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A Standards Diatribe

Editorial advisory boards are common in the trade publishing industry, but just how relevant they are varies from magazine to magazine. Much of it depends on the amount of interaction and face-to-face...


January 1, 2007  


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Editorial advisory boards are common in the trade publishing industry, but just how relevant they are varies from magazine to magazine. Much of it depends on the amount of interaction and face-to-face time that occurs between the editor and board members.

CNS is fortunate to have a core group of eight individuals, whose names appear to the right of this editorial in the masthead.

Some have been with the magazine since its launch in 1998, while others such as Brantz Myers, Henry Franc and Peter Sharp are recent additions.

All have opinions on a variety of issues, be it Augmented Category 6 (see p. 34), the burgeoning data centre market, Power over Ethernet, RJ-45 technology, (which at least one member feels should be replaced for some applications), the need for IT and structured cabling personnel to work more closely together, and whether or not BICSI members are getting the best bang for their buck.

The discussion is always lively at the three or four advisory board meetings that take place throughout the year no matter how many are able to attend.

That was certainly the case at our last session in late November when the sticky topic of standards came up. Sharp, a senior telecommunications consultant with the engineering and consulting firm of Giffels Associates Ltd. and member of the Telecommunications Industry Association, wondered if in the structured cabling industry at least, they are necessary in the first place.

“The whole idea of having a standard is to provide cherry picking and interoperability,” he pointed out. “As long as it meets the IEEE specification for the 802.3 interface, who gives a diddly-squat whether it complies with standards or not. You could be using wet string – who cares as long as it does the job.”

What prompted the diatribe was word of an open tender bid for a contract somewhere in Southern Ontario that will revolve around the pending Augmented Category 6 and 10GBASE-T copper cabling.

Assuming you feel that standards are important, the problem here is that there is still not a Category 6A standard, barely an IEEE 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard, and currently only a limited amount of 10 Gigabit Ethernet over copper cable in the marketplace.

Board member Bob Kostash, the Canadian regional sales director for Commscope Solutions Canada Inc., suggested that such a move is akin to trying to turn new technology into a commodity even before the technology has been standardized.

“I understand the dynamic and I know how the market works, and of course we will participate in the tender,” he said.

“It’s just a shame it’s happening … I was going to say before the ink is dry, but they haven’t even put the ink in the pen yet.”

Sharp, meanwhile, who in the past has been chair of three TIA subcommittees, maintained that the standards process that exists simply is not working in the way the end user might expect it to.

“I see the confusion that is written deliberately into a particular standard so that it means that everyone is equally unhappy,” he said. “I do not see the end user being protected in the development of those standards and yet the whole intent is to create a system that commoditizes a product and therefore drives the price down.”

I would like to know your thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree, send an e-mail to pbarker@cnsmagazine.com and any and all responses will run in an upcoming issue of the magazine.