Study predicts premises migration to fiber-optic cabling

Study predicts premises migration to fiber-optic cabling

By KATHLEEN RICHARDS

By the year 2001, 67% of the organizations that plan to upgrade their networks intend to migrate at least part of their existing campus infrastructure to fiber-optic cabling, according to a study conducted by Sage Research Inc. (Natick, MA). Based on the same study, Sage forecasts that fiber, Enhanced Category 5, and Category 6 copper cabling will dominate the building backbone and horizontal portions of organizations` networks within two years.

Sage collected data on existing cabling and upgrade plans from 300 networking professionals at international and domestic organizations in the third quarter of 1998. Of the total respondents, 57% indicated an intent to upgrade at least a portion of their existing networks--campus, building backbone, or horizontal--from Category 3, Category 5, and shielded twisted-pair cabling to fiber, Enhanced Category 5, or Category 6 cabling within two years.

"There were very similar cable characteristics between the international and the domestic markets," says Matthew Grady, project manager at Sage Research. "The market is definitely going beyond Category 5. I think part of what is going on in the market right now is there is a bit of confusion. In the past couple of years everybody said, `Category 5 is the place to go.` Now they are looking for the next generation of cabling, or something beyond Category 5 such as Enhanced Category 5, Category 6, and fiber-optic cabling." High-bandwidth applications are fueling the migration to fiber-optic cabling, observes Grady.

Already the dominant medium in the campus infrastructure, fiber-optic cabling will supplant Category 5 as the prevalent cabling in the building backbone in the next two years, according to the Sage study. Companies with plans to upgrade their cabling had a higher use of Category 5 cabling than multimode fiber in their building backbone. But after these companies upgrade, the percentage of organizations using multimode fiber will increase, while those with Category 5 will decrease, notes Grady. At the time of the survey, 52% of the upgrading organizations used Category 5 copper cabling in the building backbone, while 35% had multimode fiber cabling. Within two years, 50% of the upgrading organizations will use multimode fiber in the building backbone and 27% will use Category 5 copper. Meanwhile, 50% of the companies not planning to upgrade their existing networks already use fiber-optic cabling in their building backbone, while 40% have Category 5 copper cabling.

In the horizontal network, the distinction is not as clear, the study showed. While Category 5 copper cabling has dominated the horizontal network in the past, there is currently a lack of direction as to the next cable generation. This lack of direction will allow a cable company the chance to establish its cabling as the next-generation product and claim market share, according to Sage.

The Sage study also collected data on the premium that companies upgrading to fiber were willing to pay for the higher-bandwidth cabling. Although a third of those organizations upgrading to fiber within two years are willing to pay between 15% and 20% more per node for fiber, almost half of those planning to upgrade to fiber are not willing to pay a premium (see Table).

Nevertheless, as installation and equipment costs fall, fiber-optic cabling is becoming the cable of choice, according to Sage Research. Network equipment manufacturers need to support fiber-optic cabling as well as copper cabling, the study concludes.q

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