastructure and connectors are backwards compatible with the lower frequency Cat 5 and 5e Ethernet specs.  Higher Ethernet frequencies are available (Cat 7 and 7A) for high-bandwidth requirements, but use specialized connectors that are specific to the higher standards.

Fiber optics cabling is generally required for runs longer than 100 meters, since it has none of the electrical or bandwidth limitations of copper cabling.  Fiber is also a security consideration in the design phase since it is much more difficult to tap into by a malicious insider, so it is usually the medium of choice for connecting data closets.  Fiber is easily installed between buildings, especially in a campus environment, providing a permanent connectivity solution with no recurring costs, over distances of many miles, and enabling higher Ethernet speeds limited only by the optics used in the routers or switches at each end of the fiber strands.  

Wireless solutions require security to be a paramount consideration, since the radio signals are broadcast to and from all devices within range, making them easy to intercept by a malicious user.  Installations are much less intrusive and much more flexible than hardwired copper connections, but troubleshooting can be problematic due to structural obstacles and RF interference from other devices. Wireless has more limitations in bandwidth and distance than copper does, so costs to provide adequate wireless service are not always lower. However, wireless is very efficient at connecting buildings together using directional antenna from the rooftops; as long as buildings are within line-of-sight, a directional wireless solution can be securely installed at a tiny fraction of the cost compared to underground copper or fiber, and can effectively reach several miles. Wireless also works well for 'best-effort', non-critical service levels (e.g. waiting rooms, personal use, etc) but networks with more demanding throughput or security needs generally benefit from the use of copper and/or fiber. 

An efficient solution to your connectivity problem exists, and ACI has the experience and creativity to help you find it.  Call us for a free consultation to see how we can help.