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All About Twisted-Pair Cabling

It’s probably a stretch to compare twisted-pair cabling — the type of cable commonly used in telephone and Ethernet cords — to an acoustic guitar. However, each is an iconic product with a long history and a blue-blood pedigree.

In both cases, technological innovations and cultural shifts have altered the product’s role. The data demands of the Internet, fiber-optic cable and wireless networks have changed the applications for which twisted-pair cable, first used is 1881, is well suited; musical tastes, not to mention the advent of electric and digital instruments, have changed the usage of acoustic guitars. But despite these shifts, the original product is still effective, in demand and not going away anytime soon.

Stay Current on Twisted-Pair Techniques
For electricians, this means understanding and correctly installing twisted-pair cabling remains vital, despite the popularity of wireless networks and the efficacy of fiber-optic cable in data transmission.

Fiber-optic cable may be used to send data to and from buildings, but it’s too expensive for widespread use within buildings. In addition, wireless network hubs need to connect with fiber-optic trunk lines somehow, with twisted-pair cable generally bridging that gap. When it comes to residential, commercial and industrial buildings, twisted-pair cable is still king.

“Running regular electrical wire is both art and science, and it’s the same with twisted-pair cabling,” says Sevan Muradian, an adjunct Computer Information Systems professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

To facilitate the artistic and scientific aspects of cable installation, one must be aware of the potential challenges. “The same concepts apply: Lay the cable out beforehand, know how much you’ll need and avoid certain types of environments,” Muradian says. “For example, you wouldn’t run twisted-pair wires overhead if you’ve got fluorescent lights there because the lights will give electromagnetic interference and cause data integrity issues. So you need to have a good, structured wiring plan for twisted-pair cabling implementation.”

Seek Certification
To master the finer points of twisted-pair installation, termination and testing (as well as other types of data transmission), electricians can pursue certifications such as the Information Transport Systems (ITS) installer credentials offered by BICSI, a Tampa, Fla.-based non-profit that serves the telecommunications infrastructure industry. Beyond ITS, BICSI also offers a higher credential, the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD).

In the field, “adding that RCDD to your title is almost like adding an M.D.-Ph.D.,” says John White, cable sales manager at Tripp Lite, a Chicago manufacturer. “It just adds so much to your credibility.”

In addition to the BICSI programs, several cabling manufacturers, such as Panduit and Ortronics, offer product-specific certified installer programs. Through these programs, certified installers gain training and the ability to offer extended product warranties.

Twisted-pair cable isn’t new, but its enduring functionality and utility are a testament to its genius. It may not be as beautiful as a vintage Martin guitar, but both products are classics.

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