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January 2010

Bridging Technology

Copper continues to be the standard for residential wiring needs

On any given Sunday, why would anyone brave sub-zero degree temperatures at a football game when they could watch it in the comfort of home on a giant plasma flat screen with Dolby surround sound?

Why drive to the mall to buy your favorite artist's new album when, in seconds, it can be legally downloaded on your home computer?

Why wake up and log on to your desktop when you could stay in bed and surf the Web wirelessly on your laptop?

New Technology High-resolution version of this photo.

Advances in technology are enabling us to create new routines and cast off the old ones. Each is anchored in convenience, can be performed with a mouse click, and completed while still in PJs.

Even as the power and prevalence of internet connections, home theaters and entertainment systems grow, one constant remains the bridge to newer technology: copper.

"It's not a secret that copper plays a major role when any kind of wiring is involved," said Copper Development Association (CDA) vice president, Bob Weed. "Looking forward, we feel copper will continue to offer the consumer the best option for any new wave of technology in the pipeline."

The latest generation of copper communications wiring is Augmented Category 6 copper wiring, commonly referred to as " Cat-6a." Once preferred for commercial office environments, Cat-6a is now being implemented more and more for residential use.

This Cat-6a is designed to handle 10Gb/s (Gigabits per second) data rates. This makes it ideal for installing multiple applications through the network simultaneously. It allows large-file transfers and bundled cable implementations for channels up to 100 meters. And, it can support high-end security applications and the distribution of digital audio and video.

"10Gb/s is the best commercial grade for copper and fiber optics," said Dave Hess, the technical manager, LAN Standardization for Nexans Research and Development. "Cat-6a can handle 10Gb/s pretty handily."

To illustrate its speed, via a 10Gb/s connection rate, downloading a typical DVD of about 3GB would take around just 24 seconds.

"A lot of wireless used in residential applications is typically between 1-10Mb/s, with new wireless being around 50Mb/s," Hess said. "While 10Gb/s is currently ideal for commercial applications, as applications for the home rapidly progress, it seems 10Gb/s is well suited for future residential technology. To hook up High Definition Media Interface (HDMI), you need at least 5Gb/s for 1080 quality" both of which are quickly becoming the benchmarks for any new TV purchase.

To handle this technology, there are two choices: fiber optics and copper. While fiber optics is preferred for government data transfers and commercial networks because of its secure lines and ability to cover large distances, copper remains more cost-effective, is equally suited to commercial and residential use, and makes up the last 100 meters of commercial networks. Also, copper can carry lower levels of power, enough to power security cameras, card readers or other devices in commercial and residential buildings.

"Copper is cheaper and much easier to install," Hess said. "Copper mainly reaches 100 meters, and the extra distance fiber can offer is lost in residential settings."

"This technology is still pretty new. But already, we're reaching milestones in commercial and also residential, success. Everything now is being built with 10Gb/s. So, despite the recession, the future is looking green." Cu


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