Networking

What do standards mean?

We all know what a meter, hectare, litre, and second mean, but we may not be aware of the standards that define these units. In the field of technology, standards are very commonly used. Without standards it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible for us to use many technologies. For example, we would not be able to use any USB device on our computers and buy any GSM mobile phone to work with the mobile network if there were no standards. The telecommunications cabling field is no exception. We have standards for almost every aspect of the cabling infrastructure.

What are the standards?

A standard is a document outlining the best way to do or make something. Standards are established by national or international organizations and are followed by manufacturers, suppliers and users. Standards define minimum performance levels. Standards are used to compare, measure or quantify performance, value, quantity and other parameters. They differ from codes which are concerned with safety to people and equipment. Codes have the power of law and are enforced. Codes are followed without any exception, whereas the standards are adopted voluntarily. For the telecommunications cabling industry, standards are established by

•ISO/IEC (International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/ International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC))

•TIA/EIA (Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)/Electronics Industries Alliance)

•CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization)

•IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.)

•BICSI

•and many other organizations.

The standards are updated regularly to include latest development in technology and to address new challenges faced by users of technology.

Benefits of standards

There are many benefits of standards, some of them are:

•Standards ensure equipment made by different vendors work together (interoperability)

•Standards help us to measure various parameters and make comparison

•Standards ensure a minimum level of performance (benchmark)

Types of standards

There are a number standards used in the telecommunications cabling field. They include:

1.Commercial and residential building cabling and pathway standards (e.g. 1SO/IEC 11801 Ed.2:2002)

2.Grounding and bonding standards (e.g. ANSI/J-STD-607A)

3.Networking standards (e.g. IEEE 802.3an)

4.Standards for installation, administration and testing (e.g. ANSI/NECA/BICSI-568-2006)

5.Data center standards (e.g. TIA-942)

How standards are popularised?

The standards are established by consensus among the experts in the industry and are published by various international and national organizations. The ITS professionals in the Middle East may be familiar with the standards organizations mentioned earlier

The published standards are used by the manufacturers and suppliers of products, consultants, systems integrators and installers, and end users. They all refer to the relevant standards and ensure compliance when a cabling system is designed and installed. Various training programs in the industry, manufacturers’ product catalogs and installation manuals, publications from BICSI and the various other publications in the industry promote the use of standards. Those who want to refer the complete standards document can purchase them from IHS Global Engineering Documents.

What is the situation in Middle East?

The standards development has been quite active in US, Europe, Australia and Japan. Most of the rest of the world use one of these standards. In the Middle East there has been no local development of standards, instead all the countries use the standards published by ISO/IEC, ANSI/TIA/EIA, CENELEC, IEEE and BICSI. Though these standards are quite exhaustive and fulfill the needs of the Middle East market, there are some areas which may need local standards. It may be possible in future that some standards are established locally taking into account the specific characteristics of the Middle East environment.

Who can influence?

When the right standards are used while specifying, designing, implementing, and testing the telecommunications cabling infrastructure, it will benefit everyone a great deal. Most importantly the end user of the system will benefit a lot. Considering the importance of the ultimate benefit to the end user, everyone of us who plays a role in the telecommunications cabling industry must be familiar with the standards and use them wherever necessary.

The telecommunications cabling infrastructure in any building or campus play a vital role in information transport. They transport various information such as data, voice, video, audio, control signals, BMS (building management system) signals, and safety and security signals. The information transport is affected if proper standards are not followed. Since the telecom cabling infrastructure is not often visible to the end user, they are not considered in the same level of importance as, say, the servers and network equipment. If there is a failure in a server or network equipment, replacing it may not be very difficult. However, if the cabling system does not work, it causes downtime and productivity is lost. It has been found that almost 75% of the network problems are due to the cabling. It does not mean that the cabling components are of poor quality, in most cases the problems are caused by non-compliance to standards and best practices.

All those concerned need to know the standards and then they need to use the standards wherever applicable.

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