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."
You may also be interested in this article from our archives: "With optical patch cords, make sure you get what you pay for" authored by Rodney Throckmorton of Corning Cable Systems.