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Computer system and network cable installations can be both complex and specific. Horizontal and backbone cabling are two essential main cabling methods used in structured cabling. These two methods are among the most fundamental components of structured cabling.

Although they are distinct, horizontal and backbone cabling complement one another and are required for various cabling environments and specifications.

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Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with our homes’ networks. A service provider’s cable is brought into the building and connected to a modem or, more likely, a router. The router is usually a self-contained unit with an Ethernet switch built in, allowing a limited number of devices to connect to it via Ethernet cables. Nowadays, the router usually includes a wireless access point, allowing additional devices to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi. As a result, all network devices in your home connect to the router (or switch), which connects to the internet.

That is how a typical home network is put together. It has a router and/or switch in the center and devices scattered around it that are linked by cables or Wi-Fi. Have you ever wondered how a larger network is constructed? Such as a network in a large office building, a college campus, or a global corporation? No? We’re going to talk about it anyhow.


What Is Backbone Cabling?

Backbone cabling is defined as cabling that connects entrance facilities, equipment rooms, and telecommunication rooms. It is typically installed from floor to floor but can also be installed between IT rooms on the same floor.

Backbone cabling includes backbone cables, intermediate and main cross-connects, mechanical terminations, and patch cords or jumpers for backbone-to-backbone connectivity. Backbone cabling also includes inter-building cabling.”

Inter-building and intra-building cabling are the two types of backbone wiring and cabling. While inter-building backbone wiring connects buildings, intra-building cabling connects IT rooms within a single building.

The Primary Cabling Components of the Backbone

Cable pathways are used to provide cabling routing spaces. This can include shafts, raceways, conduits, or floor penetrations such as sleeves or slots.

Patch panels, connecting blocks, interconnections, and cross-connections are examples of connecting hardware. Connecting hardware is sometimes a combination of these options.

Backbone wiring may be optical fiber, coaxial, twisted-pair copper, or a combination of these cable types.
If required, support facilities such as cable support hardware or grounding and firestopping hardware are available.

What exactly is Horizontal Cabling?

Horizontal cabling connects a Telecommunications Room or enclosure to individual workstation outlets or Work Area Outlets (WAO). It is usually installed in a star topology that connects each work area to the telecommunications room.

Copper cabling (CAT5e, CAT6, and CAT6a) is the most commonly used type for horizontal runs, but fiber optic and coaxial cables can also be used. To meet TIA standards, horizontal cabling must be limited to 90 meters in length between the Work Area Outlet and the termination point in the telecommunications room, regardless of cable type.

What Are the Differences Between Horizontal and Backbone Cabling?

The areas covered by backbone and horizontal cabling differ. Horizontal cabling connects telecommunications rooms to individual outlets throughout the building’s floors, whereas backbone cabling connects entrance facilities, equipment rooms, and telecommunications rooms. Backbone cabling should cross floors, but horizontal wiring should not. Although horizontal cables for workstations on one floor may be routed to a telecommunications room on a different floor, this is not a recommended practice and does not change the designation to “Backbone” even if the cables run vertically.

Specifications for the two structure cabling methods are also distinct. Though they may use the same cables, backbone cabling has special requirements because it connects floors. It must be strong enough to support its own weight and properly secured in order to pass between floors.

Furthermore, both horizontal and backbone cabling must meet specific fire-rating specifications, which will vary depending on the project. This is relatively simple for horizontal cables, but backbone cabling (particularly inter-building backbone) can become complicated when the cables are routed underground. It is best to consult with your structured cabling contractor to ensure that the appropriate type of cable is used for the environment in which they are installed.

With years of experience assisting clients in the Mid West region with their Structured Cabling needs, Porthill Networks has been a dependable cabling contractor at designing and installing high-quality structured cabling systems. With Porthill Networks, you can be confident that your structured cabling installations will be completed quickly and expertly the first time around.

Are you curious in how we can support your business? Get a price for a low voltage installation (or another cabling-related service) from Porthill Networks right away.