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Guide for solid, stranded cables How to use Ethernet Cable.

With businesses becoming increasingly more communication centric, virtually every industry is now relying on industrial Ethernet technology to network critical devices and control systems and to enhance process automation and improve efficiency. As one of the most widely used networking technologies, Ethernet connects more than 85% of LAN connected PCs and workstations, providing a flexible solution that delivers real time data and status updates to ensure constant information accessibility and instantaneous data transfer. To utilise these communication capabilities, Ethernet cables are used to connect devices like PCs, switches and routers, to transmit and receive data. To ensure proper cabling installation, users like American National Standards Institute, Telecom Industry Association and Electronic Industries Association provide clear, concise instructions and standards to assist users in setting up reliable Ethernet connections.

Besides understanding regulations correctly, selecting appropriate cable is equally important. Cables are grouped into distinct categories like 5, 5e and 6, classes like C, D, E and F and are defined as solid or stranded. By recognizing these classifications, uses and purposes for stranded and solid cables, users can select ideal cable to meet their application needs. Cable standards Telecom Industry Association (TIA) and Electronic Industries Association (EIA) were developed to specify uniform wiring requirements providing useful guidelines for implementing cabling systems in networking applications. These standards are designed to direct users by creating a uniform cabling system. With user friendly instructions, topology, connection and termination points and media definitions, users can wire a building without prior knowledge or special skill.

ANSI/ TIA-568, a family of telecom standards, meets requirements for twisted pair, optical fiber and coaxial cabling for establishing performance and technical criteria for cabling systems to access and connect parts. To attain this goal and aid users in creating reliable networking, these standards define transmission and mechanical needs, electromagnetic compatibility for cabling, installation procedures, connector termination techniques and field testing. Performance testing To ensure cable connections are prope, ANSI/ TIA/ EIA- 568-C.2 provides performance guidelines which must be done on cables before use to ensure that cables will operate as expected. Generally, testing has two phases - an open and a shorts test. In first phase (open test), a cable tester verifies that all intended connections are good. Second phase (short test) is done to undo unintended connections as they can cause a short circuit due to a wrong connection.

Bend radius Cabling standards outline appropriate bend radius for each cable. Bend radius is the minimum extent a cable can be bent without kinking, suffering damage or shortening cable's life. Minimum bend radius is 5 times cable diameter for stationary cables and 10 times for moving/ flex cables. When cabling is bent beyond minimum bend radius, transmission can fail. All pathways must maintain minimum bend radius wherever the cable bends. Cable categories Common cable types used for Ethernet connections are twisted pair cables, which can improve signal quality and cable flexibility. There are several cable categories and classes to indicate specific performance parameters. These include Category 5, 5e, 6 and 7. Each has a different twisted pair cable with unique properties defining what signal it can carry and transmission limitations. According to ANSI/ TIA/ EIA standard for 5e copper cable, maximum length for a cable segment is 100 meters (328 ft).

Category 5e cable can transmit data at speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit/ second). 10 Base-T networking specify a 100 m length between active devices. This allows 90 m fixed cabling, 2 connectors, 2 patch leads of 5 m, one at each end. Category 6 cable performs at frequencies of up to 250 MHz and offers higher performance for better transmission of data at speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps, with fewer errors for 100 BASE-TX and 1000 BASE-T applications. For more data transfer, some Category 6 cables can support 10 gigabit speeds, though they may suffer length limitations. Category 6 cabling, with its larger conductors, internal dividers and tighter twist lengths would be analogous to a high end model, doing better at more capacity. Solid Vs stranded cabling Solid and stranded cables have individual purposes and benefits. They improve networking performance and efficiency, if correctly used. Though they have similar capabilities, each has a distinct function and offers specific advantages.

Solid: Solid Ethernet cables are made of a single, solid conducting wire. Larger wires, solid cables are physically stronger and easier to work with. Besides larger wires have superior characteristics and remain stable over many frequencies. This makes solid cables better for emerging high speed Ethernet applications. Due to large copper dia, solid conductor cables have a lower DC resistance and lower susceptibility to high frequency. Solid cables support longer transmission, receive longer runs and higher data rates than stranded cables. However, while solid cables have a 'larger' core, they are also more vulnerable to breakage. This limits their flexibility as they can't be repeatedly flexed or bent without breaking or inefficiency. This inherent stiffness makes solid cables ideal for horizontal cabling in a system infrastructure. For example, solid Cat5e cables are well suited for networking like running room to room in an office, due to higher distance.

For over 100 ft (30.48 m), solid cables are better and more reliable than stranded cables. Stranded: In stranded cable, inside has twisted pairs of stranded cables, with each individual conductor made of a bundle of small gauge wire strands. Stranded cable is so arranged that several wires surround a single wire in the bundle's centre. For Category cables, number of strands is six, with one in the middle. This stranded arrangement forms a conductor ending with a diameter similar to a solid cable. However, conducting area of a stranded cable is smaller than a solid cable's due to smaller diameters of each individual strand. Users often are more familiar with Stranded cables which they can handle directly. Stranding of wires not only protects cable, but also enhances its flexibility. Longer the cable, each strand is twisted more around the centre. Result: when bent, each strand bends as if it is independent of the entire strand.

This construction enables these cables to move easily and frequently without harm or risk of failure. While not as reliable as solid cables are for long runs, flexibility makes stranded Cat 5 cables ideal for short distances. Being pliable, mobility of stranded cables lets them work well in applications like patch cabling, as they are constantly plugged, unplugged, bent or installed. A patch provides connectivity between two RJ45 jacks. Common patch cabling applications are connecting patch panel ports or to switch ports and for connecting work area outlet (jack) to computer or other networked device. Conclusion As networking is a necessary part of businesses in virtually all industry, understanding types, standards and purposes of various Ethernet cable options is crucial to ensure reliable network performance and continuous access to important data. By using ASNI/ TIA/ EIA-568 as a guideline, users can install, test and maintain cabling needed for networking applications.
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Publication:Pakistan Engineering Review
Date:Nov 15, 2013
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