The ever evolving call center, and how to properly assess your structured cabling needs!

By Timothy D. Heisler, BICSI RCDD/NTS

Call Centers

Call Center cabling and infrastructure has continued to evolve over the last twenty years. In the beginning call centers relied on PBX systems with ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) software. Typically analog phones with headsets and supervisors with digital phones to monitor team members and assist when needed.These applications at a minimum used two Category 5E cables, one for the phone and one for the PC/Monitor. As Networks evolved and with the advent of VoIP the two cable scenario was still being used to provide the best Quality of Service (QoS) for both network bandwidth and voice bandwidth due to the limitations of the LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) to provide the necessary bandwidth to support voice and data services simultaneously.

As Network speeds increased from 10-Megabits to 100-Megabits and then to 1-Gigabit, it was also increasing in the building backbone and network hardware from 1-Gigabit to 10-Gigabit and then 40-Gigabit in most enterprise routers and switches. This was to support the faster speeds needed in the work area. This required the implementation of a robust Structured Cabling System capable of supporting current network speeds while providing a clear path for migration to faster equipment as networks evolved.

It seemed that Category 5E cabling had become obsolete as some designers and engineers believed. The strange thing was that many companies and call centers were still using their existing Category 5E cabling and maintaining satisfactory QoS for both voice and data networks.

Bandwidth, Bandwidth, Bandwidth! & VoIP and The Single Cable Solution!

As the LECs improved their infrastructure and converted entrance facilities from copper to fiber optics, the level and quality of network speeds available to the end user increased. Now instead of purchasing PRI T1's, MPLS (Bundled T1s), DS1, and DS3 services, OS1 and OS3 Optical solutions were available as well as enterprise switches and Gigabit Ethernet to provide the necessary bandwidth to properly support a combined voice and data infrastructure within the call center and business environments.

Category 6 / Category 6E / Category 6A / Category 6A STP-FTP

Category 6 cabling and OM3/OM4 Multi-mode. As Ethernet speeds increased from 1 Gigabit to 40 Gigabit network reliability improved as well making it possible for simultaneous voice and data using the same cable. VoIP comes of age! Now the carrier infrastructure and the building infrastructure were being developed to support the hardware and equipment necessary to support these applications and maintain the QoS needed for proper voice transmission and traffic without degrading or corrupting data in the same channel.

Category 6 & Category 6E Structured Cabling Systems are designed to support speeds up to 1 Gigabit in the work area and the backbone. Both work well but a Category 6E will provide additional headroom and QoS when a single cable solution is chosen or required to reduce cost. Many of our clients choose the Category 6E so they have the added assurance that their network quality will be consistent. In most cases this is due to the level of clientele or customers that their call center supports.

Category 6A & Category 6A STP-FTP Structured Cabling Systems are designed to support up to 10-Gigabit in the work area and backbone. Both work well but a Category 6A STP-FTP will provide additional headroom and protection from outside interference and alien crosstalk due to external sources such as adjacent cables, air handlers, motors, RF and high voltage. Category 6A STP-FTP also provide a much higher level of security for sensitive and secure client data. Many wireless manufacturers such as Cisco, HP, Aruba, Ruckus, and Ubiquiti all recommend the use of Category 6A for better transmission speeds and Category 6A STP-FTP when sensitive data is involved.

Category 6A is also recommended by all manufacturers of VoIP and Wireless due to its heat dissipating properties for all PoE applications. To keep temperatures at acceptable limits of no more than 140 °F bundle size should be limited and when possible left loose and open in cable trays when possible. When installing in conduit or duct bank systems, please reference manufacturers’ recommendations and NEC codes for conduit fill ratios.

OM3/OM4 Multimode / OS1/OS2 Singlemode Fiber

OM3 & OM4 Multi-mode, Laser Optimized & Laser Enhanced Multi-mode fiber optics cabling. These are de facto standards in fiber optic backbone infrastructure in today's call centers and business applications. OM3/OM4 Multi-mode Fiber can provide the necessary backbone speeds from 1 Gigabit to 40 Gigabit and even 100 Gigabit, to provide the necessary bandwidth needs in larger call centers and Businesses with multiple floors, buildings, or space that require additional Distribution Closets, IDF's and or Zone Cabling to support the given work area. In many cases Clients are also choosing OS1 and OS2 Single-mode Fiber Optics in addition to the OM3/OM4 Fiber due to the extended distance and almost unlimited bandwidth it provides. All Fiber Optic Cabling Systems Provide superior security performance for sensitive data and applications.

Please contact one of our Network Designers or RCDDs to help you Design, Build & Implement a Structured Cabling System for all your call center and business needs!

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