The field of copper cable has become the War of the Categories. While Category 6 standards have not yet been set-publication is expected on or about June 1, according to Billie Zidek-Conner of the Telecommunications Industry Association-the industry is attempting to anticipate and exceed expected standards. Jonathan Chauvin-Blitt, president of the Americas for ITT Industries Network Systems and Services, says, "It is the most wonderful marketing job you've ever seen. Very few people wish to be entirely open about it."
Currently, Category 5 and Category 5e (enhanced) are the standards. The Gigabit Ethernet Alliance now recommends that all new cable installations designed for 1,000Base-T deployment be specified as enhanced Category 5. That cabling is manufactured to meet all 1,000Base-T transmission performance parameters.
The former Enterprise Networks Group of Lucent Technologies, now Avaya, says its GigaSpeed 71 Series cable, used at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, was the blueprint for the Category 6 standard. The unshielded twisted-pair copper cables can support 77 cable TV video channels simultaneously, eliminating the need to install coaxial cable. Thus, they can carry voice, data and video with both sound and image.
Now Avaya has an even-faster 81 Series copper cable. The Series 71 provides positive attenuation-to-crosstalk ratio (ACR) to 318 megahertz; Series 81 is better, going to 444 megahertz. The ACR is the gap between a cable's loss of signal strength over distance and the bleeding of the signal from one cable to another cable, where the actual signal is transmitted. Improved crosstalk performance increases bandwidth up to 50 percent, according to Avaya.
Cable development is occurring at breakneck speed. In mid-January, for example, Lucent Technologies unveiled an ultra-high-capacity optical system that will be used by Time Warner Telecom with the capacity of 800 gigabits (billion bits) per second. A single fiber of the network could transmit the data contained on about 160 CD-ROMs each second.