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Basic Networking Cabling

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Basic Cabling
David R. Frick & Co., CPA
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This section describes the three basic types of cable: coax, twisted pair
and fiber-optic. It compares the characteristics among the different cable
types: segment length, transmission rates, cost, maintenance and
troubleshooting. It also discusses various classifications of cable.
Describe the three most common types of cabling media used in LANs.
What are the recommended maximum segment lengths for each type of
cable?
What is a backbone?
What are the characteristics of coaxial cable?
What are the different types of coaxial cable?
What connection hardware is used with thinnet coaxial cable?
What connection hardware is used with thicknet coaxial cable?
What is Plenum cable?
What are the key characteristics of UTP?
What are the characteristics of shielded twisted pair (STP)?
Define the 5 categories of UTP. What is the minimum acceptable category
for 10baseT?
Are there other cable specifications?
What connectors are used with UTP?
Do I have to have a hub to use UTP cable?
What is fiber-optic cable and how does it work?
What are the key characteristics of fiber-optic cable?
List the pros and cons of the basic cable types.
Describe the following potential problems with copper wire transmissions:
attenuation, impedance, capacitance, and crosstalk.
What factors should I considered when choosing cable?
What are the alternatives to wire or fiber-optic cable?
All citations are to Networking Essentials Self-Paced Training Kit (NE
SPT), Second Edition (Microsoft Press, 1997, ISBN: 1-57231-527-X)
1. Describe the three most common types of cabling media used in LANs.
The three most common types of cabling media used in LANs are:
Coaxial Cable. Coaxial cable comes in two versions: Thinnet and
Thicknet. Thinnet looks like regular TV cable.* It is about 1/4 inch in
diameter and is very flexible and easy to work with. In contrast,
Thicknet is about 1/2 inch in diameter and not very flexible. Thicknet
is older and not very common anymore except as a backbone within and
between buildings. Coax transmits at 10 Mbps..

Twisted Pair. Twisted pair looks like telephone wire and consists of
insulated strands of copper wire twisted together. There are two
versions of twisted pair cable: Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) and
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP). STP is commonly used in Token Ring
networks and UTP in Ethernet networks where it is referred to as
"10baseT." Transmission rates vary between 10-100 Mbps..
Fiber-Optic Cable. Fiber-optic cable consists of a thin cylinder of
glass surrounded by glass cladding, encased in protective outer sheath.
Fiber-optic cable is very fast (100 Mbps). It can transmit over long
distances (2 km +) but is expensive.
*Don’t confuse Thinnet cable (RG 58) with cable TV cable (RG 59). They
look alike but they are not interchangeable.
NE SPT, p. 74
2. What are the recommended maximum segment lengths for each type of
cable?
The type of cable plays a role in how fast a signal will degrade as it is
transmitted. The following are the recommended maximum cable lengths:
Thinnet- maximum length of segment (terminator to terminator) is 185
meters (607 feet)
Thicknet -maximum length of segment (single run) is 500 meters (1,640
feet)
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) - maximum length of cable between hub and
computer is 100 meters (328 feet)
Fiber-Optic - maximum length of cable is 2 kilometers. (6,562 feet)
NE SPT, p. 102 102
3. What is a backbone?
A backbone is a generic term used to describe media that interconnects a
number of computers, segments or subnets.
In its most common form, a backbone is used to connect hubs. Each hub
represents a segment on which individual workstations are connected via
UTP cable. The hubs from different segments are then connected to each
other with thinnet cable. In this case, the thinnet cable functions as the
backbone that links the hubs.
In another example, a backbone may be a length of cable that serves as a
trunk. Drop cables are attached from the backbone to connect individual
workstations.
A backbone is often used to connect networks in separate buildings.
Organizations typically use fiber-optic cable for this type of backbone.
Thicknet is also used as a backbone.
NE SPT p. 262
4. What are the characteristics of coaxial cable?
Coaxial cable (coax) has the following characteristics:
Transmission rate of about 10 Mbps
Maximum cable length of 185 meters for Thinnet, 500 meters for Thicknet
Good resistance to electrical interference
Less expensive than fiber-optics but more expensive than twisted pair.
Flexible and easy to work with (Thinnet)
Wire type is 20 AWG for Thinnet (R-58) and 12 AWG for Thicknet.
Ethernet designation is 10base2 (Thinnet) or 10base5 (Thicknet, also
referred to as 'standard Ethernet').
NE SPT, p. 74-81; 260 & 262
5. What are the different types of coaxial cable?
The following designations are used to distinguish the different types of
coaxial cable:
RG-58 A/U – Thinnet, stranded wire core, 50 ohms
RG-58 /U – Thinnet, solid wire core, 50 ohms
RG-59 – Thicknet, cable television, broadband
RG-62 – ArcNet, 75 ohms
A cable's designation is typically printed on the its outer sheathing. As
a general rule, you cannot mix coax cable types on the network.
NE SPT, p. 78
6. What connection hardware is used with thinnet coaxial cable?
Thinnet utilizes the following connection hardware referred to as ‘BNC’
components:
Terminator – a resister used to absorb the signal once it reaches the
end of the bus; connects to a T- or barrel connector; RG-58 requires a
50-ohm terminator; RG-62 requires a 75-ohm terminator.
Cable Connector – the interface at the end of the cable that is used to
connect to a barrel or T-connector
T-Connector – used to connect to a NIC and another cable connector or a
terminator (you cannot connect directly to a NIC with a cable connector;
you must use a T-connector)
Barrel Connector – used to splice to segments of cable together or
attach a terminator at the end of the cable
NE SPT, pp. 37, 39, 77, 80-81
7. What connection hardware is used with thicknet coaxial cable?
Thicknet utilizes an AUI (Attachment Unit Interface) connector to attach
to a Network Interface Card (NIC). The AUI connector has 15 pins and is
alternatively referred to as a DB-15 or DIX connector.
One of the unique characteristics of Thicknet is the use of an external
transceiver. (The transceiver is used to convert signals from parallel to
serial for transmission on the network.) The Thicknet cable attaches to
the transceiver via a clamp or vampire tap. The NIC connects to the
transceiver using a drop cable with AUI connectors.
NE SPT pp. 79 & 261
8. What is Plenum cable?
Plenum refers to the space in buildings between the ceiling and the next
floor above it. Because of the potential fire hazard, building codes are
very specific about what type of wiring can be placed in this area. refers
to the space in buildings between the ceiling and the next floor above it.
Because of the potential fire hazard, building codes are very specific
about what type of wiring can be placed in this area.
Plenum cable refers to coaxial cabling that meets the minimum standards to
allow it to be strung in the plenum area without having to use special
conduit. The insulation and jacket on plenum cabling must be fire
resistant and not give off toxic fumes when burned. refers to coaxial
cabling that meets the minimum standards to allow it to be strung in the
plenum area without having to use special conduit. The insulation and
jacket on plenum cabling must be fire resistant and not give off toxic
fumes when burned.
Not all coaxial cable is plenum cable. The most common type of coaxial
cable is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which is more flexible and easier to
work with than plenum but does not have the same fire resistance features.
PVC cable can give off toxic fumes when burned.
NE SPT, p. 82
9. What are the key characteristics of UTP?
Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) has the following key characteristics:
Transmission rate of 10-100 Mbps
Maximum cable segment of 100 meters
Most susceptible to electrical interference or ‘crosstalk’ (although
shielding may lessen the impact)
Less expensive than coax or fiber-optic. In some cases, preinstalled
telephone wire may be used in the network (if it is of sufficient
grade).
Very flexible and easy to work with
Wire type is 22-26AWG
Uses an RJ-45 connector
Ethernet designation is 10baseT
NE SPT, p. 86
10. What are the characteristics of shielded twisted pair (STP)?
Shielded twisted pair (STP) is similar to UTP except it contains a copper
braid jacket to ‘shield’ the wires from electrical interference. It can
support transmissions over greater distances than UTP.
NE SPT p. 88
11. What are the 5 categories of UTP and what is the minimum acceptable
category for 10baseT?
The following categories of unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable were
established by the EIA/TIA* to support the networks indicated:
Category 1 - Traditional telephone cable; supports voice only, not data
Category 2 - Data transmissions up to 4 Mbps (but not token ring)
Category 3 - 10 Mbps Ethernet
Category 4 - 16 Mbps token-ring
Category 5 - 100 Mbps; supports ATM
The minimum acceptable cable for 10baseT Ethernet is Category 3.
*EIA/TIA 568 is the standard developed by the Electronic Industries
Association/Telecommunications Industry Association applies to all UTP
that works with networks.
NE SPT, p. 87
12. Are there other cable specifications?
Yes. There are several different specifications used to classify cable.
One of the oldest is the AWG (American Wire Gauge) rating. This rating
measures the thickness or gauge of the wire with the size being inverse to
the rating. For example, a 22 AWG cable is thicker than a 24 AWG cable.
22 AWG wire is typically used in telephone wire and UTP.
IBM uses its own system of cable classification whereby cables are
categorized as ‘types.’ For example, Type 3 wire is basically equivalent
to the Category 3 wire discussed earlier. However, not all of the types
used by IBM coincide exactly with a particular category. In the non-IBM
world, UTP cable is typically referred to by its category classification
and coax by its RG designation.
NE SPT pp. 98-99
13. What connectors are used with UTP?
UTP uses a connection called the RJ-45 connector. It looks similar to a
common telephone connector (RJ-11) except it is slightly larger. The RJ-45
has 8 pins while the RJ-11 has only 4.
UTP cable typically runs from a computer’s NIC and plugs directly into a
wall plate much like a regular telephone. It is not uncommon to find wall
plates in newer buildings labeled as ‘Voice’ (for telephones) or ‘Data’
(for UTP). The cable running from the wall jack is rarely attached
directly into a hub. Instead the individual cables are collected and
organized with patch panels located in a ‘wiring closet.’
NE SPT p. 89
14. Do I have to have a hub to use UTP cable?
No. If you have two computers and their NICs have RJ-45 connections, then
you can simply connect them with UTP cable. However, you will need a
special type of UTP cable called a ‘crossover cable.’ This cable is a
normal UTP cable with the pin connections switched on one end so that the
NICs can talk to each other. You can make a crossover cable by removing
the RJ-45 connector at one end and switching (or ‘crossing’) the wire
pairs. The downside to using a crossover cable is that it only allows you
to connect two computers. If you need to connect more than two computers,
you have to buy a hub or use coax cable.
15. What is fiber-optic cable and how does it work?
Fiber-optic cable uses optical rather than electrical pulses to transmit
signals.
Fiber-optic cable consists of pure silicon glass cylinders or strands
surrounded by cladding. Each strand can pass a signal in only one
direction so fiber-optic cable on a network typically consists of at least
two strands: one for sending and one for receiving. Electronic signals
generated by the computer are converted to optical signals in the form of
photons which are transmitted (flashed) down the cable by a laser or
light-emitting diode. A photo-detector on the other end collects the
optical signals and they are converted back to electrical signals.
Unlike copper cable, the signals on fiber-optic cable are not subject to
the problems of attenuation, capacitance, or crosstalk. This greatly
increases the potential transmission distance. In addition fiber-optic
cable is more secure than copper cable. It does not generate
electromagnetic signals and any external tap is easily detected by a
reduction in signal strength. Fiber-optic cable is generally more expense
than copper cable.
NE SPT, pp. 92-93
16. What are the key characteristics of fiber-optic cable?
Fiber-optic cable has the following key characteristics:
Transmission rate of 100 Mbps
Cable length of 2 kilometers or more
Not affected by electrical interference
Supports voice, video, and data
Provides the most secure media
Most expensive cable
Not very flexible; difficult to work with
Commonly used in backbones between buildings and Token Ring networks
Specifications for fiber include the IEEE’s 10BaseFL (Ethernet) and
ANSI’s FDDI or Fiber Distributed Data Interface (Token Ring).
NE SPT, pp. 93-94, 263, 284, 309, 605, 776
17. List the pros and cons of the basic cable types.
Coaxial Cable
PRO: Flexible and easy to install; relatively good resistance to
electronic interference; electronic support components are relatively
inexpensive
CON: Short cable length; more expensive than UTP; unsecure; hard to
change configuration; thinnet generally not good for use between
buildings
UTP
PRO: Most flexible; cheapest cable (but requires expensive support
components); easy to install; easy to add users; may be able to use
existing phone cable if data grade
CON: Shortest usable cable length; susceptible to electrical
interference; unsecure; generally not good for use between buildings
Fiber-Optic
PRO: Fastest transmission rate; not susceptible to electrical
interference; secure; good for use between buildings
CON: Most expensive; relatively difficult to work with
18. Describe the following potential problems with copper wire
transmissions: attenuation, impedance, capacitance, and crosstalk.
The following items are a potential problem for copper wire cabling:
Attenuation. Attenuation refers to the degradation of signal strength
(amplitude) that occurs in transmissions over long distances. Shortening
the transmission distance or using repeaters can help solve this
problem.
Impedance. Impedance is resistance and it affects a signal made up of
various frequencies. The resistance changes at different frequencies,
resulting in distortion of the signal. Shortening the transmission
distance or lowering the frequency can help solve this problem.
Capacitance. Capacitance is the measure of stored electrical charge in a
cable. This charge can distort transmissions by changing the shape of
the signal (as opposed to amplitude). Thick or bundled (closely
adjoining) cables contribute to capacitance. Unbundled, thin cable over
shorter distances will reduce capacitance.
Crosstalk. Background noise is a form of electrical interference that is
generated by external sources. If the external source of interference is
an adjacent cable, it is referred to as crosstalk. Crosstalk is more
common in UTP than in coaxial cable. Ambient noise is a form of
background noise generated by shop equipment, fluorescent lights, etc.
Unlike copper wire cable, fiber-optic cable is generally not susceptible
to the problems described above.
NE SPT pp. 101, 771 (crosstalk); 76, 765 (attenuation); 78, 780
(impedance)
19. What factors should I considered when choosing cable?
The following factors should be considered when choosing the type of cable
for your network:
Size - How many nodes (computers) and what are the total distances
between them?
Cost - What is the budget and how much can be spent on cabling?
Reliability - How dependent are your organization’s operations on the
network?
Speed - How many concurrent users are there be and how critical is
response time?
Security - How important is it to protect data from possible
interception?
Growth - What are the organization’s plans for growth?
Administration - How will the network be administered?
Electrical Interference - What is the physical environment in which the
network will operate?
Existing Cable - Are there conduits or cabling already in place that
might be useable (e.g., data grade phone lines for UTP)?
NE SPT, p. 101
20. What are the alternatives to wire or fiber-optic cable?
There are several alternatives to wire or fiber-optic cable as the
transmission media. However, these ‘wireless’ options have not met with
widespread acceptance primarily because 1) the technologies have not been
fully developed and 2) they are expensive.
Some examples of wireless transmission media include:
Infrared
Laser
Radio
NE SPT, pp. 104-112
Copyright © 1997 & 1998 by David R. Frick & Company, CPA
Last updated on 02/18/00 18:25