The Ultimate Guide to Structured Cabling Installation

Discover how to identify, build, and install structured cabling systems in offices, data centers, and commercial building construction.

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Low-voltage wiring is everywhere. The rapid and continuous expansion of technology from simple wiring for telegraphs and telephones to complex structured cabling networks for data, voice, audio/visual, Wi-Fi, and many other systems has created an electrical industry specialty.

This guide will explore the fundamentals of structured cabling installation, its importance, key components, and considerations for optimal performance.

By understanding the intricacies of structured cabling, you can ensure a robust and reliable structured cabling infrastructure tailored to your needs.

Download your free copy of the guide to keep in your back pocket. Or, if you’re ready to dive in, continue your journey below.

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What are Structured Cabling Systems?

Structured Cabling system

A low-voltage structured cabling system is one of the most crucial foundations of your network for voice and data in a building or campus. The organized collection of copper or fiber wiring and other components in walls, ceilings, conduit, and elsewhere connects all your IT hardware, including computers, telephones, security cameras, copiers, entry access points, transition points, and more, to your networks for phone and data.

Structured cabling installation encompasses a thorough arrangement of organized cabling and accompanying hardware, serving as the backbone of contemporary networks. Its significance lies in its ability to deliver scalability, reliability, and adaptability, guaranteeing an efficient data and communication framework for businesses and residences.

This infrastructure collection is unique to each building installation and includes patch panels, trunks, and a variety of other components besides low-voltage data cabling. It is what makes telecommunication solutions possible. This system can be likened to the central nervous system in the human body, where the spinal cord, nerve pathways, and end points are the conduits for signals between the body and the brain.

When designed well, low-voltage network cabling provides flexibility, optimizes uptime, is easily scalable for future increased usage needs, and provides a good return on investment (ROI).

Structured Cabling Installation Guide

Preparation

Before beginning the installation, conduct thorough site surveys to assess the environment, evaluate existing infrastructure, and plan cable routes. To ensure efficiency, choose appropriate connecting equipment tailored to your installation needs.

Installation Process

  • Cable pulling: Carefully pull fiber cables to prevent damage.

  • Termination: Attach connectors correctly for optimal connectivity.

  • Testing: Conduct exhaustive tests to validate signal quality, cable continuity, and compliance with standards.

  • Certification: Document and verify the entire installation for reliability and performance.

Professional vs. DIY

Consider the pros and cons of professional installation versus DIY. A professional structured cabling installer ensures precision and compliance but comes with associated costs, while DIY offers cost savings but requires time, knowledge, and potential risks of errors.

Optimizing Functionality

  • Labeling and Organization: Proper labeling facilitates easy tracing and management of coaxial cables, reducing messy cabling and downtime during maintenance or troubleshooting.

  • Future-Proofing: Select a structured cabling system designed for scalability and flexibility to accommodate future upgrades and technological advancements, safeguarding your investment in the long run.

How Does Structured Cabling Work?

office-network-cabling

Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system assembles different components that, when combined efficiently, provide the optimum infrastructure for a wide range of business communication uses. Structured cabling companies comprise this assemblage of 6 subsystems, each with their specific function and subsystems and components.

The six structured cabling subsystems include Horizontal Cabling, Vertical Cabling, Entrance Facility Structured Cabling, Consolidation Point Structured Cabling, Telecommunications Enclosure, and Work Area Components.

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Horizontal Cabling

The horizontal cabling subsystem connects work area telecommunications outlets to a telecommunications closet and includes most of the cabling in the total system.

Other components for horizontal cabling include cable terminations (where wire or fiber connects to a device), telecommunication outlets (the data/voice outlet that desktop phones and computers plug into), one or more transition points (where one type of cable connects to another type), cross connections between cable runs, workstation equipment, and subsystems (primarily using patch cords and jumpers).

Vertical Cabling

Vertical Cabling, also known as Backbone Cabling, is the core subsystem of patch cables and components that provide cross-connections between and among telecommunication rooms, entrance facilities, and equipment rooms and connect separate buildings within a campus.

Besides the actual cables and internet connections, vertical cabling includes cable routing components such as conduits, raceways, and through-floor penetration sleeves.

Entrance Facility Structured Cabling

Entrance Facility Structured Cabling subsystem includes all the components for connecting a building to an outside data/telecommunication service provider or a private network cabling system. Entrance Facility cabling can connect backbone cabling between buildings like vertical cabling.

It is where the service provider connects with the customer/building being served. Electrical codes enforced in the location of the building dictate the required components for this subsystem.

Telecommunications Enclosure

The Telecommunications Enclosure (or room for larger networks) is where horizontal cabling and vertical cabling subsystems terminate and cross-connect. Components include main and intermediate cross-connects, patch cords, and auxiliary and connecting equipment.

Consolidation Point Structured Cabling

For even larger networks, one or more centralized Equipment Rooms that are environmentally controlled for cooling (consolidation point) house major equipment such as routers, servers, and other mechanical termination components.

It is a consolidation point for a structured cabling system. The Entrance Facility cabling or telecommunications enclosure/room for smaller networks can also serve the same purpose.

Work Area Components

Work Area subsystems connect the end user’s workstation equipment of computers, phones, copiers, and more to the telecommunications connector, resulting from the horizontal cabling subsystem.

Work area components include the outlet and patch cables, PC adapters, fiber, and other cables. Usually, the workstation equipment is also considered a component of this subsystem.

What is Considered Low Voltage?

Generally, low-voltage wiring is an assembly of cable and components for everything that is separate from standard electrical wiring for mid- to higher-voltage items. These items include light fixtures, switches, power outlets, and direct connections for powering equipment such as heating and cooling systems.

We’re talking about low voltage for communication and other equipment that uses 50 volts of electricity or less. Low voltage also provides a pathway for different digital technology systems to connect, communicate, and share data. These systems include voice/phone and data, security and intercom, and more! This is accomplished using a variety of low-voltage network cabling options.

Ethernet Cabling Installation

network security installation

Ethernet cable installations are commonly used to connect devices like PCs and routers within a local network. Different categories of copper-based Ethernet cables are used depending on the required speed of data transmission and the distance between the connected equipment.

Cat5 cables are the most common and support data transmission speeds of 10 to 100 Mbps between connections of around 300 feet, after which there is a loss of communication signal strength. Cat 5e (enhanced) supports high-speed data transmission up to 1000 Mbps.

Cat 6 structured cabling supports even faster data transmission to 10Gbps and can run up to 700 feet before signal loss. Fiber optic installations are best for the fastest speeds and even greater distances. Fiber cable is made of glass strands as opposed to Ethernet’s copper. Glass carries digital information with light instead of electrical currents carried by copper.

Voice & Data Cable Installation

Digital Voip Desktop Phone

Voice and data cabling for phone systems and internet connections use the same categories of copper-based Ethernet and glass-based fiber optic cabling, depending on the end user’s requirements.

Data cabling contractors run phones and cables to every cubicle and office to connect devices back to telephone closets/telecommunication enclosures and server rooms.

Security System Cabling

warehouse security camera

Security system cabling is another network system connected by low-voltage structured cabling. Typically, low-voltage cabling companies use Cat5e or Cat6 cables run through walls to connect cameras to a server or network video recorder equipment.

These cable types can also provide power to security cameras and other devices, such as phones, eliminating the need for separate power wiring. Power-Over-Ethernet technology requires a PoE network switch or similar device within the cabling network.

Intercom Cabling

Telephone entry system

Intercom cabling is another system within a low-voltage wiring contractor’s work. Short for Intercommunication Device, an intercom is a stand-alone cabling system for voice and video communication within one or more buildings.

A person can speak into an intercom device or microphone and be heard and possibly seen by another person in another room or area. Intercoms can be part of a security system or used to broadcast information over a large area. Wired intercom systems use Cat5, Cat 5E, or Cat 6 cabling, depending on the application.

When Should Low Voltage Be Installed?

low-voltage-electrician

Low-voltage structured cabling is a subspecialty of the electrical trades. An electrical contractor and professional structured cabling installer may have their low-voltage crew. Still, a specialty low-voltage installation company is often hired because of rapid technology changes that many non-specialty organizations can’t maintain.

As an electrical subspecialty, low-voltage installation is usually performed concurrently with or shortly after rough and finish electrical work, which is mostly after other trades have completed their work.

Commercial Building Construction

In commercial building construction, it is important that low-voltage wiring pathways are well thought out. Whether new construction or an existing space renovation, coordinating with the other trades that will be installing their work in proximity to the low-voltage cable runs helps avoid mistakes that affect the performance of the low-voltage network system.

The plans and specifications for the projects will list standards, reference codes, and guidelines that must be followed. Well-informed low-voltage wiring companies will understand and comply with the standards that govern their trade.

Data Center Architecture & Installation

Data centers house critical applications and data for a single or multiple organizations. All IT content is sourced from or passes through a data center’s infrastructure of servers, routers, switches, firewalls, and other components. Data center cabling solutions will include Ethernet cabling and data center fiber cabling. There are many types of data centers.

They can be a room in a building, an entire building, multiple buildings, cloud-based, or combinations of the same. Data center architecture and installation ideally come from a design that factors in flexibility, resiliency, redundancy, security, and future scalability, made by qualified data cabling contractors.

Office Network Cabling

Office network cabling in an existing occupied facility can be a challenge. Carefully planning every aspect of the installation will help avoid future problems and can include flexibility for current and future needs. Choosing the correct cabling solutions will ensure the desired connectivity, speed, and performance.

Labeling and color-coding cables for specific purposes helps with installation and future troubleshooting. Also important is correct cable length. Different cable categories lose signal strength after a certain length. Network cabling installation in an occupied space should be done when there is minimal staff present.

FAQs

What are the 3 categories of structured cabling standards?

The three main categories of structured cabling standards are ANSI/TIA-568 (Telecommunications Industry Association), ISO/IEC 11801 (International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission), and IEEE 802.3 (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). 

These standards define the specifications for the design, installation, and performance of structured cabling systems, including requirements for cabling components, distances, transmission speeds, and testing procedures. Adhering to these standards ensures the cabling infrastructure’s interoperability, reliability, and scalability.

How long does structured cabling installation take?

A small installation in a single building may take 3 days or more to complete, while larger projects spanning multiple buildings or campuses can take 4 weeks or months. 

The duration of structured cabling installation varies depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the installation, existing infrastructure, and site-specific challenges.

Conclusion

Hire a qualified specialty low-voltage company to design, build, and install low-voltage and structured wiring infrastructures to provide efficient and optimized communication and digital technology network performance. 

This guide only skims the complexities of low-voltage wiring and structured cabling installation. There are infinite factors to consider when designing and installing structured cabling networks for the large array of technology-driven devices and systems.

As technology expands, so will the component options and installation methods required by structured cabling companies to keep up with the needs of the end users. For peace of mind, hire a professional low voltage wiring company and the right structured cabling installer committed to keeping up with technological advances and adhering to best practice standards for their specialties.

If you have any additional questions about structured cabling installation or low-voltage wiring, do not hesitate to contact a trusted professional in the field.

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