Network Cabling: all you need to know

Structured cabling design and installation is governed by a set of standards that specify wiring for data or voice communications using various kinds of cable, most commonly category 5e (Cat5e), category 6 (Cat6/6a), and fibre optic cabling and modular connectors.

These standards define how to lay the cabling in various topologies in order to meet the needs of the customer, typically using a central patch panel (which is normally 19 inch rack-mounted), from where each modular connection can be used as needed. Each outlet is then patched into a network switch (normally also rack-mounted) for network use or into an IP or PBX (private branch exchange) telephone system patch panel.

Structured cabling is the design and installation of a cabling systems that will support multiple hardware uses systems and be suitable for today’s needs and those of the future. With a correctly installed system your requirements of today and of tomorrow will be catered for and whatever hardware you choose to add will be supported.

It is common to colour code patch panel cables to identify the type of connection, though structured cabling standards do not require it, more about this under Tip 3 below.

Cabling standards demand that all eight conductors in Cat5e/6/6a cable are connected, resisting the temptation to 'double-up' or use one cable for both voice and data. IP phone systems, however, can run the telephone and the computer on the same wires.

Regardless of copper cable type (Cat5e/6/6a) the maximum distance is 90m for the permanent link installation and an allowance for 10m of patch cords at the ends combined. Cat5e and Cat6 can both effectively run PoE applications up to 90m. However, due to power dissipation there is better performance and power efficiently with Cat6a cabling running POE devices if being incorporated into a new design.

In general, your infrastructure will consist of a patch lead connecting your device to a wall point. From here onwards the backbone infrastructure comes into play. From the wall point there will be a connection made to a patch panel, which will sit inside a cabinet, then a patch lead will be used to connect the relevant port on the patch panel to a port on a switch (just imagine this bit, as being an operator at the telephone exchange). Said switch might then be connected via a fibre link to a more centrally located switch. Here is where the magic usually happens, as servers, firewalls, etc. will most likely be located and connected with each other, from here all your network communicates with each other and the outside world.


Tip 1


What will be your needs in the next few years? Cat5 is older and because of that it is slower. It supports speeds between 10 mbps and 100 mbps (in some instances you can get faster speeds but nothing is guaranteed). Do you see your business staying at this speed for the next few years?

Given its age finding replacement cable will become increasingly difficult, and the inability to find replacement cable would require you to cable in an entirely new data infrastructure before you really wanted to.

Cat5e has become the new standard, capable of supporting up to 1000 mbps, and Cat6 is rated for up to 10 gbps (some consider Cat6 overkill). So look to what your business’s needs are, and try to estimate where they will be in the next few years. Nothing is worse than re-cabling your data infrastructure earlier than you had intended when you could have chosen the proper cable and maximized its life span.


Tip 2

Voice and Data use the same cable.

Today, with the rise of Cloud PBX systems and VoIP phone services in addition to the decrease in price for cables it is recommended that you do this. Many businesses run their entire internal phone and data on the same network while keeping a single outside telephone line at the entrance point. The single outside line is key. After all you don’t want to lose ALL your business telecommunications ability if the internet goes down.


Tip 3:

Use cable management

As opposed to a luxury, cable management is a necessity. It makes both maintenance and expanding the network easier. Purchasing racks and other cable management equipment is an added expense but without them it turns an easy addition or line replacement into a guessing game of which batch of cables goes where. Label the cables, colour code them, whatever you need to do so you know (for example) that cable batch red goes to the sales offices and that red-1 & 2 goes to the sales managers desk. Since his internet and phone kept having the issue you know which cables to troubleshoot and possibly replace.


You don’t want your comms room looking like this

This example garnered the ‘Best Dressed System’ award at the CEDIA 2016 show


Tip 4:

Do NOT run cable alongside electrical cables and be wary of what your cable is near

Some data cabling consists of unshielded twisted pairs of wire inside of the cable. This generates a magnetic field that is vital for the cable to actually work. Furthermore cabling is unshielded. It has no protection against the magnetic field generated by electrical cables. If you do this, at best your signal will have static, at worst the signal just won’t make it and you’ll have to re-run all of that cable you just ran. Fluorescent lighting, most motors, pretty much anything that gives off a lot of interference via electricity or magnetism will do the exact same thing as running your cable next to electrical cables. A good rule of thumb is if it buzzes loudly you should probably avoid running cable next to it.


Tip 5:

Know your cable length limitations

As mentioned, the standard limitation for a length of cable is approximately 90 meters. There are specific instances and types of cable in which you may go further (or shorter), but that is on a case by case basis.


5C Services Ltd. would be more than happy to advise you in this matter. Our engineers have had plenty of experience in cabling up businesses. We conform to the latest standards and want to make sure that your newly installed infrastructure fulfils your needs for now and the future.

We also provide a service in the wireless field. 5C Services Ltd. has two fully certified Enterprise Wireless Administrators, who will complete a site audit for you (if requested) and make sure that the appropriate equipment for the environment is installed. Furthermore, they will make sure, that it is actually configured correctly too.