Your business customers are always looking to lower overhead and manage change effectively. You can help them save money and streamline operational changes by making sure they are familiar with the benefits of zoned cabling. With a small investment in additional distribution modules and other equipment, your customers can have a flexible network ready for business growth.

Zoned cabling, also called open office cabling, is used in large buildings where many users require a wired connection. In zoned cabling, cables run from the telecommunications room (TR) to a zone enclosure, and from there to outlets for individual users. Changes to the location of offices or desks are handled easily in a zoned system, as the network administrator only needs to change cabling across the short distance of a single zone.

Zoned cabling has been around for many years, but with the growing popularity of open concept offices and the widespread adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in the office, it’s now beneficial to more of your customers. Zoned cabling is also the system of choice in buildings that use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone services and Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting.

Benefits of zoned cabling

In an open concept office or one that is likely to see changes to layout and use of the space, zoned cabling is more cost-effective. The initial cost of setting up such system is higher, but the savings over time can be significant. A typical commercial building with approximately 15 changes in wiring layout will recoup the additional cost in two to five years.

Zoned cabling also offers additional cost benefits that are a little more difficult to measure. For instance, in a zoned work area, changes to office configuration cause less disruption in the workplace and therefore less downtime, which results in a more productive office.

Zoned cabling ultimately uses less cable, particularly in offices that use VoIP and PoE services. This makes it an environment-friendly choice that helps facility managers and business owners achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Designing zoned cable

While zoned cabling offers greater flexibility for making ongoing changes, facility managers and building owners still need to plan the initial system design with care. Some basic considerations are:

• Enclosures should be planned for areas with the highest density of workspaces.
• Each enclosure should include additional ports for easy addition of new users (25% to 50% more than needed at the time of installation).
• Zone coverage areas should overlap a little for increased flexibility.
• Enclosures should be at least thirty meters from the TR. They must be at least fifteen meters away, but thirty or more is optimal.
• PoE lighting should have dedicated zone enclosures.
• Enclosures need to be easily accessed by technicians.

 There are two main approaches to zoned cabling, the consolidation point (CP) approach, and the multiple user telecommunications outlet assembly (MUTOA) approach. The CP approach uses an intermediate link between the TR the work area outlet, with a total of three connection points. In this approach, each user has an individual outlet.  The MUTOA link has only two connections because in this setup multiple users share an outlet.

The MUTOA approach is better for offices that will experience frequent setup changes, and the more commonly use CP approach is better for offices with less frequent changes.

Both MUTOA and CP must be installed in permanent building fixtures (not, for example, directly into modular furniture units), and only CP can be installed in ceilings.

For more detailed information on the standards for zoned cabling, see the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) Commercial Building Telecommunications Wiring Standards (TIA-568 Set).