A standard labeled with logical solutions

Updated TIA labeling guidelines focus on uniformity amidst growth.

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Updated TIA labeling guidelines focus on uniformity amidst growth.

Todd Fries / HellermannTyton

About every five years, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA-Arlington, VA) updates the TIA/EIA-606 labeling standard. The fantastic growth of the premise wiring market has attracted the attention of various industries, markets and companies from all over the world. Many markets, including voice, data, audio, electrical, security, or electronics, are involved in telecommunications installations, and almost everyone has their own method of labeling the distribution of the hardware and cable.

As this growth expands, it is becoming more important that a unified standard for labeling be established in the industry. TIA/EIA-606A is the answer to that need.

The updated "Administrative Standard for Telecommunications Infrastructure" is an outline designed to provide a common method of marking wire, cables, telecommunications rooms, patch panels, pathways and termination position identifiers. The standard proposes that labels should be of a size, color and contrast to be readily visible, and should have a useful life that is equal to or greater than that of the component labeled. To maximize legibility, all labels should be printed or generated by a mechanical device.

What's new

A summary of changes in the latest revision include: establishing classes of administration, accommodating scalable needs, allowing modular implementation, specifying labeling formats to be portable across multiple platforms, and specifying identifiers to accommodate information transfer from design drawings to cabling system administration software.

The most important of these changes is the establishment of classes of administration. In short, the revision proposes four classes of complexity:

  • A Class 1 system will have fewer than 100 users and utilize a single telecommunications room;
  • A Class 2 system will have hundreds of users and multiple telecommunications rooms in a single building;
  • A Class 3 system will accommodate more than 1,000 users in a campus environment (multiple buildings with multiple floors on each building);
  • A Class 4 system will include thousands of users in a telecommunications infrastructure that extends across multiple geographic locations. (In this case, you might have multiple campus locations connected over large geographic distances).

The key is to choose the system that best fits the future of your installation. For example, if you are currently building a Class 1 infrastructure, but know that this system will eventually expand to a Class 2 administrative system, you should choose to manage the installation under the guidelines of the Class 2 system.

The beauty and simplicity of the proposed standard is that it is modular and expandable. That is, if you change from a Class 2 to a Class 3 system, there is no need to go back and re-label all of your connections and terminations.

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While some installers prefer to hand-identify their cables (l), the revised TIA labeling standard would encourage PC-based label products, such as the K3000 manufactured by Kroy LLC (top right) and Tagprint Pro from HellermannTyton (bottom right)-designed for quickly converting infrastructure data to easy-to-read printed labels.
Click here to enlarge image

In a Class 1 system, for instance, marking on the horizontal link is designed by the code "ann". The "a" is the alpha code that identifies the specific patch panel, and the "nn" is the numeric code that specifies the port on that patch panel. So, if you are troubleshooting a horizontal link to a work area, you can easily read the three-digit code on the outlet box, where the plug is located in the office. If it is marked as B23, you would know that this link goes back to port 23 on patch panel B in the telecommunications room.

If in the future you add another phone or fax line to that office, you might have to connect that line to a totally different patch panel. Let's say that you now have to connect to port number 10, on patch panel C-in this case, C10. Because of the modular implementation of this standard, it will be very easy to find this link when working back to the telecommunications room.

A Class 2 system will build upon the foundation of a Class 1 system. In a Class 2 system, the horizontal link is designated as "ft-ann." The "f" is the floor number and the "t" is the alpha code for the telecommunications room. If, for instance, you have a horizontal link identifier that reads 2B-B23, you would know that this connects to patch panel B, port 23 on the second floor in telecommunications room B. Again, the idea is to make the recording of the physical transport system as easy as possible. Each higher class builds upon the data required on the previous class, allowing a common nomenclature to be used in the entire infrastructure.

Labeling critical elements

Currently, the standard proposes that the marking of grounding and bonding points, as well as firestopping locations, be mandatory. But the TIA committee is investigating to determine if the labeling of these components is already covered under the National Electrical Code. If so, these labeling specifications would continue to be covered under that governing body.

The revised standard also covers the labeling of other critical elements, including:

  • Equipment Bonding Conductors (EBCn);
  • Bonding Conductors (BCnn);
  • Pathway Horizontal (PHnn);
  • Pathway Backbone (PBnn);
  • Entrance Room (Ernn);
  • Entrance Cable (Ecnn); and
  • Manhole (MHnnn).

A simple "prefix" identifies the type of elements for the pathways, entrance, and outside plant elements, and then a simple numeric code identifies the location of each. For instance, ER02 would mean Entrance Cable at location number 2. As you move through the classes of administration, you identify more and more elements. The chart above, showing the required identifiers by class for the various elements, describes the increased complexity of each system.

Tagging the infrastructure

TIA/EIA-606A also requires the recording of the transport system. This can be done on a paper-based system in a Class 1 environment, but should include a non-proprietary software package (such as Excel) to record the data for almost anything regarding the telecommunications infrastructure in a Class 2, 3 or 4 system. Information for a single horizontal link may include:

  • Location of the work area outlet connector;
  • Outlet hardware;
  • Cable type;
  • Cable length;
  • Crossconnect hardware;
  • Presence or absence of a MUTOA (multi-user telecommunications outlet assembly).

Again, this information is limited in a Class 1 system, but expands as you move into more complex installations for Class 2, 3 or 4 systems.

While most installers use Windows-based database programs, such as Excel or Access, to record their infrastructure data, the challenge is always to easily convert the data to pre-printed labels. Because of the labor involved, many installers dread the necessary evil of marking thousands of wires and cables. There are several label printing software programs available. HellermannTyton's Tagprint Pro, for example, lets you import data from Excel databases directly into the program where it then converts the data to labels in a variety of formats. In many cases, installers can print thousands of labels within a few minutes and send them to various installations as a complete package. Small handheld printers can then be used to print any lost or additional labels that may be needed on-site.

While color-coding is not a requirement, TIA/EIA-606A offers detailed recommendations for the sake of uniformity. Suggested colors are listed in the formats to which most cabling installers are accustomed, and are also intended to serve as a guideline for those from other industries and markets who design cabling installations:

  • Demarcation point-Orange;
  • Network connection-Green;
  • Common equipment-Purple;
  • Key system-Red;
  • First level backbone-White;
  • Second level backbone-Gray;
  • Inter-building backbone-Brown;
  • Horizontal-Blue;
  • Other-Yellow.

Keeping it basic

Taken at face value, TIA/EIA-606A is easy to use and understand. The growing emphasis on standards in the telecommunications industry is creating more awareness of the need to standardize on labeling everything in an installation, and this standard should encourage many who have not traditionally followed the TIA guidelines to move toward common integration within the industry.

Research and development of TIA/EIA-606A has crossed the boundaries of many markets, industries, and companies. While many of the basic components are subject to change during the next few months, it appears to be a standard that everyone can embrace.

Todd Fries is a marketing manager of identification systems with HellermannTyton (Milwaukee, WI). You can contact him via e-mail at: corp@htamericas.com.


Required Identifiers by Class


Class 1

  • Horizontal link
  • Grounding/bonding
  • Firestopping

Class 2
  • Horizontal link
  • Grounding/bonding
  • Firestopping
  • Backbone elements

Class 3
  • Horizontal link
  • Grounding/bonding
  • Firestopping
  • Backbone elements
  • Pathways/spaces
  • Entrance elements
  • OSP elements
  • Building identifier

Class 4
  • Horizontal link
  • Grounding/bonding
  • Firestopping
  • Backbone elements
  • Pathways/spaces
  • Entrance elements
  • OSP elements
  • Building identifier
  • Remote building
  • Campus identifier

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