Original BIX block evolves after more than two decades of service

After more than two decades and what the company says are billions of cable connections, Pointe Claire, Que.’s Nordx/CDT Inc. has finally launched an evolution to its venerable BIX cross-connect system.

The company’s new GigaBIX cross-connect system is designed to deliver performance for companies deploying new higher-density Category 6 and 7 copper cables, which transmit data at levels between 155Mbps and 1Gbps.

Despite being developed for voice communications, the original BIX system, first developed in the late ’70s and which will still be available, was tested in the early ’90s and found to be capable of supporting installations up to Cat 5e (100Mbps) cable, said Nordx representative Benoit Chevarie.

“Basically with the GigaBIX, the core of that (BIX) system which is the connector itself has not physically changed. It’s still the same performance,” outlined Chevarie, a product line manager for GigaBIX at Nordx. “What we did is upgrade all the components surrounding that connector. It’s much easier to terminate high performance cable to this system, and much easier now to manage either the cross-connect wire – because you can do your cross-connecting using unjacketed cross-connect jumper cables – or GigaBIX patch cords for plug-and-play changes. So management of both these media is much easier now with the GigaBIX. That’s mainly the advantages of the new features that we introduced.”

Cross-connect systems such as Nordx’s are mainly installed in customer premises, either at the building entrance and/or in telco closets for distribution of services to the desktop.

“It’s designed for…an office with all sorts of Cat 5 and Cat 6 wiring and you have to cross connect this,” explained Bill St. Arnaud, a senior director at Canarie, Canada’s Internet research institute. “Some of it has got to go to your telephone switch, some of it’s got to go to your data centre, some of it’s got to go to the video server – you use this type of device to cross connect those connections.”

Nordx said the GigaBIX system can terminate up to 14,400 twisted pairs, equivalent to 4,800 cables. However, the company sells termination kits – which include the mounts, connectors, label holders, labels, and mounting screws – for systems as small as 72 ports.

The system guarantees a channel bandwidth of up to 300MHz, almost twice what the BIX block offers, and the company says it can transmit data at up to 4.8Gbps. That latter figure is four times what both the BIX system and competitor Avaya’s VisiPatch system offers.

If installed by an enterprise’s service provider according to Nordx’s specifications, GigaBIX customers will receive a 25-year warranty on the system.

So far, Montreal’s Standard Life Insurance, TRW and Federal Express have all purchased the system, according to Nordx.

“For a very small premium in price compared to a BIX system, (enterprises) can standardize for both their voice and data on that new GigaBIX connector,” Chevarie said.

But in this bandwidth-hungry age, will companies settle for deploying copper cables rather than fibre?

According to Richard Cunningham, a senior analyst of optical networking for Cahners In-Stat Group in Las Vegas, Nev., the answer is most likely yes, due to the effort it takes to re-cable buildings with fibre.

“It’s easy not to do anything,” Cunningham said simply. “In that respect, a lot of organizations have a lot of inertia.”

Cunningham added many large enterprises fear the allegedly higher costs of fibre installation, despite the almost limitless amount of bandwidth it offers.

“For years, people have said, ‘Well, fibre’s more expensive than copper,'” Cunningham recalled. “And initially it was. And if you insist on comparing them, finding a fibre installation to look exactly like the analogous copper installation, then that still sort of holds true today.

“But you get so much more out of fibre, that if you look at (copper versus fibre) on any sort of potential per-bit cost rate, fibre’s cheaper.”

Nordx’s GigaBIX system is available now. Price is based on the size of the termination kit. The company can be found on the Web at www.nordx.com.

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