Recently gathered compensation statistics show that in the United States, a cabling technician earns, on average, approximately $30 per hour. A lead technician earns in excess of 10% more than that. While these figures indicate the hourly wages paid to these workers by their employers, the hourly cost to an end-user customer of having a technician or two on-site is of course significantly higher. It is in everyone’s best interest to avoid unnecessary technician visits, particularly including those during which the primary task is to identify one or more cables from among a tangled mess of undocumented circuits.
One of the surest ways to avoid this situation is to follow the specifications defined in the Telecommunications Industry Association’s Administration Standard for Telecommunications Infrastructure—ANSI/TIA-606-C. The TIA completed the “C” revision of its administration standard in 2017. This third revision continues the document’s longstanding tradition of prescribing methods and practices for cost-effectively maintaining an installed cabling system. The TIA-606 series of standards commonly are referred to as “labeling standards,” because their text and graphics go into significant detail on the application of labels to different parts of an infrastructure system.
The standard’s introduction describes its objectives: “Use of this standard is intended to increase the value of the system owner’s investment in the infrastructure by reducing the labor expense of maintaining the system, by extending the useful economic life of the system, and by providing effective service to users. This standard provides a uniform administration approach that is independent of applications, which may change several times throughout the life of the telecommunications infrastructure. It establishes guidelines for owners, end users, manufacturers, consultants, contractors, designers, installers, and facilities administrators involved in the administration of the telecommunications infrastructure.”
The TIA-606-C standard requires the documentation of several components and locations when they exist within a telecommunications system, specifically the telecommunications space, data center room grid, racks and cabinets, patch panels, ports, cabling, pathways, work-area outlets, grounding busbars, and firestop locations. The standard’s introduction explains that the document, which is approximately 100 pages in length, “is modular and scalable to allow implementation of various portions of the administration system as desired. For example, a contractor placing the pathways may be responsible for recording pathway information. After the pathway has been placed, a different contractor installing the cabling may be responsible for recording cabling information. A third contractor might install firestopping and be responsible for recording information and labeling for that portion of the infrastructure. The system owner should coordinate among the various contractors to maintain a uniform method of administration, as specified in this standard.”
Changes from B to C
When the TIA revised the standard from its “B” version to its “C” version, it made a handful of changes. One was the addition of Annex D, which is informative rather than normative, and is titled Administration of Remote Powering. It discusses cable-bundle identification, additions to cable and cord records, as well as additions to equipment, device, or port records.
Another change involved the identifier schemes used for telecommunications grounding and bonding system elements. The identifier schemes used in the “C” version align with those used in the TIA’s telecom grounding and bonding standard, ANSI/TIA-607-C. Specifically, the following changes were made from 606-B to 606-C.
- BCT (bonding conductor for telecommunications) changed to TBC (telecommunications bonding conductor)
- RGB (rack grounding busbar) changed to RBB (rack bonding busbar)
- GE (grounding equalizer) changed to BBC (backbone bonding conductor)
- TGB (telecommunications grounding busbar) changed to SBB (secondary bonding busbar)
- TMGB (telecommunications main grounding busbar) changed to PBB (primary bonding busbar)
Aside from those revisions, much of the content in 606-C is consistent with what was in the 606-B revision of the standard. Siemon’s Standards Informant blog provides detail on the contents and purpose of the TIA-606-C standard, just as it does with TIA’s other cabling standards. About 606-C, the Standards Informant points out, “Four classes of administration are specified to accommodate the wide range of complexity present in the cabling plant. Class 1 contains the less-stringent and Class 4 contains the most-stringent administration requirements. The size and complexity of the cabling plant are the most relevant considerations in determining the minimum class of administration.”
The Standards Informant then describes each administration class as follows.
- Class 1 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a premises that is served by a single equipment room (ER).
- Class 2 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a single building or of a tenant that is served by single or multiple telecommunications spaces (e.g., an equipment room with one or more telecommunications rooms) within a single building.
- Class 3 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a campus, including its buildings and outside plant elements.
- Class 4 provides for the telecommunications infrastructure administration needs of a multi-campus/multi-site system.
Colors and AIM
The standard also provides guidelines for color coding labels according to different connection types. Color coding is recommended but not required. A table indicates the termination type, color, and pantone number associated with that color. Brady, a provider of labels and label-making equipment, produced an e-book titled “The surprising benefits of following the latest labeling standards.” In the e-book, the company comments, “Using color-coded labels gives visual clues as to what the cables are used for and how they’re connected to the panel or grid. Colored labels are versatile, and they’re easier to install or change than a wire jacket.”
The table in TIA-606-C defines the following termination types, colors, and pantone numbers.
- Demarcation point: Orange, 150C
- Network connection: Green, 353C
- Common equipment: Purple, 264C
- Key system: Red, 184C
- First-level backbone: White
- Second-level backbone: Gray, 422C
- Campus backbone: Brown, 465C
- Horizontal: Blue, 291C
- Miscellaneous: Yellow, 101C
Between the time the TIA published the standard’s “B” revision and its “C” revision, it created one addendum. Addendum 1 to the TIA-606-B standard addressed automated infrastructure management (AIM). Rather than incorporate that addendum into the “C” revision of TIA-606, the association created a distinct standard, ANSI/TIA-5048 Automated Infrastructure Management Systems—Requirements, Data Exchange and Applications. The TIA-5048 standard is an adaption of the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) 18598 standard that has the same title. The only difference between TIA-5048 and ISO/IEC-18598 is that TIA-5048 requires identification schemes to comply with the TIA-606-C standard.
Standard in practice
During an online seminar hosted by Cabling Installation & Maintenance in May, Brother Mobile Solutions’ director of sales Craig Robinson discussed how to implement the TIA-606-C standard in real-life environments.
“Using the standard will help you mark your work more consistently and professionally,” he said. “Clear, well-structured labeling, and a plan for labeling, is the thumbprint of professionalism. Not only does it project professionalism on your organization, but it also will save you time and money by reducing errors and eliminating needless callbacks. Today, customers are demanding it and including it in specifcations,” he added.
Robinson described three examples of common labeling miscues. “Believe it or not, it still happens that some installations have no labels at all. This is a sure sign of someone who doesn’t know enough, or maybe doesn’t care enough, to do the job right.
“Homemade naming conventions is another mistake. Be careful here. Best practice is to follow the standards and use universally accepted naming conventions. It is in the best interest of your customer.”
Additionally, Robinson noted, labels that fall off or smear are detrimental to good management and administration. “Using the right tool for the job is always important, and using durable labels that hold up under extreme conditions and are designed for the application is always a best practice.”
Robinson further detailed some of the requirements within the 606-C standard. “All labels should be printed or generated with a mechanical device,” he explained, meaning Sharpies aren’t standard-compliant.
“All cables and pathways must be labeled on both ends. Station connections may be labeled on the faceplate. Also, jack, connector and block hardware can be labeled on the outlet or the panel.”
While a Sharpie definitely isn’t an appropriate labeling device, Robinson stressed that not every mechanical piece of label-production equipment is cut out for it either.
“I really can’t stress this enough: Use the right tool for the job. Consumer-grade is cheaper up front, but a professional-grade label printer will save you time in the field. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to punch down copper cable, so why would you use that $19 labeler you got on sale at the office superstore?
“Professional-grade labelers will typically have preformatted label templates for specific applications, built-in symbol libraries, and memory for storing commonly used labels. Some professional-grade labelers also include the ability to print directly from database files and even print various types of barcodes.”
He also stressed the importance of using the correct adhesive type for the application you’re working with. “There are many different adhesive types for varying applications, and using the wrong one can result in a pile of labels on the floor instead of on your cables.”
Later in the seminar, he discussed the importance of record-keeping. “Maintaining good records is the most important aspect of the installed infrastructure,” he said. “It is the primary source to identify every aspect of an installed system and should include all records described in the standard.”
As the introduction to the TIA-606-C standard explains, the document “specifies administration for a generic telecommunications cabling system that will support a multi-product, multi-vendor environment … The concepts outlined ... may be extended to other applications (e.g., building automation systems, security, and audio/visual) that are in harmony with the telecommunications topology.” Putting the standard to use as its developers intended can be a time- and money-saver. u
Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.