MHz vs. Mbps: Choosing the right tool for the job

MHz vs. Mbps: Choosing the right tool for the job

Networking technology is taking over cabling and data transmission needs, supplementing the frequency-based world with digital data transmission.

When deciding on the tools you need to adequately test cables for both of these important realms, it’s pivotal to keep in mind the differing definitions, standards, and needs that each requires to select the perfect partner for the job.

Term Definitions and Network Application

Hertz is the unit of frequency that equates to a cycle per second, and it is derived by the formula F = V/W, where F is Frequency, V is Velocity, and W is the wavelength. It represents a physical transmission of a wave, but it can be applied to anything that oscillates.

Bits per second (bps) is the unit used to represent the number of bits, or individual ones and zeroes, that can be transferred from one end of the cable to another within a second. Compared to interpreting Hertz, it is much more simple and has a more direct relationship to networking.

When the transmission speed of a cable is discussed, you might see both of these units being used, and they tend to have a direct – if not 1:1 proportionally – relationship. For example, the Cat-5e line of cables is rated for 350 MHz, which is equivalent to 100 million cycles per second, but it can achieve digital data rates of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps).

MHz vs. Mbps: Why Do We Use Both?

Technology advances steadily, but that does not mean anything less than cutting edge is immediately ripped out and replaced. As Ethernet came into existence, the underlying cable infrastructure still maintained a large presence for data communications to keep renovation costs low and the ability of the cables to handle some forms of communications more easily. The combination of existing technologies and cost differentials is therefore sometimes undesirable, sometimes beneficial, and almost always a concern for technicians.

It would be much simpler for developers and technicians if there was only one set of cables to study, but the presence of both requires the ability to test for adherence to TIA-568B, the telecommunications’ industries standards for cabling, and IEEE 802.3, the latest set of standards for Ethernet cabling. The TIA-568B standards are tested through traditional electrical engineer tools like the Volt-Ohm meter (VOM) and breakout box that measure activity at the physical level, whereas IEEE 802.3 testing is typically handled through Ethernet-based testing that can interpret the physical changes up the OSI levels to ensure the network is completely functional.

Expanded Capabilities for an Advanced Field

The Net Chaser tests TIA-568 A and B and IEEE 802.3.

On the cable testing side, the Net Chaser can perform tests for opens, shorts, and other common faults. It can also do Bit Error Rate tests through the use of its Active Remotes. This is in addition to the normal array of 568A/B testing methods for crosstalk in all of its varieties. Going further, it can check the signal-to-noise ratio, attenuation. Fault detection can identify whether there’s a short, open, miswiring, reversal, or any other type of wiring problem. With these on hand, you can assess the physical continuity of the network’s wiring. All of this is conveniently displayed on a color-coded wire map on the Net Chaser’s main screen.

While all of the above features are useful, they don’t paint the full picture of everything going on with the Ethernet portion of the network. The Net Chaser can perform ping tests to multiple IP addresses quickly and easily, detect Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) presence and capability, detect VLAN’s, detect the speed of the network, perform Traceroute tests, and identify network discovery protocols like Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) and Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP).

For all of the performed tests, the data is stored into PDF format for ease of transferring between the Net Chaser and other devices.

Choose the Right Tool for Every Job

While standards exist, it is possible for previous technicians, installers, and users to create Frankenstein monsters of different technologies that require a tool that can rapidly switch between physical and application layer testing. Even for networks completely built on Ethernet technology, being able to rapidly confirm cable fidelity is still a vital portion of the troubleshooting process. If you want a tool ready for every type of wiring configuration, you can rely on the Net Chaser.