Avaya aims higher with new copper twists

Avaya Inc. says its latest copper cabling solution for enterprise LANs performs 400 per cent better than Category 6 (Cat 6) cables, but an industry analyst wonders about the company’s prospects with the new data conduit.

Avaya, headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., in April unveiled the Systimax GigaSpeed XL system – a collection of LAN components tied together with high-performing copper wires.

The company says the solution guarantees electrical performance that is 400 per cent better than the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA) draft standard for Cat 6.

“The benefit to the user is ultimately they have a system that is less prone to transmission errors,” said Bob Kostash, sales director for the connectivity solutions division of Avaya Canada. He added, “The killer has always been near end cross talk (NEXT).”

NEXT occurs when a copper pair induces an electrical charge on an adjacent pair in a cable. If the voltage is too intrusive the victimized channel could get confused and produce errors. Kostash said Avaya came up with new design tools to reduce NEXT and uphold that 400 per cent promise.

The company used modal decomposition modelling software to measure a number of electrical parameters and test the system in various real-word conditions, without having to physically recreate those conditions, Kostash said.

As well, Avaya employed a connector field pattern monitoring tool to modify the way connectors are built and see how those changes affect the performance before committing to form.

Meanwhile the Cable Twist Accuracy Technology tool (CTAT) made sure the pairs twisted just right to keep NEXT to a minimum and throughput high. The new Systimax system is meant to carry Gigabit Ethernet and 1.2Gbps ATM transmissions.

Kostash said Avaya also designed the LAN components – patch panels, an information outlet and patch cords – to the same standard. Strict standardization addresses a problem with mismatched pieces in the network.

Kostash said the Cat 6 standard calls for a characteristic impedance rating of 100 ohms, but allows for a variation of plus or minus 15 ohms. “You could buy a patch cord from manufacturer ‘A’ built to 112 ohms, and an outlet from manufacturer ‘B’ built to 91 ohms… That causes signal reflection, return loss and cross talk – all of the undesirables.”

Ohm is the unit of resistance in a circuit when one volt maintains a current of one ampere.

Although Avaya may have beaten Cat 6 performance, one industry observer questioned the viability of the firm’s new cabling solution.

“If you’re going to pull out your Cat 5, you’d be an idiot not to replace it with fibre (-optic cable),” said Lauri Vickers, senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz.

According to Vickers, fibre, which offers higher performance than Avaya’s latest copper cables do, will become the de facto standard in enterprise LANs. As far as she’s concerned, the Systimax system offers Avaya a “fleeting window of opportunity” as companies look to improve LAN speeds.

Kostash, on the other hand, said Avaya’s window of opportunity is wide open.

“Fibre to the desk still has a hurdle in the cost of the electronics,” he said. NIC cards for fibre systems are much more expensive than copper interfaces.

One of Avaya’s customers suggested that the Systimax system has longer legs than most. Greg Brown, director of telecommunications at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, Calif., said the school has an Avaya cabling solution that dates back to the mid-1990s and shows no sign of requiring replacement.

“Usually when we buy from Avaya, we find that the system is viable for a much longer period of time, especially in the early days when a new product first comes out,” Brown said. “It’s usually above the standard for the time, so we’re pretty confident about having a long life span for it.”

Kostash said he could not provide specific pricing for Avaya’s Systimax GigaSpeed XL solution; but he did say the cost-per-channel would be approximately seven to eight per cent higher than Avaya’s Cat 5-compliant cables and components. All of the pieces are available now. For more information, consult Avaya’s GigaSpeed-dedicated Web site, www.avaya.com/connectivity/gigaspeedxl