May 052017

Multi-Source Agreements (MSAs) are specifications developed by equipment manufacturers who collaborate to standardize the form, fit, and function of new devices, including connector interfaces, passive copper modules, and active optical modules.

MSAs for commonly deployed top-of-rack interconnect applications include:

Active MSA Projects:



With four new ISO/IEC and TIA cabling projects under development, it is more confusing than ever to cross reference the two groups’ cabling and component specifications.  This short primer should help.

In ISO/IEC Standards, structured cabling components (e.g. cables, connecting hardware, and patch cords) are characterized by a performance “category” and are mated to form a permanent link or channel that is described by a performance “class”.  In TIA Standards, components and cabling are both characterized by a performance “category”.  ISO/IEC and TIA equivalent grades of cabling, arranged in order of increasingly more stringent transmission performance, are shown below.

corresponds to TIA
(cabling and components)
Class D Category 5e Category 5e
Class E Category 6 Category 6
Class EA Category 6A Category 6A
Class I Category 8.1 Category 8
Class FA Category 7A No equivalent -
Class II Category 8.2 Class II*
* TIA  has substantial component-related work that needs to be done related to the specification of class II channels and the naming convention for components is unknown at this time.


Note that ISO/IEC class I/category 8.1 and TIA category 8 will not be electrical supersets of ISO/IEC class FA/category 7A.



Siemon, a leading global network infrastructure specialist, is pleased to announce that John Siemon, CTO and vice president of global operations, was recently named one of the recipients of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 2013 Leadership and Service Awards, which recognizes individuals for their significant contributions to national and international standardization activities, as well as ongoing commitment to their industry, their nation and the enhancement of the global voluntary consensus standards system.

Left to Right: James Pauley Chairman, ANSI Board of directors; John Siemon, CTO & VP Global Operations, The Siemon Company; Florence Otieno, Sr. Manager, International Standards, Telecommunications Industry Association; Herb Congdon, Associate VP, Technology & Standards, Telecommunications Industry Association

As the voice of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, ANSI oversees the creation, promulgation and use of thousands of norms and guidelines that directly impact businesses in nearly every sector. ANSI is also actively engaged in accrediting programs that assess conformance to standards, including globally-recognized cross-sector programs such as the ISO 9000 (quality) and ISO 14000 (environmental) management systems-both of which Siemon is proud to be certified.

As part of their 2013 Leadership and Service Awards, ANSI awarded John Siemon with the Astin-Polk International Standards Medal, which honors distinguished service in promoting trade and understanding among nations through the advancement, development or administration of international standardization, measurements or certification. The award was well deserved-as Siemon’s CTO, John oversees the company’s technology roadmap, intellectual property, and global membership and participation on standards bodies and trade organizations such as ANSI, ISO, IEC, CENELEC, IEEE, TIA, Ethernet Alliance, BICSI, US Green Building Council, CCCA and SDOs in a number of other countries.

Since joining the Siemon Company in 1985, John has also held a number of leadership positions, including Chairman of the TIA TR42.1 subcommittee responsible for commercial IT cabling; Chairman of BICSI’s Technical Information and Methods Committee; current Chairman of the US Advisory Group on Interconnection of Information Technology Equipment (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 25); and Project Leader and Editor for U.S. and international standards publications covering multiple generations of twisted-pair and optical fiber infrastructure used for voice and data connections throughout the world. He has also been featured in several global industry trade publications.

John Siemon was responsible for establishing the Siemon Company’s Development Engineering and R&D Laboratory. Since taking responsibility for Siemon’s Operations in 2002, John has expanded the company’s global supply chain capabilities with new manufacturing and logistics locations around the world. He is also the current Executive Vice President of the Yale Science and Engineering Association and holds more than 50 U.S. patents in the field of telecommunications cabling.

ANSI will honor John Siemon and the other 17 distinguished award recipients during an October 2 ceremony held in conjunction with World Standards Week 2013 in Washington, DC.


Portland, OR.  During last week’s TIA meetings, the TR-42.7 Copper Cabling Subcommittee accepted the concept of adding ISO/IEC Class II cabling performance criteria into its pending ANSI/TIA‑568‑C.2-1 category 8 project.  The Subcommittee also agreed to create a task group, which will be co-chaired Brian Celella of Siemon and Frank Straka of Panduit, to work on developing this criteria.

Here are answers to some common questions concerning this exciting new initiative.

What is ISO/IEC Class II cabling?  Class II is the name of the new ISO/IEC grade of cabling that will be constructed from fully-shielded ISO/IEC category 8.2 cords, cables, and connecting hardware.   Both class II and category 8.2 specifications are targeted to support the 40GBASE-T application over a distance of at least 30m and are under development by the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 25/WG 3 Working Group.  Category 8.2 components will be an extension and superset of existing category 7A components.

What connector interface will support this new TIA cabling?  The connecting hardware interface to support this new level of cabling has not yet been specified by TIA.  However, it is the opinion of the cabling experts at Siemon that the 8-position RJ-45 modular interface does not exhibit sufficient performance margin to support new requirements based upon ISO/IEC class II cabling.  Fully-shielded balanced twisted-pair connecting hardware characterized to 2 GHz, such as the IEC 61076-3-104 (e.g. Siemon TERA®) interface that is already standardized by ISO/IEC, would be ideal to support this new TIA level of cabling.

What are the implications of this new TIA initiative?  By accepting the concept of adding class II performance criteria and creating a task group to work on these limits, TIA is demonstrating that North American standards development organizations are ready to embrace fully-shielded cabling systems.  This is a strong and positive step towards global harmonization of the full suite of available IT network structured cabling solutions.


“40Gb/s throughput claims from cabling manufacturers are not the same as 40GBASE-T application support claims”

What is the status of the 40GBASE-T Standard?  40GBASE-T is currently under development by the IEEE 802.3bq 40GBASE-T Task Force ( formed in March of 2013.  The target publication date, as noted on the group’s Project Authorization Request, is February of 2016.  The Task Force has active liaisons with TIA and ISO/IEC to ensure that cabling requirements under development will support the application.

What is the difference between a 40Gb/s throughput and a 40GBASE-T application support claim?  Since the processing capabilities of 40GBASE-T PHY (i.e. the chip technology that delivers the Ethernet bit stream) aren’t yet defined, it’s impossible to guarantee 40GBASE-T application support for any media – including Siemon’s TERA® category 7A cabling.  Many cabling experts, including Siemon, have performed 40Gb/s throughput analysis using hypothetical PHY capabilities to explore technical feasibility and justify the initiation of a higher speed Ethernet project.   However, this research can be misinterpreted as a statement about the ability of a system to specifically support the 40GBASE-T application. For example, Nexans, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania, theoretically demonstrated 40Gb/s throughput over 100 meters back in 2009. More recently, TE has released a white paper also claiming theoretical support of 40Gb/s.  While valuable for research purposes, these papers are not the same as making a 40GBASE-T application support claim because the assumptions used to make a 40Gb/s throughput statements have been based on analysis using noise cancellation levels that are far better than a real-world commercially viable PHY chipset can achieve.  In other words, statements that refer to a system’s ability to support “40Gb/s throughput” have no relevance on future compatibility with 40GBASE-T network equipment, simply because these claims and models are de-coupled from technical requirements that are yet to be specified by IEEE 802.3bq.

Are any manufacturers making a 40GBASE-T application support claim?  If the ratified 40GBASE-T Standard specifies compatibility with category 7A or class FA cabling, Siemon will provide retroactive and future 40GBASE-T applications assurance for all Siemon TERA category 7A cabling systems that meet the length and topology constraints specified by that Standard. For example, if the IEEE 802.3bq Standard specifies compatibility with category 7A or class FA cabling having up to two connections and lengths up to 30m, we will provide 40GBASE-T applications assurance for installed Siemon TERA category 7A cabling channels that fall within those implementation requirements.  No manufacturer is making an unconditional 40GBASE-T application support claim at this time.

When will Siemon provide a 40GBASE-T application support claim? Siemon will provide a 40GBASE-T applications support claim for specific cabling system types, lengths and topologies when Standards requirements that clearly define the cabling characteristics, baud rate, and other digital signal processing capabilities of the 40GBASE-T PHY are finalized.

Will category 8 cabling support 40GBASE-T?  When published, TIA and ISO/IEC category 8 cabling will support 40GBASE-T.  However, category 8 cabling requirements are currently in a high state of flux and claims of meeting draft category 8 performance specifications are not meaningful at this early stage of development.  Siemon cautions that a demonstration of performance to a draft category 8 cabling specification is not the same as a 40GBASE-T application support claim.


A whitepaper from the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association’s (CCCA) data center committee is a guide for data center professionals and IT managers. The whitepaper examines the many factors to consider when evaluating top of rack (ToR) and structured cabling configurations, including the impact of those configurations on total management; scalability and upgrades; interoperability; equipment, maintenance and cabling costs; port utilization; power consumption and cooling requirements.

The Communications Cable and Connectivity Association’s (CCCA) newly formed data center committee has developed a whitepaper that is a guide for data center professionals and IT managers.

The whitepaper, Navigating the Pros & Cons of Structured Cabling vs. Top of Rack in the Data Center, examines the many factors to consider when evaluating top of rack (ToR) and structured cabling configurations. Topics include the impact of those configurations on total management; scalability and upgrades; interoperability; equipment, maintenance and cabling costs; port utilization; power consumption and cooling requirements.

This whitepaper is the first of many planned contributions from the data center committee. “The pace at which data center hardware and space configuration changes is daunting. CCCA recognized both a need and an opportunity to help guide data center cabling decisions by providing the latest studies, options and expert views from the industry’s leading cable and connectivity manufacturers,” states Executive Director Frank Peri. “As with our other working groups, the goal of the CCCA data center committee is to add our voice to the development of industry codes, standards and other important resources.”

The Data Center committee plans an active and ongoing global communications program using a variety of venues. “The global data center environment is dynamic and challenging for those designing the cabling network,” adds Bob Carlson of the Siemon Company and Chair of the new committee. “Cabling systems design and topology choices have a significant impact on server and port utilization, operating efficiencies and even energy consumption. The new committee strives to provide information and insights that are relevant globally to assist design professionals and end users to make well-informed cabling decisions.”

CCCA is comprised of leading manufacturers, distributors and material suppliers who are committed to serve as a major resource for well-researched, fact-based information on the technologies and issues vital to the structured cabling industry. For information updates on data center and other timely industry topics, visit the association’s website at, sign up for the quarterly newsletter, check the Communications Cable & Connectivity LinkedIn group, and CCCA’s YouTube page.


After debating the issue for three meetings cycles, the TIA TR-42.7 Copper Cabling Subcommittee adopted “category 8” as the name of their next generation balanced twisted-pair cabling system that is currently under development to support 40Gb/s transmission in a 2-connector channel over some distance up to at least 30 meters.  The issue of what to call this new system was a subject close to the hearts of many subcommittee members and both proponents and opponents of the new name argued tenaciously for their positions. However, the real question is just how much confusion the name category 8 is going to cause for the industry.

Traditionally, cabling categories are supersets of each other – meaning that a higher category of cabling meets or exceeds all of the electrical and mechanical requirements of a lower category of cabling and is also backwards compatible with the lower performing category.  While TIA specifies cabling systems up to category 6A performance, TIA chose not to adopt category 7 or 7A as published by ISO/IEC.  TIA has now decided to call their next generation cabling system “category 8” to avoid confusion with published ISO/IEC category 7 and category 7A standards, which are indeed supersets of each other and of category 6A.  While it’s true that the currently proposed category 8 specifications tentatively describe transmission performance up to 2 GHz whereas ISO/IEC specifies category 7A requirements up to 1 GHz, the performance limits proposed for category 8 today do not meet or exceed category 7A requirements up to 1 GHz.

So, herein lays the conundrum: category 8 is expected to have a different deployed channel topology and will not be a performance superset of category 7A.  In fact, for every transmission parameter except return loss, ISO/IEC category 7A channel and permanent link limits are more severe than those proposed by TR-42.7 for category 8 up to 1 GHz.  In the case of internal crosstalk parameters, the differences are significant: with category 7A beating out category 8 performance by more than 20 dB!

So what about bandwidth of specification?  While category 7A is currently specified to 1 GHz, new work items, such as the nearly finalized IEC 61076-3-104, 3rd edition standard for category 7A connectors, are extending category 7A performance characterization out to 2 GHz.  The situation of having two cabling specifications specified to 2GHz, with category 8 having much lower performance than category 7A, is really going to create confusion.

What to name next generation cabling systems is not just a TIA issue; ISO/IEC also faced the same challenge with their new project to define two new grades of cabling (shielded and fully-shielded) to support 40 Gbit/s data transmission.  ISO/IEC recently adopted class I to describe cabling constructed from shielded modular RJ-45 style category 8.1 components and class II to describe cabling constructed from fully-shielded category 8.2 components.

Until the processing capabilities of a 40 Gb/s Ethernet (40GBASE-T) application are finalized, it’s too early to guarantee 40GBASE-T application support distance for any media. However, fully-shielded category 7A solutions, such as Siemon’s TERA™, remain the highest performing twisted-pair cabling system commercially available today.  Not only do these solutions provide higher EMI/RFI immunity and more flexible cable sharing capabilities than RJ-45 style solutions, but ISO/IEC is actively working on a project to characterize the capability of existing category 7A cabling to support 40 Gbit/s data transmission.


The cover story of the latest edition of Processor magazine features an exciting story on Category 7A entitled “What About Category 7A Copper Cabling?”  In the article, you’ll learn how Siemon TERA remains today’s highest performing twisted-pair cabling system despite TIA’s new Category 8 nomenclature.

View the digital edition of Processor Magazine.


The wait is over!  During this week’s IEEE 802.3 meetings in San Diego, a new Study Group was formed to investigate creating a “Next Generation BASE-T” balanced twisted-pair copper Ethernet application.  A call-for-interest (CFI) presentation profiled the ever increasing server uplink speeds found in the data center; leading to the prediction that 40 Gbps and even higher Ethernet speeds will be required to support these connections in the near future.  Discussion focused on the unique features and benefits of balanced twisted-pair cabling, including backward compatibility, auto-negotiation, and small form factor, that are driving the need for a Next Generation BASE-T data center application.  Once the Study Group is formed, issues such as reach, topology, media performance, throughput, and PHY (Ethernet chip) complexity will be investigated in detail.  61 individuals from 40 companies, including Siemon, formally supported the CFI presentation.

Here is the link to the IEEE 802.3 call-for-interest (CFI) announcement and slide presentation if you would like to learn more:

IEEE press release for Next Generation BASE-T Ethernet:


The ANSI/TIA-606-B “Administration Standard for Telecommunications Infrastructure” published June, 2012.  This Standard specifies four classes of administration within buildings and between buildings based upon the complexity of the infrastructure being administered.  Administration requirements for commercial, industrial, residential, and data center premises are addressed.

Examples of recognized administration strategies include:

  • assigning identifiers to components of the infrastructure
  • specifying elements of information that make up records for each identifier
  • specifying relationships between these records to access the information they contain
  • specifying reports presenting information on groups of records, and
  • specifying graphical and symbolic requirements

The four classes of administration are:

  • Class 1 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a premises that is served by a single equipment room (ER)
  • Class 2 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a single building or of a tenant that is served by single or multiple telecommunications spaces (e.g., an equipment room with one or more telecommunications rooms) within a single building
  • Class 3 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a campus, including its buildings and outside plant elements
  • Class 4 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a multi-campus/multi-site system

Refer to the Siemon Standards Informant ( to learn more.  Copies of the Standard may be purchased from the IHS Standards Store (

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