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Issue of May 2003 
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Special Feature: Cabling
CAT 6 to the fore

After taking five years to become a ratified standard, CAT 6 is finally picking up in the Indian market with every second cabling deployment making use of it. by Prashant L Rao.

K.K. Shetty, Country Manager, AMP Netconnect, Tyco Electronics Corporation India

The Indian market for structured cabling is estimated to be in the region of 250 crore. The grey market accounts for nearly 20 percent of this region. Of the Rs 200 crore solution sales market, 70 percent is copper and 30 percent fiber. CAT 6 cabling is a relatively new category. Industry estimates vary from Rs 70 crore to 115 crore. Most major projects kicking off today are being specified on CAT 6. The verticals where CAT 6 is dominant are IT and ITES, corporates, Government, R&D organisations, and Telecom. CAT 6's success can be seen in the fact that 50 to 55 percent of new cabling deals are accounted for by CAT 6.

A long time coming

CAT 5 was stable and dominant for quite a while. As bandwidth demands grew with the introduction of Fast Ethernet and ATM, changes were made to the CAT 5 standard to support the higher levels of throughput required (100 Mbps for Fast Ethernet and 155 Mbps for ATM). CAT 5 supported 10 MHz, the enhanced version; CAT 5e supported 100 MHz. CAT 5e at 100 MHz can run 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. The difference is in the network software protocol used. Gigabit Ethernet also works on CAT 5e.

CAT 6 took a long time to evolve. While work on the standard began in 1997, it was only in 2002 that the standard was finally ratified. Initially users didn't see a need for CAT 6. Products need to be interoperable and backward compatible; this took a long time with CAT 6. Today, companies use 100 Mbps (at the most) to the desktop with Gigabit Ethernet being restricted to the backbone for connecting servers. CAT 6 can handle a lot more than that and this headroom will continue to exist in the immediate future.

Advantage CAT 6

CAT 6 is a higher performing system than its predecessor at the physical level where it supports frequencies of up to 250 MHz vs. 100 MHz for CAT 5e. Cabling vendors are now waiting for switch vendors to catch up and take advantage of CAT 6's superior performance. "We expected CAT 6 to account for 25 percent of the cabling market, but its proliferation has been beyond expectations. CAT 6 has been gaining ground over the last two to three months. The easy availability of Gigabit copper modules from switch vendors is also contributing to the growth of the CAT 6 market as Gigabit Ethernet is now available for CAT 6," says D.S. Nagendra, Country Sales Manager, Krone Communications Ltd.

Cabling is a product with very long lifecycles. People are therefore cautious in adopting a standard until it is ratified. Now that CAT 6 has crossed this hurdle, people are willing to evaluate it. Companies with 500 node or larger networks are more likely to evaluate CAT 6. CAT 6 cabling performance is higher than that of its predecessor CAT 5e. The cost of native electronics to drive Gigabit Ethernet across networks will be lower on CAT 6 once companies get around to rewriting the Gigabit Ethernet specs for CAT 6. Once this happens, the total applied cost of CAT 6 networking will be lower than it is today. "Customers buying CAT 6 do so because it is the latest technology and investing in CAT 6 today future proves their network cabling setup," says M.C.Muthanna, National Sales Manager, Molex India Ltd.

S.V.Ramana, Vice President Systems Engineering, Cisco Systems (India & SAARC) says, "We opted for CAT 6 cabling since our network environment contains both 100/1000 Mbps devices." Cisco's deployment involved laying 305 km of cabling at Divyashree, Bangalore. Network Solutions Ltd did the implementation that took five months to
complete.

Who's using it?

CAT 6 has been used in fresh deployments and in expanding existing cabling infrastructure. Companies are not ripping out their existing CAT 5e infrastructure to put in CAT 6. Software houses, service providers and MNCs are the verticals going in for CAT 6. Some of these companies are Reliance Infocom, Infosys, Cisco and GE Capital. Deployment size varies from 300 to 40,000 nodes. The time taken to roll out CAT 6 varies from as little as 72 hours to several months depending upon several factors including site preparedness.

The challenge in India is to ensure that the quality of design, installation, testing and documentation is up to the mark. CAT 5e equipment from leading vendors tends to outperform the written specs by a factor of 2X. This makes CAT 5e simpler to install, you could almost say that CAT 5e is a more forgiving standard. CAT 6, on the other hand, is a more rigorous standard. If the spec calls for X performance level, equipment available delivers 1.2X. Therefore design and installation must be done using industry standard practices. K.K. Shetty, Country Manager, AMP Netconnect, Tyco Electronics Corporation India says, "You have to be extremely careful while deploying CAT 6."

Tomorrow's dominant copper cabling platform

CAT 6 is 30 percent more expensive than CAT 5e. "Initially there is a price difference. This will come down in the next five to six months. With that gap reducing, the next six to seven months will see CAT 6 emerging as the dominant standard for copper cabling. Fiber will continue to dominate the backbone," says Muthanna of Molex. "By next year we expect CAT 6 to be the dominant medium for Cabling," says Shetty of Tyco. Others agree. "We expect the CAT 6 market to grow faster than the Cat5e market and it will become dominant in the next three years. India is no exception to the development patterns world-wide, CAT 6 already accounts for the majority of installations in developed markets as people realise its potential," says Rajesh Shenoy, Key Account Manager India, Belden Australia Pty. Ltd. j

Prashant L Rao can be reached at plr@vsnl.net

CAT 6 deployments in India

Company No. of nodes Locations Vendor
Andhra Pradesh Secretariat Not Available Hyderabad (on-going project) Krone
Cisco 16,000 Bangalore Tyco
Cognizant Technology Solutions 3,000, 1,000-1,500 Hyderabad, Pune Tyco
Cognizant Technology Solutions 10,000+ Chennai (on-going project)  
Cognizant Technology Solutions 3,300 Kolkata Krone
GE Capital 40,000 CAT 6 is being used at new facilities in Gurgaon and Uppal  Tyco
I Nautix 5,000 Chennai Tyco
IGSL 11,000 Mumbai Krone
Infosys 30,000 Electronics City, Bangalore Tyco
Malabar Institute of Medical Sciences 600 Calicut Krone
Mascot 2,500 Bangalore Tyco
Mentorix 1,200 Mumbai Krone
Reliance Infocom Not Available Across India for data, CAT 5e is being used for voice  Molex
SSI 1,500 Chennai Krone
Vanenburg IT Park 10,000 Hyderabad Tyco
 
     
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