Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Cable Details

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) Cable
Unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cabling, as it is used in Ethernet LANs, consists of four pairs of color-coded wires that have been twisted together and then encased in a flexible plastic sheath. As seen in the figure, the color codes identify the individual pairs and wires in the pairs and aid in cable termination.

The twisting has the effect of canceling unwanted signals. When two wires in an electrical circuit are placed close together, external electromagnetic fields create the same interference in each wire. The pairs are twisted to keep the wires in as close proximity as is physically possible. When this common interference is present on the wires in a twisted pair, the receiver processes it in equal yet opposite ways. As a result, the signals caused by electromagnetic interference from external sources are effectively cancelled.

This cancellation effect also helps avoid interference from internal sources called crosstalk. Crosstalk is the interference caused by the magnetic field around the adjacent pairs of wires in the cable. When electrical current flows through a wire, it creates a circular magnetic field around the wire. With the current flowing in opposite directions in the two wires in a pair, the magnetic fields - as equal but opposite forces - have a cancellation effect on each other. Additionally, the different pairs of wires that are twisted in the cable use a different number of twists per meter to help protect the cable from crosstalk between pairs.

UTP Cabling Standards
The UTP cabling commonly found in workplaces, schools, and homes conforms to the standards established jointly by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the Electronics Industries Alliance (EIA). TIA/EIA-568A stipulates the commercial cabling standards for LAN installations and is the standard most commonly used in LAN cabling environments. Some the elements defined are:
Cable types
Cable lengths
Connectors
Cable termination

Methods of testing cable
The electrical characteristics of copper cabling are defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE rates UTP cabling according to its performance. Cables are placed into categories according to their ability to carry higher bandwidth rates. For example, Category 5 (Cat5) cable is used commonly in 100BASE-TX FastEthernet installations. Other categories include Enhanced Category 5 (Cat5e) cable and Category 6 (Cat6).

Cables in higher categories are designed and constructed to support higher data rates. As new gigabit speed Ethernet technologies are being developed and adopted, Cat5e is now the minimally acceptable cable type, with Cat6 being the recommended type for new building installations.

Some people connect to data network using existing telephone systems. Often the cabling in these systems are some form of UTP that are lower grade than the current Cat5+ standards.

Installing less expensive but lower rated cabling is potentially wasteful and shortsighted. If the decision is later made to adopt a faster LAN technology, total replacement of the installed cable infrastructure may be required.

UTP Cable Types
UTP cabling, terminated with RJ-45 connectors, is a common copper-based medium for interconnecting network devices, such as computers, with intermediate devices, such as routers and network switches.

Different situations may require UTP cables to be wired according to different wiring conventions. This means that the individual wires in the cable have to be connected in different orders to different sets of pins in the RJ-45 connectors. The following are main cable types that are obtained by using specific wiring conventions:

Ethernet Straight-through
Ethernet Crossover
Rollover


Using a crossover or straight-through cable incorrectly between devices may not damage the devices, but connectivity and communication between the devices will not take place. This is a common error in the lab and checking that the device connections are correct should be the first troubleshooting action if connectivity is not achieved.
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