More opting for newer cabling technology, survey reveals

Global study shows IT managers prefer Cat 6 or Cat 6a copper cabling in new installations.

Due to the increasing popularity of technologies such as IP convergence and enterprise mobility, most IT managers are considering new cabling technology in their overall plans to cater for more bandwidth, according to findings from a global study.

Conducted by cabling systems company Systimax, the survey polled 2,165 IT decision makers between March and April this year. The survey, conducted online, received responses from over 48 countries from companies with staff strength ranging from 50 to 10,000, and included both Systimax and non-Systimax customers. Nearly 10 percent of the respondents came from the Asia-Pacific.

Survey findings indicated that 72 percent of respondents would select Cat 6 or Cat 6a copper cabling for a new installation. About 17 percent selected Cat 5e as an option.

Category 6 and 10Gbps Augmented Category 6, or Cat 6a for short, are new cabling standards poised to replace older standards such as Cat 5e, which supports data speeds of up to 1,000Mbps.

Cat 6 offers data rates of up to 400MHz, and is used in high-speed broadband applications. It is the most popular cabling for new installs today--contributing to 70 percent of all new installs in 2004, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).

The Cat 6a standard on copper cabling, which will be ratified next June by the IEEE, will enable networks to support 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology, which provides data speeds of up to 10 billion bits per second. Cat 6a is also available on fiber optics, but is considered too costly for most companies to implement, compared to copper cabling.

"The survey shows that IT managers worldwide are willing to adopt new cabling technology at an early stage," said Ishpran Kandasamy, vice president and managing director of Systimax Asia-Pacific, in a phone interview with ZDNet Asia. "They want to make sure that they have bandwidth available as they need it."

"People may view cabling as a commodity, and ask what's so special about it. However, if they don't provision it properly, it could affect their capability to do business," he added.

Sandra Ng, vice president of communications, peripherals, and verticals research at research firm IDC Asia-Pacific, declined to comment on Systimax's research, but agreed that more companies will need higher network capacity as more people get online to access company resources and applications such as voice-over-IP (VoIP).

"Everyone we talk to today say that if they combine voice and data over the same infrastructure, they would have to double bandwidth requirements. With mobility added to the converged environment, there will be more uses (required of the infrastructure, and more capacity will be needed," she said.

The first to install Cat 6 cabling, Kandasamy said, would typically be companies setting up data centers or using bandwidth-intensive applications. These include organizations in the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries, which need to make sure their bandwidth can cater for forthcoming increases in data transfer.

He noted that more than 50 percent of cable installations in the Asia-Pacific region are still based on the Cat 5e standard. From the survey findings, he said that companies here are ready to move to Cat 6 or Cat 6a copper cabling, even though the Cat 6a standard has yet to be ratified.

"The electrical specifications associated with the (Cat 6a) standard have been fixed. Customers are confident and moving ahead," he said, adding that Systimax launched its Cat 6a products last December.

But an executive from rival cabling company ADC Krone, noted that companies from the United States and Europe are more likely to implement Cat 6a than their Asia-Pacific counterparts.

Basing his observations on feedback from customers in general, Carsten Quiram, IndoPacific marketing director, ADC Krone, said: "The Asia-Pacific is somewhat lagging behind the United States and Europe in installing Cat 6a. This time lag reflects a historical pattern similar to that of Cat 5, Cat 5e, and Cat 6."

"However, early adopters are already buying this solution, particularly in India, Australia, and New Zealand. We expect the uptake of 10GBase-T capable solutions to increase quickly in the coming years."