– Matthias Gerber, Market Manager Office Cabling Reichle & De Massari, says:
In just a few years, 10 Gigabit will be the most frequently used Ethernet protocol. Does that automatically imply a total changeover from copper to shielded cabling? No: you can reach your goals with unshielded cabling – providing you select the right quality and the conditions are right.
When deciding to investing in a local data network or in structured office cabling, the question ‘shielded or unshielded’ always presents itself. Shielded copper has a reputation for greater stability and security and reliably protects signal transmission against interference. Unshielded copper cabling, however, is easier to install, which makes it less costly and has resulted in its widespread use worldwide.
Both technologies offer sufficient reserves for applications up to and including 1 Gigabit Ethernet, if installed correctly However, the arrival of 10 Gigabit Ethernet brings a significant change. This brings a quantum leap for data transmission as well as an incredible challenge for the passive infrastructure. The concealed performance headroom that was implicit with 1G no longer exists with 10G. In the higher frequency spectrum in which 10G operates (500 MHz), sensitivity to interference is much higher. Compared to 1G, the interference sensibility when using 10G increases one hundred times. As 10 G uses higher frequencies to transmit the power, we see higher levels of self-radiation in the relevant 250 to 500 MHz bandwidth, which all adds up to more crosstalk.
10GbaseT – Higher sensitivity to disturbances
Hardly surprising that the question arises whether unshielded cabling can deal with these higher transmission rates, higher frequencies and especially the higher sensitivity to disturbances. Fortunately, the problem of interference sensibility can be controlled by implementing resolute cabling measures. However, that means: zero tolerance with regards to individual components and zero installation errors. Only absolute precision can prevent electromagnetic interference and ensure good signal quality. In the case of 10G, this depends on preventing or reducing crosstalk (ANEXT). Crosstalk between adjacent cables poses a great threat to uninterrupted performance. On a 1G network, problems resulting from ANEXT might slow down operations. Over a 10G network, however, this interference could close down the system in a second. Of all parameters that could affect 10GB, ANEXT may well be the most significant.
Shielded cabling, by design,
automatically curbs ANEXT, if it is of sufficiently high quality and installed correctly. However, with traditional unshielded cabling, the distance between individual components needs to be increased as much as possible to reduce ANEXT influence to acceptable levels. That’s why choosing the best possible quality of unshielded cable is vital. If you opt for 10 GbE-compatible class EA cabling, you have to choose the best solution possible in technological terms to ensure the LAN works reliably in the long term. After all, the investment should operate for 15 years and longer without error. If you discover your choice of cabling doesn’t actually offer the performance you had hoped for when switching from 1G to 10G, it is usually too late to take corrective measures.
Future-proof your network
Cabling specified in accordance with class EA as stipulated by ISO / IEC 11801 coupled with connection technology in accordance with Cat. 6A as stipulated by IEC 60603-7-41 / -51 offers by far the best prerequisites for fulfilling the demands of 10 G. In comparison with TIA requirements, this standard has the stricter regulations on transmission parameters. Therefore, it is better equipped to cope with challenges the future will bring. Other criteria should also be taken into consideration during evaluation. Comprehensive quality control, process security, simple handling, extensive guarantees and low overall costs are a few of the most important selection points.
With top-quality cabling solutions, users can save considerable amounts of money in the long term. In large projects, physical infrastructure only accounts for some 7% of the entire IT investment. Half of this is actually spent on the products themselves; the other half covers the cost of the installation work. Although top products may cost between 10 to 20% more than average products, when seen in relation to the entire investment, the cost increase is a mere 0.5%.
Investing in top-notch cabling brings a whole range of positive effects which will save even more costs in the long term. A top-quality cabling system rarely or never fails, thus avoiding the costly consequences of network interruptions and fault tracking. A high-quality network ensures top performance in data transmission and allows users to work faster and more efficiently. Systems Maintenance, Move, Add & Change can be taken care of more quickly with an easy-to-use system, saving money on IT personnel. As these top-grade products support future applications, the network can remain in use for much longer and depreciation costs are reduced.
If you invest in quality, you save in the long term. Looking at the service life of a LAN is – 15 to 20 years – 0.38 % annual depreciation for cabling of the original IT investment is reasonable when top quality cabling has been used. If you had to replace the cabling after seven years because it no longer supported new applications, the depreciation requirements would increase to over 1%.
We can conclude that 10GbaseT doesn’t require shielded cabling by default. Unshielded cabling, which is less costly and easier to handle, can provide the required quality of performance. However, it is vital to take the utmost care in implementation and to use top quality products to counter the effects of crosstalk, to which 10G is far more sensitive. Selecting high standard products also brings a range of additional benefits and future-proofs your investment.