Structured cabling is the faster, more efficient way to connect your business to the outside world. In this guide, we walk you through the technical elements of structured cabling and explore why it’s an essential system for the modern company.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Structured cabling refers to structured wiring infrastructures connecting networks throughout a facility.
  1. Unlike traditional point-to-point cabling, a structured system follows specific rules, creating an organized and efficient infrastructure.
  1. There are six critical elements of a structured cabling system.
  2. While structured cabling requires an upfront investment, your business will reap the benefits of a more organized, scalable, and maintainable system.

Introduction to Structured Cabling

Structured cabling is essential to understand as you consider your business’s network needs. Before we discuss the reasons to consider structured cabling for your network systems, we’ll start with the basics: what is structured cabling, and why does it matter?

What is Structured Cabling: Definition and Importance

Cabling is the infrastructure system that connects your network systems, such as telecommunications, paging, camera, and data systems, and transfers data throughout your facility. Its hardware is usually made of copper or fiber and comes in several different types of systems. Traditional point-to-point cabling is very simple. It uses one wire to connect a phone to the line. As you connect more phones, you can quickly end up with a “spaghetti” situation, where snarls of lines are confusing to manage and challenging to scale.

In contrast, structured cabling uses a series of wires configured in standardized pathways. Structured cabling is more flexible, can easily accommodate additional phone lines without significant infrastructure changes, and is easier to maintain.

Evolution from Traditional Cabling to Structured Systems

Structured cabling offers many advantages over traditional point-to-point systems. Before its advent, however, the world of cabling was a mess with no standardization. Businesses were responsible for their cabling, and no two configurations were identical. Unsurprisingly, this was a maintenance nightmare. In the early 1990s, the ANSI, TIA, and EIA released the first industry-wide cabling standards, and the first structured cabling requirements were born.

As technology changes, the standards have evolved as well. The current requirement is called ANSI/TIA-942-B and was released in 2017. The goal has remained the same through each change: standardized requirements that keep cabling straightforward, easy to manage, and easily scalable.

Point to Point vs. Structured Cabling

Point-to-point cabling is the older way of connecting your network. If you’ve inherited this traditional system, it’s time for an upgrade. Below are some tips to remember when installing a structured cabling system at your business.

Transitioning to Structured Systems

1. Educate yourself

Before plowing ahead with a new cabling system, take the time to do your research. There are several structured cabling systems, and one might be a better match for your business than another. You’ll also need to decide whether to invest in lightning-fast cables like fiber optics or stick with twisted pairs. A new cabling system is a significant investment, so make sure you do your research before making the jump.

2. Choose a system installer wisely

If you’re having in-house technicians do the installation, ensure they’re trained in the ins and outs of structured cabling. If you’re using a third-party installer, choose one that’s able to certify each cable run. Be sure to clearly communicate your goals and parameters.

3. Don’t skip testing

You’ll want to ensure that testing equipment is used to verify that the newly installed structured cabling system meets your specifications. Ideally, all testing should be completed before you launch the new system; that way, you can transition with the confidence that everything is fully operational.

Key Applications of Structured Cabling

Structured cabling is helpful throughout your facility, powering an improved network along with easier maintenance. A structured cabling system comprises six subsystems: entrance facilities, equipment room, backbone cabling, telecommunications room, horizontal cabling, and work area. The six standardized components ensure that all structured cabling systems are uniform and organized. In the sections below, we discuss how each major subsystem works and the perks that it provides over traditional point-to-point cabling.

Entrance Facilities: Transition from External to Internal Networks

The entrance facility is the point where cabling enters your building. It houses a network demarcation point and entrance cabling and often includes safety protections like grounding and lightning protection. Entrance facilities are the point where a network switches from public to private/internal.

Equipment Rooms: Central Hubs for Connectivity

The cabling from outside connects to the building’s internal infrastructure in the equipment room. The room hosts patch panels, which provide the connections needed for backbone and horizontal cabling. Switches and servers are also kept in the equipment room, along with termination devices for wiring systems.

Backbone Cabling: The Core of Network Infrastructure

Backbone cabling is also called vertical or riser cabling, as it connects the rooms in a structured cabling system. This subsystem can run through different floors or even different buildings on a large campus.

Telecommunications Rooms: Nodal Points for Network Distribution

The telecommunications room can sometimes be an entire room, or it can be located in a general utility room. It houses local cables (jumpers or patch cords) and cross-connects them via patch panels. Telecommunications rooms generally accommodate less complex equipment than equipment rooms, but they are still important features of a structured cabling system.

Horizontal Cabling: Connecting Individual Workspaces

Horizontal cabling, as the name indicates, runs horizontally. It connects cables to work areas or individual rooms on a floor. This horizontal cabling usually terminates at a wall outlet, delivering telecom resources and data straight to employees.

Work Areas: EndUser Connection Points

The final step in a structured cabling system is the work area. This is the final stretch to connect the user’s device to the wall. Computers, phones, laptops, and other devices are all part of the work area.

Advantages of Implementing a Structured Cabling System

Structured cabling does come with more startup costs than a traditional point-to-point system. Why should you invest? In the long run, implementing structured cabling will save your business headaches, downtime, and scalability woes. Below are some of the significant advantages you can expect from a structured cabling system.

Enhanced Organization and Efficiency

As discussed earlier in this article, structured cabling is standardized and adheres to specific rules. These guidelines are designed to make the system as organized and efficient as possible. Structured cabling is an infrastructure system that uses clear hierarchies to keep your equipment room clean, organized, and ready to operate efficiently.

Scalability and Flexibility for Future Expansion

Another huge selling point for structured cabling is scalability. Traditional point-to-point systems mean that every time you add a phone line, you must add a cable stretching from the new line to your control room. It’s messy and complicated, and it requires frequent reconfigurations. In contrast, a structured cabling system quickly grows with your changing network needs. You can add more lines without worrying about restructuring your whole system. Companies don’t stay stagnant, and a structured cabling solution ensures that your network won’t either.

Simplified Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Every maintenance technician’s nightmare is a room full of snarled and snaking wires. If something breaks in your point-to-point system, it might take hours or even days to identify the problem wire, let alone fix it. These delays cause downtime, costing you money. In contrast, an organized and standardized structured cabling system is easy to maintain. There’s less downtime, faster fixes, and more peace of mind.

Technical Aspects of Structured Cabling

Depending on the system you use and the aspect you’re dealing with, there are several different types of cables that a setup might use. Below are some cables used in a structured cabling system and their components and purposes.

Types of Cables Used:


A Cat3 cable is usually used for voice networks. It covers shorter distances of up to 100 meters and is made of twisted pairs of copper wire. Cat3 cables are cost-effective and easy to find but are less powerful and significantly outdated.

Cat 5e

Cat5e cable supports up to 1 GBPS and is generally used for ethernet networks. It can be utilized for both voice and data, unlike Cat3 cabling. It’s an excellent basic cable but does not produce speeds as high as Cat6 and Cat7 variations.


Cat6 has a higher bandwidth than the cables previously discussed. This cable type is used for ethernet connections and delivers fast data transfer for video and audio streaming, as well as voice traffic.

Cat6 shielded

Cat6 shielded cables offer the same benefits as regular Cat6 in regard to data speeds. It provides the additional perk of shields to protect against electromagnetic interference (EMI). This makes Cat6 shielded cables ideal for busy areas like factories.


Cat6a cables are made of copper conductors that are twisted tighter than their Cat6 counterparts. These cables offer the high data speed of Cat6 across longer distances. That being said, these cables do come with a higher installation cost due to their larger size. They may also require upgraded switches and other equipment.

Cat 6a shielded

Cat6a shielded delivers the same advantages as Cat6a but with the added benefit of protection against electromagnetic interference (EMI).

Coax cable

Coaxial or coax cables send audio or video signals to devices like televisions or speakers. They can also be used to connect internet routers. These more traditional cables generally offer a slower connection than ethernet alternatives like Cat5e or Cat6.

Speaker cable

A speaker cable connects a speaker to the amplifier source. The most common speaker cable sizes are 14 AWG, 16 AWG, and 18 AWG.

Pre-terminated fiber

Pre-terminated fiber cabling is more expensive than other options like Cat6 but provides speedy data transfer. It is impervious to electromagnetic interference (EMI) and consists of a glass or plastic core. Unlike other cables, optical fiber uses light to transport signals, allowing it to reach high transfer speeds.

Design Considerations for Optimal Performance

While structured cabling is a standardized system, you still have choices to make about how you will implement the system and components in your business facility.

Indoor vs. outdoor cabling: Will you run the bulk of your cabling inside your building or along the exterior? If you choose the exterior, you’ll need to weatherproof your system. If you choose interior cabling, factor in the building’s design and where you can hide the system to ensure easy maintenance without interrupting aesthetics.

Regulations: Depending on your location and industry, there may be some government regulations to consider. Make sure you talk with your local authorities and understand any cabling requirements before you start installation.

Bandwidth: How fast does your system need to be? Fiber optics is the top-of-the-line choice for speed but comes with higher costs. On the other hand, Cat6 might work fine now, but will it still suffice if your business grows? Consider your company’s needs today, but also your growth a few years down the road. 

Future of Structured Cabling

The network infrastructure industry is still growing, with constant innovations and improvements. In the next few years, more and more businesses will likely replace outdated point-to-point systems with structured cabling that allows for increased bandwidth. Below are other trends to expect:

Trends and Innovations in Cabling Technology

As audio and voice communication improves, there will likely be consistent demands for more bandwidth and cables to deliver faster speeds across further distances. Fiber cabling is already offering incredible advantages in bandwidth, and as time goes on, more companies are likely to switch from copper wiring to a fiber alternative.

Preparing for NextGeneration Network Demands

Internet of Things (IoT) developments mean that more and more parts of a building’s infrastructure—from thermostats to lights—are connected to a company’s network. As more smart tools and services enter the market, expect demands for more efficient and robust systems that can handle all these connections. Fortunately, structured cabling is uniquely designed to handle increased demands on the system. For this reason, there’s no better time to upgrade your system to structured cabling.

In Summary

Structured cabling is not a new phenomenon—it’s been around since the 1990s. However, it’s never been a more critical tool for keeping your business connected and efficient. As companies move to “smart” work tools, require faster video conferencing, and look for a more connected workforce, it’s essential to have a cabling infrastructure that can keep up with the market’s demands.

If you’re interested in switching to a structured cabling system, our experts can help. Contact VerCom Systems to discover how you can bring your network infrastructure into the future!