What you need to Know about Testing Cable in the Field

Stu Tisdale

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On July 28th In Wire and Cable
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Serious technician using digital cable analyzer on server

As our industry continues its growth in the use of IP-enabled products, it is becoming more important for security technicians to be able to fully test Cat5e/6 cables for proper functionality in the field. Cable testing provides a level of assurance that the installed cabling links provide the desired transmission capability to support the data communication desired by the users.

Types of Cable Tests

Cable testing varies depending on the intended application of the cable. While there are some tests that overlap from one use to the next, cable tests that are performed in the field can typically be classified into certification, qualification or verification categories.

Certification: Testing Compliance to Industry Standards

Certification tests answer the question, “Does this cable comply with cabling standards?” Cable certification testing instruments are normally designed to provide “Pass” or “Fail” information in accordance with industry standards. In North America, the prevalent industry standards organization dealing with the transmission capabilities of structured cabling is the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Certification is the most rigorous of all cable testing. A certification test involves checking many types of measurements across predefined frequency ranges and then comparing the detailed results to standards set by the TIA. Certification is also typically the final step required by many structured cabling manufacturers to grant their warranties for a new cabling installation.

Qualification – Testing the Ability of a Cabling Link to Support Certain Network Speeds and Technologies

Qualification tests are typically used on existing cabling links to determine whether they can support the necessary requirements of their intended use. If you are trying to isolate cabling problems from network protocol or addressing problems, then a qualification test is most likely the one you will want to perform. A qualification test is an assessment of the cabling bandwidth in order to identify defects that could affect the bandwidth of the cable.  A qualification test is more comprehensive than a verification test (defined below), although they both collect similar data.  Qualification tests, however, do not include the stringent tests prescribed by industry standards which are required for certification.

Verification – Testing Cable Connections

Verification tests confirm continuity functions and ensure that all wires in a cabling link are connected to the proper termination points and not to any other conductors. In twisted pair cabling, it is critical to maintain the proper pairing of the wires. Verification tests also substantiate wire pairing and help to uncover defects like “split pairs”. Some verification testing tools may provide a toner which can locate a cabling link. Tone generators have been the technicians’ friends for many years and are critical tools when trying to identify cable in a bundle or termination box. Verification tools will also sometimes include additional features such as a Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) to determine length of a cable or distance to a break or short circuit. However, verification testing will not provide any information on a cable’s bandwidth or suitability for high-speed data communication.

ADI is your trusted source for information if you have any questions regarding cable or cable testing. As the industry’s leading cable and wire distributor, ADI sells over 109,000 miles of cable a year, enough to circle the Earth four times. ADI’s Systems Support Group is always here to help. You can contact the ADI Systems Support group at 1.800.ADI.SYS1

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