Latest CCCA testing shows offshore patch cords fail miserably

Jan. 1, 2011
The latest round of performance testing conducted by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) has shown that Cat 6 patch cords ...

Compiled by Patrick McLaughlin

The latest round of performance testing conducted by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) has shown that Cat 6 patch cords from brand-name manufacturers can be trusted to perform as expected, while "no-name" cords from offshore manufacturers, by and large, cannot.

This latest set of tests included 499 samples of Category 6 patch cords -- 379 made by offshore manufacturers whose names are not generally known in North America and 120 made by well-known manufacturers. A whopping 322 of the 379 offshore cords failed to meet the performance specifications of TIA-568-C.2. CCCA reports that 78 percent of the failing samples failed by a margin of 3 dB or more, and 45 percent of the failing cords were 6 dB or more worse than the 568-C.2 performance specs. A release from CCCA detailing the testing and its findings explains, "Because noise is measured on a logarithmic scale, a 3-dB failure indicates a noise level that is twice as high as the allowable standards and failures of this magnitude could contribute to significant network problems."

Meanwhile, all 120 of the Category 6 patch cords from well-known manufacturers passed the CCCA testing. All patch-cord tests were conducted at a lab audited by Underwriters Laboratories.

While the moral of the story is for users to choose trusted, brand-name patch cords over presumably lower-priced and lower-performing cords, CCCA made a couple other points when releasing information on this latest testing round.

None of the failing cords identified itself as using independent, third-party testing labs to verify performance, though patch-cord testing and verification programs are available from testing agencies.

Many CCCA members are global companies with offshore manufacturing facilities and business operations. The quality issues and failure to comply with industry standards are not necessarily regional in nature, CCCA emphasizes, but rather result from the use of low-quality components, poor assembly methods and poor quality control. In other words, the lone fact that a patch cord is manufactured in a specific geographic region does not by itself indicate either high or low quality manufacturing.

CCCA's executive director Frank Peri commented, "Once again we see disturbing test results that seem to fit the pattern uncovered with our testing of offshore bulk data communications cable. The overwhelming failure rate of these offshore patch cords is very unsettling, suggesting that the manufacturers exporting these products are likely aware they are selling faulty products. The lack of third-party verification with lesser-known brands should put all users on alert to be sure they are getting the performance they expect and are paying for."

Cable tester measures copper, fiber for Gigabit Ethernet performance

The Signaltek-FO qualification tester from Ideal Industries allows the user to measure performance of both
copper and fiber-optic cabling systems to IEEE 802.3 Gigabit Ethernet standards. Signaltek-FO incorporates features including Gigabit Ethernet bit error rate testing, active LAN diagnostic testing, 32-Mbyte internal memory for storing up to 20,000 tests and printed pass/fail qualification reporting.

It also features an interchangeable small-form pluggable (SFP) port with a duplex LC connector for fiber-optic qualification. According to Ideal, this feature enables the user to easily migrate from copper to fiber qualifying, assuring all new and existing links are properly installed and will perform reliably in support of 10/100/1000 Ethernet, Voice over Internet Protocol, voice, IP video and other applications.

The company adds that the Signaltek-FO's dual-wavelength capability enables it to switch over from 850 to 1300 nm to test fiber installations, while multimode and singlemode capabilities permit qualification of cabling to distances of 10 kilometers. The unit will perform both bit error rate testing and optical attenuation loss measurements on fiber-optic links, and will measure cable attenuation with a dynamic range of up to 20 dB.

Singaltek-FO can be configured to run for several minutes, or multiple hours, to "stress-test" a link for dropped packets, Ideal says. This monitoring mode allows the tester to be used to isolate intermittent network problems that are difficult to detect, the company adds. The tester will inform its user which device is at the end of a cable run, such as its own remote handset, a live network device or an open link. The autotest function performs a test suite based on the link's current configuration.

The tester's reporting capabilities allow it to produce a customized report documenting cable performance that can be stored on the tester, transferred to a PC via USB, or printed via a Web browser.

Several accessories are included with the tester including a fiber-ready near-end and remote-end handset; carrying case; copper cable accessory kit with RJ45, RJ11 and coaxial leads; a fiber-optic accessory kit; 8 AA batteries; 2 AC power adapters, a USB cable; user manual on CD; and a training DVD.

HD fiber-optic line saves space

Legrand-Ortronics has unveiled its OptiMo High Density (HD) fiber-optic line. The OptiMo HD family includes high-density rack-mount fiber enclosures, adapter panels, and pretermi-nated cassettes, all designed for space-constrained installations in enterprise networks and data centers.

OptiMo HD rack-mount enclosures are available in 1U, 2U, 3U, and 4U versions. The enclosures accept reduced-width adapter panels and cassettes, which enables a 33% increase in terminations per unit of rack space over standard density products, Ortronics says. A complete OptiMo HD system can provide up to 384 fibers in a 4U enclosure, saving rack space for active equipment.

Other OptiMo HD family members include Momentum 4 (M4) preterminated cassettes and HDFP-series adapter panels in LC-quad and MPO configurations. Ortronics says its high-density fusion splice tray and heat shrink sleeves provide additional protection and storage for fiber cables and splices.

The OptiMo HD products are designed to provide the same performance and reliability of Ortronics' standard density fiber products and are optimized for use with Ortronics Mighty Mo equipment racks and cabinets.

Tyco Electronics changing name to TE Connectivity

Tyco Electronics plans to change its name to TE Connectivity Ltd. The name change is subject to approval from the company's shareholders at their general meeting to be held March 9, 2011.

Chief executive officer Tom Lynch says the name change will "better reflect the products and solutions that we provide to our customers. In a world that is increasingly connected, we engineer a full range of connectivity solutions. From electronic connectors under the hood of a car, to fiber-optic cables under the sea, to high-voltage connections in energy systems, our products protect and connect the flow of data and power from origination to destination in the world's largest industries including automotive, telecommunications, energy, aerospace, industrial, white goods and consumer devices."

He added that many customers and employees already refer to the company by the initials "TE."

In December The company completed its acquisition of ADC Telecommunications. ADC is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyco Electronics (soon to be known as TE Connectivity).

Preterminated fiber system for 100G

Leviton has announced a preterminated fiber system with 24-fiber MTP connectors designed to accommodate 100 Gigabit Ethernet. Leviton says the system was designed specifically to meet the IEEE 802.3ba requirements and accommodate 100GBase-SR10 and 40GBase-SR4 equipment. Leviton will formally introduce the 24-fiber MTP cabling system at the BICSI Winter Conference the week of January 16.

The company explains that the preterminated MTP system features new cable, connector and termination
technologies. Leviton adds that the system will meet the tight optical cabling channel insertion loss (IL) requirements specified in the 802.3ba standard, from 2.6 dB for 10-GbE to 1.9 dB for OM3 40/100-GbE and 1.5 dB for OM4 40/100-GbE. The system fully uses 24-fiber MTP technology throughout the entire optical fiber cabling channel, including trunk modules, adapters and array cords needed to transmit 20 channels of 100GBase-SR10. Additionally, Leviton says, the system is backward-compatible with existing Gigabit or 10G networks, allowing for a straightforward migration path to 40G or 100G performance.

Director of fiber and data center product management for Leviton Network Solutions Gary Bernstein called the system's introduction "a very exciting development in preterminated MTP structured cabling. Our customers desire an easy migration-path solution to 40/100G, and we are thrilled that Leviton is able to provide it."

Panduit launches advisory services for end users

Panduit Corporation has introduced Panduit Advisory Services, a business unit that provides clients with lifecycle services for physical infrastructures that the company says maximizes performance with a focus on optimal speed, space, power and cooling. It is based on Panduit's Unified Physical Infrastructure (UPI) approach. The company says the new set of services addresses enterprise needs across multiple business and technology domains, including communications, computing, control, security and power.

"This alignment allows businesses to improve reliability, reduce costs, heighten agility, and support sustainability initatives," said Paul Kopera, vice president.

In tandem with its business partners, Panduit Advisory Services will assess and analyze current data center physical infrastructure–using its UPI principles, reference architectures and experience in developing products for the physical infrastructure–to design solutions that meet clients' current needs and future requirements.

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