Outside plant

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In telecommunication, the term outside plant has the following meanings:

The CATV industry divides its fixed assets between head end or inside plant, and outside plant. The electrical power industry also uses the term outside plant to refer to electric power distribution systems.



Network connections between devices such as computers, printers, and phones require a physical infrastructure to carry and process signals. Typically, this infrastructure will consist of:

  • Cables from wall outlets and jacks run to a communications closets, sometimes referred to as station cable.
  • Cables connecting one communications closet to another, sometimes referred to as riser cable.
  • Racks containing telecommunications hardware, such as switches, routers, and repeaters.
  • Cables connecting one building to another.
  • Exterior communications cabinets containing hardware outside of buildings.
  • Radio transceivers used inside or outside buildings, such as wireless access points, and hardware associated with them, such as antennas and towers.

The portion of this infrastructure contained within a building is the inside plant, and the portion of this infrastructure connecting buildings or facilities is the outside plant. Where these two plants meet in a given structure is the demarcation point.

Outside plant cabling, whether copper or fiber, is generally installed as aerial cable between poles, in an underground conduit system, or by direct burial.[2] Hardware associated with the outside plant must be either protected from the elements (for example, distribution frames are generally protected by a street side cabinet) or constructed with materials suitable for exposure to the elements. Installation of the outside plant elements often require construction of significant physical infrastructure, such as underground vaults.[3] In older large installations, cabling is sometimes protected by air pressure systems designed to prevent water infiltration. While this is not a modern approach, the cost of replacement of the older cabling with sealed cabling is often prohibitively expensive.[4] The cabling used in the outside plant must also be protected from electrical disturbances caused by lightning or voltage surges due to electrical shorts or induction.[5]

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