What Is Backbone Cabling?

Mary McMahon

Backbone cabling is cabling that supplies telecommunications access between different areas in a facility or complex. It is a key part of the telecommunications system, providing wired access between numerous locations to facilitate the exchange of information. This telecommunications equipment includes not just the physical cables, but also connectors, terminus points, and other components that help it interface with a variety of points within the building to distribute telecommunications capability. In a building that handles secure materials, the cabling may also need to be secured to prevent data loss or theft, and access to hubs like telecommunications closets may be limited for safety.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Within a building, backbone cabling can run between telecommunications closets or rooms, equipment areas, and central hub facilities. On a complex like a college campus, it also runs between buildings. The physical configuration of the cable can vary, but often includes a very high capacity so the facility will be able to accommodate higher data loads in the future. This can be important for sustainable design, as it allows builders to plan ahead.

The backbone cabling can be buried between buildings or run through utility tunnels. Within buildings, it runs through the ductwork, typically taking the shortest possible path between necessary points. Where it joins with a location like a telecommunications closet, technicians can install connections to wire the closet into the system. These connections are usually also kept as short as possible, and may include extra connections for future use, which can be capped until they are needed.

The amount of backbone cabling needed can depend on the facility and the anticipated uses. Facilities with large numbers of servers and other telecommunications-dependent devices need a substantial array of cabling to meet their needs. Designers must consider the likely peak usage to develop an estimate of the need, and may want to think about evolving data transmission needs like requests for more phone lines or higher bandwidth that may develop over time.

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Telecommunications companies are not responsible for the backbone cabling in a facility, unless it has a contract to install and service the cable through the utility. Instead, utilities provide a service drop and technicians must install the appropriate cabling and connect the building facilities. Architects and building planners must design ductwork features to accommodate telecommunications, electricity, and other needs, and workers can install these components as building or remodeling progresses and the spaces they need become accessible.

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