Graybar and Intertek announce testing partnership

Graybar (St. Louis, MO), one of the nation`s largest voice and data distributors, and Intertek Testing Services (ITS--Cortland, NY), an independent testing organization, have announced a partnership which, according to Dennis DeSousa, Graybar vice president of communications and data marketing, "will help solve many of the network problems caused by the cabling system."

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

Graybar (St. Louis, MO), one of the nation`s largest voice and data distributors, and Intertek Testing Services (ITS--Cortland, NY), an independent testing organization, have announced a partnership which, according to Dennis DeSousa, Graybar vice president of communications and data marketing, "will help solve many of the network problems caused by the cabling system."

Called VIP, which stands for Verified Independently for Performance, the program will include independent laboratory testing of enhanced-performance cabling systems offered by the distributor, with special emphasis on Gigabit Ethernet networks.

"Market research shows that the demand for Gigabit Ethernet is virtually exploding," says Graybar national market manager Rob Bezjak. "Interest has doubled in the last six months, and we expect rapid migration to this new protocol."

Bezjak continues, "There`s not enough headroom for Gigabit Ethernet over installed Category 5 networks, and Category 5E does not solve the problem, since it offers no increase in bandwidth."

To resolve this situation, Graybar is having all of the enhanced-performance product lines it carries--both cabling and components--independently tested by ITS. Product lines will be certified as either VIP 1000- or VIP 2000-compliant.

"VIP 1000 specifications will take gigabit signals to 155 megahertz, above the 100-MHz limit of both Category 5 and 5E," Bezjak says. VIP 2000 is not fully specified yet, awaiting Category 6 specifications from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA--Arlington, VA), but, Bezjak continues, "it will cover multigigabit signals and will be designed to specify networks for five years or more."

This fall, Graybar will publish a matrix of VIP 1000-compliant products, listing cable and components that will perform to specification together.

The testing program will be carried out by ETL Testing Laboratories, an independent testing laboratory organization purchased by ITS in 1997. According to Donald Nicholson, ITS senior industry manager for communications products, testing will not be directed at individual cables and components, but will focus on the channel. The channel tested for VIP compliance will include approximately 100 meters of cable, including patch cords, jumpers, equipment cords, and horizontal cabling. In addition, there will be four connection points, a modular 8-pin jack, a 110 IDC block, and two patch-panel ports.

Specifications tested will include near-end crosstalk (NEXT), far-end crosstalk, attenuation-to-crosstalk ratio (ACR), and power-sum NEXT and ACR. "Testing will be done from both ends of the cable," says Nicholson, "and all pair combinations will be tested."

ITS/ETL will initially test all cable/ connector combinations in the Graybar program at least three times, using different components from the same manufacturers to ensure consistent performance. Testing will be pass/fail, and actual test results will not be published. Combinations that pass will be listed in the VIP matrix, which will be available from Graybar this month and from ITS in January; products that fail will be dropped from the program.

"And this won`t be the end of the testing," adds Nicholson. "We will do quarterly audits of products selected randomly from Graybar shelves across the country, and we will also retest each channel configuration quarterly."

The final step in the VIP program will be actual field-testing of the cabling infrastructure, provided by ITS`s ETL Field Verification Program (see "Independent testing verifies network integrity," April 1998, page 23). Following successful field testing, a VIP certificate of compliance will be issued.

"The TIA performance standards are intended to be a minimum," Bezjak points out. "Most people want better than the lowest-performing product that complies with the standard. Graybar`s breakthrough is in establishing numbers above the standard and partnering with ITS to provide independent verification of compliance.

"The benefit to our customers," he concludes, "will come from our offering multiple cabling solutions that have been independently verified by a testing lab and that, once installed, can be field-tested by the same organization. Also, the VIP program is a value-added service that will be provided at no additional cost to end users."

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