UL requires holographic labels for communications cable

Effective October 1, the requirement is meant to combat counterfeiting.

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In an effort to fight the penetration of counterfeit cable into the communications cabling market, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) now requires manufacturers of communications cables bearing the UL mark to use holographic labels on the smallest unit container in which the cable is packaged. The requirement went into effect October 1 and UL required cable manufacturers to destroy all non-holographic labels by that date. The following cable types are subject to the holographic-label requirement.

  • Communications cable
  • Communications cable verified to UL Performance Category Program
  • Data transmission cable verified in accordance with national or international specifications
  • Community antenna television cables
  • Data processing cable
  • Non-power-limited fire-alarm cable
  • Instrumentation tray cable
  • Network powered broadband communications cable
  • Optical fiber cable
  • Power-limited circuit cable

The specific effort that has resulted in the holographic-label requirement dates back to the beginning of 2010, and likely earlier than that. In January UL issued a bulletin to what it describes as its subscribers--cable manufacturers that participate in UL's certification services programs. The bulletin contained a proposal to revise the requirements of the Mark Integrity (Follow Up) Programs for the above-listed cable types. Over several months after the proposed changes were made, UL held industry forums in the United States and China to gain feedback on the proposal. Individual subscribers not participating in the forums also provided comments. UL said the program it ultimately put forth incorporates some of the suggested changes requested by industry participants.

In a bulletin to subscribers providing detail of the revised program, UL stated that the use of holographic labels has proven to be an effective tool in deterring counterfeit products from entering the marketplace.

The UL mark that you often see on a cable's jacket will remain as it has been - the letters "UL" either within a circle or in parentheses. In a memo to subscribers, UL reminded them that the printing of the UL mark on a cable jacket is permissible only when the accompanying smallest-unit container (e.g. reel or box) also has the UL mark.

The image at the top of this page is that of a sample holographic label UL included in a recent issue of its newsletter The Code Authority, a quarterly publication from UL's Regulatory Services Department as a resource for regulatory authorities. In the article within The Code Authority, UL explained that although manufacturers cannot add non-holographic labels to cable after October 1, it may take some time for cable with non-holographic UL marks to clar the supply chain.

In April 2009 UL's consumer safety director John Drengenberg told Cabling Installation & Maintenance that communications cable does not necessarily fit the typical profile of a product that is counterfeited most often. Typically, high-volume, low-priced items including consumer products like power strips, nightlightss and decorative holiday lights are subject to counterfeiting. Those items carry the UL symbol on holographic labels for exactly that reason - they are the most frequently counterfeited items and counterfeiting a holographic symbol adds a layer of complexity that deters many potential perpetrators. Since the time that statement was made a year-and-a-half ago, communications cable obviously has climbed to a higher-profile position within UL.

The revised program includes other details about the procedures for UL's follow-up testing procedures of cable. In follow-up stories, we will provide more detail on the program's changes.

For now, do not be surprised to see cable boxes and reels from familiar manufacturers now bearing holographic UL labels. In fact, it is probably worth questioning your supplier if the label is not holographic. Manufacturers were ordered to destroy non-holographic labels by October 1 and had the opportunity to order holographic labels beginning in June.

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