Review of Lan Wiring, an Illustrated Guide to Network Cabling

Lan Wiring : An Illustrated Guide to Network Cabling
James Trulove

Reviewed by Nick Christenson,

May 22, 1998

The back cover of Lan Wiring claims that this book "... provides all the help you need to plan, install, maintain, or upgrade your LAN in a manner that is timely, cost-efficient, and high-quality." I don't believe that this book meets all of these goals, but it does a good job of meeting some of them. It will likely prove satisfactory, if unspectacular, for most of its readers.

Lan Wiring is divided into three sections. The first is called LAN Wiring Systems, the second is Wiring Devices, and the third is Wire Management. It's not always easy to distinguish between topics that fit in each section, especially with respect to the first two sections, so sometimes the layout of topics of discussion seems a bit artificial. Nonetheless, the order in which topics are discussed is serviceable.

In the first section, we are introduced to basic cable types including Unshielded Twisted Pair, coaxial cable, and fiber optic cable. We also are given an introduction on requirements for how different cabling media are deployed to meet the needs of various LAN protocols. This is hard to do without talking about some topics that are more fully explained in the second section, Wiring Devices. We're also introduced to various cabling systems, including the popular TIA 568 A standard. Finally, the author talks about the future of copper as a cabling medium as LAN speeds break through the 100 Mbps barrier.

The book focuses primarily on copper wiring, which isn't an indefensible position. However, some of what is said on the topic of fiber optic cabling, specifically on the distinctions between single mode and multimode fiber cabling, may be misleading. I recommend that the reader interested in handling fiber optic cabling essentially disregard what this book says on the topic, and that they read a book specifically about the topic. I don't mean to suggest that the author doesn't have his facts straight, or that the information here isn't correct as far as it goes, but if I didn't understand more about fiber optic cabling than was presented in this book, I would probably come away from it with some significant misconceptions.

The second section is on wiring devices. What the author is talking about here are wall jacks and modular connectors, punchdown blocks, patch panels, user cords, and related issues. It seems to me that the author entered into the LAN cabling field from a telecommunications wiring background. If this is the reader's background as well, this can be very helpful, but if one's experience is almost entirely LAN based, it can occasionally get in the way.

For example, one aspect of the discussion I was quite disappointed in was the discussion of using telco style punchdown blocks, like the 66M and 110 wiring blocks. The author spends a couple of pages explaining, in words, how to wire these devices. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to get a sense of how this really goes just from a verbal description and without diagrams. I believe the author should have either referred the reader to another source where there was a description adequate for a true beginner to understand how to perform these tasks, or provided a sufficiently detailed description should have been provided. I'm not sure what purpose is served by splitting the difference, as the reader of this book may be able to identify the silhouette of a 66 block, but probably couldn't do an adequate job of connecting wires to it. Further, I can't imagine what would posses someone to try to use a 66 block for LAN wiring. Doing so well is very difficult, especially for high speed networking, and I can't think of any significant benefits.

I believe the third section, on Wiring Management, to be the best part of the book. We're given information on where to locate wiring closets, testing and certifying cables, monitoring and administration, and troubleshooting. The information on monitoring and administration seems throwaway to me. While it's certainly necessary to make some mention of it, at the same time entire books have been written on the topic. Nonetheless, I believe this chapter lacks significant substance.

However, the chapter on testing and certification is very good. I believe the advice given on when and how to certify wiring jobs is accurate and sensible. There's a lot of good advice here. Similarly, I liked the brief chapter on troubleshooting. It presents a good, concise methodology for diagnosing potential cabling problems after the fact.

In my opinion, Lan Wiring doesn't present information at a basic enough level to be a good book for those with no experience in some sort of data wiring. At the same time, only in places is it deep enough to be truly valuable to the seasoned professional. However, for the intermediately skilled it might be valuable. If someone has spent significant time doing LAN or telecommunications wiring without any formal training, then this book may be perfect, as it provides detailed information on how to do things right, although often it doesn't not include enough information to learn proper technique from scratch.

This isn't a bad book by any means, although the niche in which it truly excels is fairly narrow. I don't know if there is a better book available on LAN wiring than this one, but I believe that one could certainly be written.


LAN Wiring discusses the issues involved in creating a proper installation of cabling that satisfies LAN requirements. If one has some experience in this but lacks formal training, or one is moving into LAN wiring from a telecommunications background, this book will be likely be exactly what one is looking for. If one is a complete novice, there may not be enough material here to explain everything one needs to know. If one is a seasoned professional, there may not be enough new here to be really informative, and it's not cataloged as effectively as one would like in a reference work.

Click here to return to the index of reviews.