Cabling Job Terminology – CATV, Cat, and ISP/OSP

cat 6 cableAfter a basic review of what a cabling job requires on a professional level, the question still remains… What is specific knowledge that is needed in this career field? Many terms such as, CATV, Cat, and ISP/OSP are standard in the industry, but what do they mean and how are they applied to this field?

CATV is simply an abbreviation for cable television. All cable operators now use digital instead of analog to transmit their signals. The RF (radio frequency) signals are transmitted through coaxial cables. An alternate method, where light is transmitted through fiber optic cables is sometimes used. FM radio, high-speed internet, phone service and other technology may also use digital signals to transmit information.

When the terms Cat3, Cat5, Cat 6, and Cat6 are used. It is in reference to the category of cable being used. All three of these are cables in four color coded pairs. One pair is orange, one is green, one is blue, and one is brown. This color coding enables the cables to be consistent at both ends which is a requirement for systems to function properly. The “3,” “5,” and “6” associated with each category are the numbers of twists within each pair of cables. The more twists, the higher the quality of data transmission.

Cat3 cabling is mostly used for hard wired phone lines, but it is becoming antiquated technology. Even so, Cat3 may be found in older buildings and structures that have not updated yet. It will transmit at speeds of up to 16 Mbps. Cat5 is still used in the industry. Before the development of Cat6 and Cat 6A it was widely used in all communication systems. It provided more shielding between the different pairs of cables than Cat3 did.

Cat6 and Cat 6A are similar, but the 6A has more shielding between the wires than any of the previous types. Cat6 and Cat6A are quickly making the other types of cables antiquated technology since they provide better data transmission and resolution than the Cat3 and Cat5. High speed internet connections are more likely to used Cat6 and Cat6A.

ISP and OSP mean inside and outside plant. ISP is the connection of servers inside the same building. These can be in the same room or across the building, but essentially are what connect one hub to another.

In cases where one corporation takes up multiple buildings but wants to keep these buildings on the same server, OSP cable will be used. These cables, which are often Cat3 or Cat5, are integrated with extra weatherproofing measures. The OSP cables are most commonly laid within a plastic pipe to prevent damage from occurring from traffic, weather, and other factors.

An alternate method is called the direct burial method. This is when a company is either unable to place pipe to protect the wires or they can not justify the expense. Direct burial wires are given an extra layer of weatherproofing and are place directly into the ground. Initially this method is less expensive, but the potential for damage to the wires means that this method rarely used.

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