Category 5 UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) Th now the standard for data cabling, but there is more to the standard than merely purchasing cable that meets the specifications. Whether a library retains a cabling company or installs its own-something many libraries do when adding cabling to support only a few additional devices on its LAN-the following tips for proper installation of the cable should be observed:
- Rather than cutting lengths of cable from a large roll, use prefabricated data cable lengths with connectors. This will assure that the data cable and connectors are fully conforming to Cat 5. [Most suppliers of cable sell several standard lengths and custom lengths with connectors at $.15 to $.17 a foot for regular cable and $.25 for plenum-rated cable-approximately 15 percent more per foot than purchasing it in 1,000 foot lengths. The connectors cost up to $3.00 each).
- Keep the data cable away from heating or cooling devices.
- Keep the data cable away from devices that can cause radio interference, including fluorescent lights and intercoms.
- Never run data cable near and parallel to a power cable.
- If data and power cables must pass over one another, arrange them at right angles to one another.
- Test the cabling with a scanner to verify that it can handle up to 100 Mbps. (The cost of a high-quality scanner such as the PentaScanner 350 is nearly $5,000 but a professional installer should have one, and if a library is doing its own installation, it can probably rent one.)
- Do not twist, coil, bend or even move a data cable once it is in place and has been tested. If it is absolutely necessary to move the cable, test it again after it is in place.
Failure to observe these tips may result in performance degradation of the data cabling to that of Cat 3 cable, effectively reducing the maximum bandwidth capacity by 90 percent from 100 Mbps to 10 Mbps. While at may not adversely affect a library in the next few years, it will pose serious network problems a few years from now when full-text, images, and multimedia are more commonly transmitted over local area networks.
Properly installed Cat 5 data cabling will last 30 or more years. It is highly unlikely that most libraries will exceed its capacity during that time as there already is a standard for 1.0 Gbps bandwidth using Cat 5, and even greater bandwidth may be possible.