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  • BTI Communications Group

The Ultimate Guide to Structured Cabling

Having a robust cabling foundation is essential for the smooth operation of your IT and communication systems. The shift from traditional copper wiring to low-voltage structured cabling has elevated network cabling services from a luxury to a necessity.


Your Wi-Fi, telecommunication systems, and IT networks rely on structured cabling systems for optimal performance. But what exactly is structured cabling, and why is it crucial for organizations of all sizes?


Table of contents


What is Structured Cabling?

Structured cabling, also known as low-voltage wiring, network cabling, or IT structured cabling is the process of carefully organizing and standardizing the components of your network to establish a well-ordered and dependable cabling infrastructure.


Designing this system thoughtfully is essential to guarantee that your network:


  • Remains accessible.

  • Can adapt to future network needs and any potential changes or additions.

  • Operates at its maximum capacity.

  • Is ready for future advancements.


How Does Structured Cabling Looks Like?

Structured cabling is an organized approach to building a cabling infrastructure. To grasp this concept better, it's helpful to consider what structured network cabling is not. Many data centers use a cabling method known as "point-to-point," where patch cables connect directly to the hardware requiring connectivity.


Point-to-point IT structured cabling.
Point-to-point cabling.


In contrast, structured cabling employs a system of patch panels and trunks to create an organized framework. This allows hardware ports to connect to a patch panel at the top of the rack. The patch panel is then linked to another patch panel through a trunk (a multi-fiber assembly designed for conveyance) in the MDA (Main Distribution Area).



Structured cabling installation connected to a network switch.
Structured Cabling

This clear framework ensures that all data center connections are easily accessible from the Main Distribution Area (MDA), simplifying the process of moving, adding, and changing network components using short patch cords.


How Does Structured Cabling Installation Work?

Structured network cabling design and installation adhere to a set of industry standards that precisely outline the wiring requirements for data centers, offices, and residential buildings, supporting data and voice communications.


These standards are established by organizations such as ISO/IEC, CENELEC, and TIA (Telecommunications Association Industry) to ensure the seamless deployment of structured cabling solutions. These standards not only dictate the types of cables used but also prescribe the proper structured cabling installation process in different scenarios.


 


 


Types of Structured Cabling Subsystems

Structured cabling systems are made up of 6 separate subsystems. Each serving a specific function and having its own components.

Horizontal Cabling

Horizontal network cabling subsystem is used to connect work area telecommunication outlets to telecommunication closets, including most of the cabling in the system. Horizontal cabling uses other components to work such as:


  • Cable terminations,

  • Telecom outlets,

  • Transition points.

  • Cross-connections between cable runs, and more.

Vertical Cabling

Vertical or backbone cabling acts as the central subsystem, connecting cables and components between telecommunication rooms, entrance facilities, and equipment rooms. It's also employed to link separate buildings on the same site.


In addition to actual cables and connections, vertical cabling also uses routing components like conduits, raceways, and through-floor penetration sleeves.

Entrance Facility Structured Cabling

Entrance Facility Structured Cabling is responsible for linking buildings to data/telecommunication service providers or private network cabling systems. It can also connect backbone cabling between buildings, serving as the connection point between the service provider and the customer/building.

Consolidation Point Structured Cabling

Consolidation Point Structured cabling is designed to support larger networks and maintain an optimal temperature for cooling and housing critical equipment like routers, servers, and other mechanical termination components.


These rooms act as the central hub for structured cabling systems. For smaller networks, the same purpose can be fulfilled by the Entrance Facility or a telecommunications enclosure/room.


Telecommunications Enclosure

Telecommunications Enclosure is a central hub, especially in larger networks, where horizontal and vertical cabling subsystems converge. It facilitates cross-connection and termination, with main and intermediate cross-connects, patch cords, and auxiliary equipment.


Work Area Components

The Work Area subsystem serves as the vital link connecting end-user workstations, including computers, phones, copiers, and other equipment, to the telecommunications connector—a key component of the horizontal cabling subsystem.


The Work Area subsystem encompasses various components, including:


  • Outlets

  • Patch cables,

  • PC adapters,

  • Fiber cables and other necessary connectors.


It's important to note that, in the context of structured network cabling, the workstation equipment itself is considered an integral part of the Work Area subsystem. This holistic approach ensures that every element contributing to end-user connectivity is efficiently incorporated into the IT structured cabling framework.


What is Considered Low Voltage Wiring?

Low-voltage wiring refers to a type of wiring that is different from the typical electrical cabling used for higher-voltage equipment. Specifically, low-voltage wiring is employed to power equipment that requires 50 volts of electricity or less.


Additionally, low-voltage wiring serves the purpose of communicating various interconnected technology systems. Some of the available cabling options for connecting different systems include:


Low voltage cabling connected to a circuit board

Ethernet Cable Installation

Ethernet cables are used to seamlessly connect devices such as computers and routers in a local network. When it comes to transmitting data, different types of copper-based Ethernet cables are used. The specific cable used depends on the desired data transmission speed and the distance between the connected devices.


Toy Engineers working on an ethernet cable art.

Category 5

The most common type of Ethernet cable is Cat5, which can support data transmission speeds of 10 to 100 Mbps. However, this speed is limited to a distance of around 300 feet before experiencing a signal loss.


For faster data transmission speeds of up to 1000 Mbps, Cat5e (enhanced) cables are used. These cables can maintain their signal strength over longer distances.

Category 6

If even faster data transmission is required, Cat6 structured cabling is the way to go. This type of cable can support speeds of up to 10Gbps and can be used for distances of up to 700 feet before experiencing signal loss.

Fiber Optic Installation

For the fastest speeds and longer distances, fiber optic installations are the best choice. Unlike Ethernet cables that use copper, fiber cables are made of glass strands. These cables transmit digital information using light instead of electrical currents, allowing for even greater speeds and distances.


Blue fiber optic next to ethernet cables. Blue fiber optic next to ethernet cables. 

Low Voltage Wiring for Voice and Data Transfer

When it comes to setting up phone systems and internet connections, both voice and data cables rely on the same categories of Ethernet and fiber optic cabling. The choice between copper and glass depends on your specific needs and budget.

Your network cabling services provider, is responsible for installing your phone and data cabling throughout your workplace to ensure every cubicle and office is connected.


Structured Cabling for Security Systems

Security systems are also connected by IT structured cabling. Network cabling service providers often use Cat5 or Cat6 cabling to power and connect your cameras to a network or video recorder.

Low Voltage Cabling for Intercoms

An intercom, short for intercommunication device, is a standalone system that allows for voice and video communication within buildings.


With an intercom, you can speak into a device or microphone and be heard and potentially seen by others in different rooms or areas. It can be used as part of a security system or to broadcast information over a wide area.


Wired intercom systems utilize Cat5, Cat5E, or Cat6 structured cabling, depending on the specific requirements.


When Should You Look for Network Cabling Services?

IT structured cabling is a unique aspect of the electrical industry. While some electrical contractors have their own low-voltage team, it is common to hire a specialized installation company.


This is primarily because the continuous advancements in technology in the field demand a level of expertise that many non-specialized organizations may find challenging to maintain.

In terms of timing, low-voltage structured cabling installation typically takes place concurrently with or shortly after finished electrical work.


What Organizations Need Network Cabling Services?

Every organization needs structured network cabling services to guarantee optimal performance for their networks and other devices. A professional structured cabling installation provider ensures that your organization maintains a robust infrastructure that meets the highest standards of functionality and efficiency.


Inside of a modern emergency room.

The Benefits of Structured Cabling Services


Reduced Downtime

An unorganized IT structured cabling setup makes finding and resolving errors difficult and can lead to confusion and mistakes during the initial setup process. Additionally, troubleshooting becomes significantly time-consuming when your staff must navigate through a tangled mess of networking cables.


An organized IT structured cabling system not only will expedite repairs, making them faster and more straightforward, but it will also enhance the overall effectiveness and reliability of your infrastructure.


A Future-Proof Environment

Structured cabling installation empowers your IT infrastructure to seamlessly adapt to any future requirements by allowing you to add, remove, or change your IT infrastructure without complications.


Time Savings

A structured cabling system brings efficiency to cable management and maintenance. No more wasted hours untangling wires or searching for the right connection. Everything is neatly organized, simplifying troubleshooting and upgrades.


Support Multiple Sites and Applications

When integrated with other systems and applications, IT structured cabling creates an optimal business environment. For many companies operating across multiple locations, maintaining efficient communication has become increasingly difficult.

Implementing a low voltage wiring system within your organization will streamline communication and simplify the complexities that arise from having various business locations.


BTI: The Network Cabling Services Provider Near Me

With over 35+ years of experience, BTI has established itself as a leader in delivering cutting-edge structured cabling installation services. Catering to both small businesses and enterprise-level organizations, we pride ourselves on providing customized solutions tailored to the unique needs of each client.


Our commitment goes beyond mere installation – we view your business as our own, ensuring that the structured cabling systems we implement contribute to your operational success.


Contact us today to get a free business assessment, and discover how our IT products and services can optimize your network infrastructure.




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