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Hit With the TE Blues

There's a problem brewing on the standards front and it all has to do with something called the tiny telecommunications room.Those of you who have been around before the advent of cabling standards wi...

June 1, 2003  

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There’s a problem brewing on the standards front and it all has to do with something called the tiny telecommunications room.

Those of you who have been around before the advent of cabling standards will remember the early days of Ethernet and the various distributed electronics topologies that were used and the pains of each approach. Well, brace yourself because here they come again.

Two years ago at the cabling standards conference in Montreal, a group of systems furniture manufacturers got together and made a presentation to the pathways and spaces sub-committee to allow for a new space called the ‘tiny telecommunications room’ or ‘tiny TR’ for short.

This new space was to be placed out in the systems furniture and would provide voice and data connectivity to a cluster of work areas contained within a small area.

A number of cabling models were presented to the group, votes were taken and it was agreed that this new space could contain electronics provided it followed the cabling topologies already firmly established in the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B series of commercial telecommunications cabling standards.


Over the last couple of years, the pathways and spaces sub-committee has been working on the five-year revision of the current document to be called ANS/TIA/EIA-569-B once published.

All the addendums associated with the ‘A’ version have been rolled in as well as defining the ‘tiny TR’ and calling it a telecommunications enclosure (TE). Essentially, the TE must meet all the same requirements as the TR, but on a smaller scale.

As the ‘B’ version of the document made its way through the ballot process, the much despised (my opinion only) TE survived two industry ballots. Though it did generate many ‘No’ votes, it did survive.

Now we are in the default ballot phase of the document, which basically means that by the end of the year the ‘B’ version should be published with this new space.

What makes this whole process frustrating is that the cabling sub-committee had been approached by BICSI some time ago to provide cabling directions for this new emerging space.

Since the cabling sub-committees were busy trying to complete the work for Category 6, no work was done to deal with the emerging TE.

Now that the TE has more or less survived the balloting process, the cabling sub-committees have to deal with this new space and do it quickly.

My greatest fear is turning this space loose out into the marketplace and not have any directions as to how to incorporate the darn thing into the existing cabling topology that has become the foundation of telecommunications cabling design and engineering.

The misconceptions of the new space abound. Hell, some people in the industry even think that they can put electronics in the TE and run patch cords out to the PC’s.

Remember, this is a smaller version of the TR and though it may contain electronics, it shall contain a horizontal cross-connect and it may provide slack cable storage as fibre cable passes through it, as in the case of the centralized fibre topology, there are to be absolutely no direct connections between electronics and workspace devices.

In February, the cabling systems sub-committee voted to create a new addendum to address this new space. At the June session, the draft addendum was presented and a vote was taken to issue the document straight to an industry ballot. The motion was approved.

It should be pointed out that depending on the nature of any new document it might go to committee ballot prior to being released to the industry.

In this case, since the sub-committee is in react mode, it was felt, and subsequently approved, that a clear message needed to be sent to the industry acknowledging this new space within the cabling topology: It is coming and work is being done to incorporate it into the standards.

On the commercial building side of things early indications are that though the facilities departments of organizations like this approach, as costly space hungry TR’s are eliminated, the IT departments are against it.

But once again, the manufacturers get what they want, and meanwhile, the poor IT departments are left trying to figure out what do with this thing.

My suggestion is to wait. Besides, many companies are in the process of performing remedial work on their current networks to make them VoIP and IP conferencing-ready, IT departments have other priorities. You don’t always have to be first.

Mark Maloney, RCDD, is a Senior Consultant with Ehvert Engineering in Toronto and a member of Cabling Systems’ Editorial Advisory Board.