Vendors sign on to Quabbin Wire's Category 6 test program

Quabbin Wire & Cable Co., Inc. (quabbin.com), has launched a test program to evaluate Category 6 channel component interoperability.

Quabbin Wire & Cable Co., Inc. (quabbin.com), has launched a test program to evaluate Category 6 channel component interoperability.

The lab, based in Ware, MA, will test Category 6 components for interoperability. Permanent links are being installed in Quabbin's lab using a nominally compliant Category 6 horizontal cable—it meets Category 6 requirements, but is not a "select component" for any OEM's Category 6 system.

After link testing, patch cords are added to each link, resulting in a channel. The patch cords are also not OEM-specific cords, but rather compliant cords assembled with stranded Category 6 cable and Category 6 plugs from a major connector vendor. All cord assemblies are tested to meet the TIA's (tiaonline.org) Category 6 cord requirements. Channels are then tested and the results compared to published requirements. Quabbin is also gathering data on handheld field tester consistency.

Tom Russell, vice president of technical marketing, says that once OEMs learned about the program, many provided their hardware. In return, they will be given specific performance data compared to the "bench mark" of all other channels.

"We've gone to people and said, 'Come on board.' And almost everyone donated the gear," says Russell.

Currently, 12 different premise hardware systems are included in the evaluation.

Russell says the lab has tested four systems that appear to be interoperable. He says they passed "with a lot of headroom."

"So, we are encouraged," says Russell. "We are not naïve enough to think that they will all prove interoperable, but we are looking at hardware that has a sufficient margin now, and it means to us that many have been working very hard."

Most Category 6 premise hardware manufacturers now offer "end-to-end" channel warranties contingent upon installing only approved components. But the TIA's Category 6 standard is written around the principle of component interoperability.

Russell says this makes the study very timely. "Before the spec was issued, there were a lot of people rushing into the market with products claiming to be Category 6," says Russell. "A lot of those solutions end up being not much of a margin above Category 6. They passed, but only by a couple of decibels."

As Category 6 market share continues to grow through the next few months, Russell says there will be increasing end user pressure for component interoperability, especially in the channel configuration. He says customers would prefer not to be tied to one vendor for all future moves, adds, and changes.

Russell believes that by the end of the year, Category 6 products will have 33% of the market share. "Everyone feels now that they've got viable hardware to sell, and the market share will increase rapidly over the next few years," he says.

"A few years from now, there will be 10 Gigabit in the backbone or to the desk. So, you have to have the infrastructure that will support that future," Russell adds. "Category 6 will give you double the bandwidth of 5e, and it will allow you to have room for whatever comes next." ..

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