Increasingly cabling systems for campuses and businesses are becoming more and more heterogeneous, requiring those who deal with these systems to face greater and greater challenges.

Communications systems for phones have not changed much in the past two decades. You don’t even need an IT department to run phone lines to a desk. The process is simple and easy to perform with a little bit of research.

In contrast data cabling systems have changed by leaps and bounds. In order to better understand the needs for data cabling, and the increasingly heterogeneous systems being put in place, here are a few things to keep in mind.


There are standards and standards organizations for cabling, and this is a good thing. Standards are released by these organizations to provide guidelines to increase system flexibility and durability. There are a number of standards, and which standard you choose to use will vary based upon your needs (most of these apply to commercial buildings):


This standard refers to wiring system requirements for commercial buildings that use local area network, data, voice and video systems. In Canada this is known as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) T529.


This is the commercial building standard for pathways and spaces. This defines both the design and construction practices used within and between buildings. In Canada this is CSA T530.


This is the design guidelines for administration of cabling infrastructure. In Canada this is CSA T528.


This standard refers to the building grounding and bonding requirements. In Canada this is CSA T527.


If you check out other places for cabling information (and you really should check a variety of resources to make sure all your concerns are addressed) you will read that planning is key. It really is.

Because data and voice systems have become more and more integrated in modern telecommunications networks the complexity of these heterogeneous systems have increased. You need to think about which areas, offices, rooms, cubicles etc. will need access to the network. Will you expand in the next few years? If you expand where will you run that new cable from? If you allow yourself the room for expansion later on down the road then you won’t find yourself struggling to add the new cable. Knowing where the walls studs are when you run cable through walls will make it easier to expand later on.

How many ports do you want to be able to plug into a single jack plate? Four ports per jack plate is fine for most needs, but you may need more.

Are you going to try and comply with industry standards? This may be necessary if you desire any sort of certification.

The planning stage is where you determine what your needs are so you do have to redo the cabling later on, which is a pain when doing so in a working office.


You have planned out where exactly your data cables are going to be installed. Now you need to determine your materials. There are typically three types of cables to choose form; Cat5, Cat6, and fiber optic. Cat5 cable is standard for most Ethernet networks that need speeds of 100 megabits or less, where as Cat6 is good for gigabit speeds. Fiber optic cable offers some of the fastest speeds but can also be the most difficult to install. With a structured, heterogeneous, system you will most likely use a variety of these cables depending entirely on the needs for each subsystem. In the end all of these different subsystems, and their cables, will all meet at the central patch panel. This is also where the Ethernet switches will be located.

Different cables will have different tolerances and the industry standards may call for specific cabling for specific subsystems. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the different standards during the planning stage. The different cables also require different tools for installation and for testing. To install Cat5 and Cat6 cable you need crimpers, end jacks, and a computer or lap top (to test the signal). Fiber optic cable will require tools for notching, tools for splicing, but you only need a simple light beam (red laser) to test for efficiency loss.

Cat5 and Cat6 cable can be bought easily in bulk, whereas you may need to purchase customized fiber optic cable. Speak with a fiber optic contractor or installer and that person will be able to help determine your fiber optic needs.


You have familiarized yourself with the standards as they apply to you, figured out about how much cable you need, and gathered most of the materials you need. Now you are ready for the installation. Well, almost. Installing Cat5 or Cat6 is relatively easy. Because there is a more degree of difficulty installing fiber optic cable you may wish to hire a professional depending on your needs. The Fiber Optic Association ( can help you locate the contractors, and licensed professionals.

This is only a brief over view of the steps involved with installation. Once you have decided on your specific needs finding more in depth tutorials is as easy using your favorite search engine.