Pre-terminated systems are factory manufactured cables and modular components with connectors already attached, already tested, and ready to plug into the network. Pre-terminated systems offer unsurpassed advantages over a conventional field system, so it's not hard to see why their use and popularity continue to grow.
And while the benefits do by far outweigh any negatives, this article offers a comprehensive look at the pre-terminated system, highlighting the benefits, but also looking at its limitations.
Pre-terminated systems are used in three key areas - the Data Center, Commercial Office Fit-Outs and Pre-Fabrication:
The Data Center
The modern Data Center requires a very quick deployment, and it is not uncommon for a Data Center operator to want to turn an empty data hall into a fully functioning and revenue-generating suite in a matter of weeks. Time is money, and as soon as the decision is made, they want to start earning revenue.Therefore, the time pressure quite simply dictates that pre-termination is essential for the rapid commissioning of new data halls. This involves both copper and fiber connectivity. MPO/MTP fiber is fast becoming the de-facto system for both single and multimode connectivity in this space due to ease of use and speed, not to mention the high density.
Each approach has seen a 'step-phase' in the time to deploy. Using conventional and fusion splicing pigtails within patch panels can take days if not weeks, pre-terminated conventional fiber can take days, whereas the time taken to deploy MPO/MTP can be measured in just a day or so if not hours.
Commercial Office Fit-Outs
Pre-termination for commercial office installations is becoming increasingly popular as project timescales are getting tighter and tighter. Whilst it is basically the same product set being used, there are a few key additions and techniques being utilized. One key difference is the lengths involved. They are usually much longer, and if there is a concern about the accuracy of drawings or measurements provided, some companies are opting to minimize their risks by just pre-terminating the floor outlet end at the factory. In effect, producing extremely long outlet to outlet assemblies that are tested fully if they are below 90m. If over this length, they are tested for continuity before being cut in half, labeled, packed, and shipped to the site to be pulled into position on site.
This approach is being seen almost as a two-visit approach to the floor locations. The first stage is to 'pull' or lay the loom, usually from the floor location back to the SERs (Secondary Equipment Rooms/Floor Distributors), at which point 'the floor' can be handed back to the main contractor for other trades, with the outlets or GOP (Grid Outlet Point) box bagged and coiled for safety under the raised floor. The termination of the other end can continue in the Secondary Equipment Rooms. On some projects, a two-shift process is used for speed, with the assemblies being pulled in overnight when the data installer has free access to the floors and the termination and testing are done through the day.
Along with the Solid Core Harness links used in the Data Center, it's common for the use of longer versions of these assemblies being used as Consolidation Cables in coordination with Consolidation Points that are used to service zones or service areas within a floor or building. Consolidation Points have been a building block within the standards for a long time, however, they have only recently started to come into their own due to the additional flexibility they provide in a dynamic office environment that undergoes a lot of moves and changes.
Every structured cabling system is unique. This is due to variations in the architectural structure of the building, which houses the cabling installation; the cable and connection products; the function of the cabling installation; the types of equipment the cabling installation will support - present and future; the configuration of an already installed system (upgrades and retrofits); and customer requirements.
The wiring system of the building can be composed as follows and as indicated in the below diagram:
Campus Distributor (CD) Building Distributor (BD) Floor Distributor (FD) Consolidation Point (CP) Telecommunications Outlet (TO)
Most backbone cabling systems between the Main Equipment Room (MER) and the SERs on each floor are typically fiber, with the occasional copper links as backup. There is an increasing demand for conventional tight-buffered fiber to be pre-terminated offsite. This approach not only saves a great deal of time, but it may also be essential due to the lack of power onsite for a fusion splicer.
Pre-fabrication is where complete sections of buildings are constructed in a factory-style environment and all services are pre-plumbed in. Initially, it used to be just power and water, but now complete walls for schools and hospitals are having all their services installed in a factory environment including items such as gas/oxygen and IT cabling. The completed wall is then wrapped up taken to the site by lorry and craned into position. Once delivered, it's a fairly quick and simple task to plug together and test.
This approach moves the resources to where they are needed and where they perform best. It also takes the use of Consolidation Points and Solid Core Consolidation cables to the next logical stage. By running Horizontal Cabling from the SER or Floor Distributor out to a consolidation point close to the location of the final position for the wall or walls for when they are craned into position. The solid core consolidation cables that have been installed within the wall, in the factory are just connected and tested, which means the time and resources required onsite are dramatically reduced. If everything is labelled correctly, it takes a fraction of the time and cost required for a traditional installation, hence the large number of construction companies that operate in the education and healthcare sectors who are looking to invest heavily in this approach.
The Pros and Cons
Used properly, pre-terminated solutions can bring a raft of benefits to cable installers and end-users:
Time Saving: A pre-terminated system helps to save time in various ways. Since the assemblies are factory terminated, they require minimal engineering or assembly work on-site, reducing many of the problems that may occur with field terminations.
Cost Saving: Although pre-terminated assemblies may have a higher initial cost since they include the factory termination time, the savings it provides go beyond the expense.
Space Saving: Available space in a Data Center is always precious. Data Center managers will embrace anything that contributes to promoting space utilization. With massive optical fibers being adopted in the Data Center to speed data transmission, pre-terminated assemblies offer much higher density and flexibility for future upgrades.
Labor Saving: With pre-terminated assemblies, you don't need as many on-site engineers pulling cables in and terminating them. As the pre-terminated links have been pre-tested, this vastly mitigates the need for troubleshooting and re-testing.
Security Benefits: Security is always paramount in Data Centers. And a pre-terminated cabling system does offer numerous security benefits. With a pre-terminated solution, less manpower is required for the installation, making it simpler to manage "contract personnel". While fewer specialist skills are required to install pre-terminated assemblies, enterprises can even use their own team to do the job.
Cooling Advantages: Heating and cooling issues matter significantly, especially in a high-density network environment. A pre-terminated cabling system allows much more flexibility in configuration for installers working in a compact space. Optimized airflow can be achieved by using pre-terminated assemblies such as trunk cables and plug-and-play cassettes, in conjunction with high-density frames.
Drawbacks of a Pre-terminated Cabling System
For all its advantages, the pre-terminated cabling system is something of a double-edged sword, which means it certainly has some downsides. One drawback is the accuracy measurement required. There is no turning up with cable assemblies that are too short or excessively long, and there is no containment space to store the excess cables. So accurate site surveys are rather essential.
Pre-terminated cabling provides an increasingly popular way of delivering a project in a more timely and cost-effective manner. It should not be confined to just major products, delivered by large integrators, but used for all sizes of projects. We recommend that a comprehensive planning and site survey is completed before installation to ensure that this is the best solution for you.