2015 - THE SILVER JUBILEE OF THE FIA

for Netcomms Europe by Mike Gilmore, Standards Director

2015 is a particularly important year for the Fibreoptic Industry Association – at we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its formation.

The cornerstone of the celebration is the Summer Seminar and Networking Event held on 1st/2nd June. This year it will be held at Whittlebury Hall Hotel near Silverstone, Northamptonshire – which is ironic in view of the repeated confusion between our organisation and “the other FIA”, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile” which
frequently leads to our web-site being inundated each time Lewis Hamilton is docked points or disqualified in an F1 race.

The seminars will feature a twin-track approach. One track will focus on trends and developments in the telecommunications industry (both copper and optical fibre) while the other will deal with the more mundane day- to-day problems faced by our installer members. The latter has been enabled and encouraged by the success of the FIA Accredited Installers Scheme – membership of which requires regular attendance at our quarterly free-of- charge seminars which discuss those everyday problems in detail and face-to-face. This direct contact between our Council members and the installers has not only allowed a wider understanding of the vast array of technical information already available on the FIA web-site but has also led to the development of specific guidance documents for Accredited Installers in specific topic areas. This greater attention to standards and quality assurance has led to AIS status becoming a requirement in a growing number of infrastructure installation tenders produced by blue chip organisations. Thanks go to the FIA Council and the endorsers of the Scheme for their continuing support. The success of the AIS is particularly noteworthy in the year of our Silver Jubilee.

Moving away from the challenges faced by installers on a regular basis, the FIA Summer Seminar will also concentrate on some of the wider issues faced by our industry in the coming year. One of the highest profile challenges will be the management of the impact of the Construction Product Regulations on communications cables (both copper and optical fibre) within buildings which is expected to come into force during 2015. All cables intended for installation inside buildings, and certain other structures, will have to be tested and “labelled” with a EuroClass ranging from A to F tagged with some other sub-designations concerning the production of droplets, smoke, acid gas etc. All the various existing terms for cable sheath materials such as PVC, LSOH will be replaced by the EuroClass designation of the cable construction.

Opportunities for confusion will be substantial and it is the role of associations such as the FIA to provide guidance to their members, their customers and their consultants. Following discussions with government, we are working with BSI to produce advice and guidance on where each EuroClass of cable should, or perhaps should not, be used. Moreover, because the CPR affects power cables as well we will be working with relevant groups to ensure that our advice and guidance is common to all infrastructures.

Our members do not only install optical fibre cables and there are many other technical advances which will affect them during the period 2015-2016. Once of the biggest trends is the growth in the use of DC power – mostly over Category 5 and equivalent cabling – which is being driven by the growth in the type and range of devices now fitted with or supported by IP technology. Lighting systems, wireless access points, cameras, access controllers – the list is endless and the integration of such systems at a management level is bringing the concept of the “intelligent building” to life for the first time. The FIA has been working hard to develop the planning and installation guides necessary to support the deployment of DC powering solutions via our “standards@fia” team.

At the same time the recognition by IEEE, the networking standards group, that it may be time to fill in the gaps between 1GbE and 40GbE with something other than 10GbE may lead to a range of 2.5, 5 and 25 Gigabit products sets that will be supportable over existing installed base. So we may at last see a role for Category 6 cabling and perhaps see alternative solutions for optical fibre also.

So in its 25th year, having started in 1990 with the publication of the worlds first Code of Practice for the Installation of Fibre Optic Cabling, the Fibreoptic Industry Association is still operating at the forefront of cabling technology while ensuring that the information provided to its members is accurate, pragmatic and economically feasible. It remains to be seen what the next 25 years has in store – even if those who have trodden the patch for the first twenty-five are around to see it.