7 Deadly Counterfeit Cable Sins for You to Avoid

January 30, 2014 at 10:00 AM



What scares you more than a faulty, over-rated, counterfeit cable? If you’re like us and work with cables on a daily basis, then you know the answer: nothing.  


Shockingly, unscrupulous sellers have found many ways to cut costs on cables, drawing customers in for the low price. But what they don’t tell you is that it comes at a price- sacrificing safety, performance, and network stability.


So how do you identify them? Counterfeit cables are bulk cables or cable assemblies sold under false pretenses to undercut legitimate manufacturers.  Usually this means the cable specification does not match the actual product construction. Or it could be that the seller falsely implies that a cable meets a particular performance standard or flammability rating such as Category 5E or CMP/Plenum.  If you get a low bid for your next cable quote, check these factors to make sure you are getting what you are paying for:

1. Substituting steel or aluminum for pure copper: copper-clad-steel (CCS) or copper-clad-aluminum (CCA) are classic methods of saving on costly copper needed to make cables. Over the length of the cable, however, the signal integrity will drop below the noise and cross-talk levels. There's a good reason the EIA/TIA has not approved CCS or CCA cable for use in high-speed networks…

2. Deceiving Connector construction: This is a two-part deception. For "RJ-45" (8p x 8c) connectors, rejected molded plastic bodies can be re-ground back to pellets, added to new plastic, and then made in new bodies, which can lower the combustion rating for the overall connector. A good tip: check the connector body for foggy or yellowing plastic. Aside from the body, the metal contacts are first coated with nickel then with gold to ensure a good connection. Manufacturers have been skipping the nickel and skimping on the gold, sometimes called gold flash or selective plating. Contacts made this way will eventually corrode and fail to connect when mated.

3. Cable Jacket Material: For those applications that require CMP or CMR flammability rating, the requirement is critical. If it is specified that the cable meets CMP or CMR ratings (per the NEC code) and you get an unusually low bid, ask for proof of the jacket material. A legitimate business will offer a signed Certificate of Conformance (CoC) for the product they sell.

4. Selective Electrical Performance Testing: Some manufacturers will claim their cable or cable assemblies were "Fluke tested", but won't clarify that they only ran the channel test, not the full patch testing. Patch testing is difficult to pass and more expensive, but legitimate manufacturers will do it because it ensures the cable conforms to standards and is worth what they are charging.

5. Misleading Cable Markings: All cables sold in the United States will use a UL "E-file Number" or the manufacturer's name and model number that you can look up on UL's database. The problem is that the marking may conform to UL's standard, but the cable may not. Again, a signed CoC will protect against counterfeits so make sure you get one!

6. Wire Gauge Changes: Often 25 or 26 AWG cables can be mislabeled as 24 AWG. If you require 24 AWG, you should always request a sample cable, cut it open, strip the insulation off of the wires and measure them. Don't trust a manufacturer that claims something they aren't selling; if they are untruthful about the wire gage, what else could they be hiding?

7. The Golden Sample: While it is a good idea to get a sample up front, many manufacturers will make a "golden sample" to be perfect for what you need, sometimes at great expense. When it comes time to manufacture the rest, they scrimp and cheat all they can to deliver under cost. You should always set up a system whereby you QC some of the cables in each shipment-and without the manufacturer's prior knowledge.
This problem is much more common than you think!
L-com found counterfeit cables from both big and small manufacturers, and from both domestic and oversea sources. “Made in the USA” means nothing if the cable is made with poor components in order to offer a cheaper price. If price is your priority, someone can always make a cheaper cable. It doesn’t matter where a cable is made, but how the cable is made.
The key is to know that your seller or manufacturer (like us!) is checking cable assemblies, insisting on proving UL compliance, testing their cables, and always meeting standards. At L-com our Ethernet cables are made in our own factory versus in a sub-contractor’s, guaranteeing superior quality every time. 

This Week's Lineup of Bulk Cables

November 21, 2013 at 4:25 PM


If your job or application requires buying cabling in bulk, then you understand that the term “bulk cable” covers a lot of ground. There are several different types of bulk cable, various ways to use them, and multiple avenues to order from.

Bulk CableSpoolAlthough a factory-terminated cable assembly will suit just about any connectivity application, you still want to be mindful of exceptions. Sometimes the connector on a cable is too big to pass through a narrow conduit or too difficult to fish through a wall or a ceiling.  Or the pinning is non-standard, and an off-the-shelf product won't work. Sometimes you won't know the proper length of the cable until you get to your location, so you will be forced to terminate the cable on site. To help you determine what you need, here’s a look at a couple of bulk cable types L-com offers and some ordering advice.


Fiber Optic Cable

fiber cableFiber optic cable is one of the most commonly ordered bulk cable types. Since fiber cable can be run to extreme lengths, it is impossible for anyone to carry factory-terminated cables in all the lengths that may be required.  Also, ordering bulk fiber cable isn’t the same as ordering for standard fiber optic specifications. When ordering fiber optic bulk cable, there are several factors to keep in mind. 

Short fiber cables for patching are generally duplex, with two counts of fiber, or occasionally simplex with one fiber. As you run longer cables or higher counts of cables, it is usually desired to bundle several fibers into a single jacket for convenience and protection when pulling through a conduit.  L-com offers two types of cables bundled in this way: breakout style and distribution style. 

Fiber Distribution cable

The biggest difference between breakout style and distribution style is where the Kevlar strength member is used. In breakout style cables, each internal fiber optic cable has its own Kevlar layer within each jacket.  This can increase the strength of the entire cable and provide additional strength to each fiber if the outer jacket is stripped away for termination.  Usually, due to the thickness of each fiber, breakout style cable has a fewer count of fibers in it compared to distribution style fiber. 


Distribution style cable only has one Kevlar layer around all of the fibers within the outer jacket.  The advantages of this is that the outer diameter of the whole cable is reduced dramatically, so you can fit it in tighter conduits and carry a higher count of fibers in it. The individual fibers are faster and easier to terminate since you don't have to trim back the Kevlar on each fiber cable.


Whichever style works best for you, fiber optic cables are unique in that you do not need to order in specific "put ups" or order lengths. While there is usually a minimum order length, you can order the bulk fiber cable to whatever length you are likely to need.  Note that terminating fiber cables generally requires special training and equipment.


Bulk Ethernet Cabling

Double Shielded: Foil plus Braid - SF/UTP LSZH - 24 AWG Solid Conductor - LSZH Jacket - Category 5E

Often, bulk Ethernet cabling is used in horizontal runs from a server room to individual drop points at workstations.  Because of the sensitivity of the twisted pairs within the cable, it should be spooled carefully in the manufacturer's factory. Once it is pulled off of the spool for use it should not be re-spooled.  For this reason many distributors can only sell the bulk cable at whatever put up it was spooled at originally, which is usually 1,000 feet.  


There is much to know about Ethernet cabling, such as jacket material, shielding and flexibility, but most important is whether the conductors are stranded or solid.  Solid conductors are more popular in horizontal runs because they are much easier to terminate in IDC jacks at the drop points, while stranded conductors are more flexible and best suited for use as patch cables.


There's more...

In addition to the many variations of Fiber Optic and Ethernet bulk cable; there is also bulk cable for USBRG and Low Loss coaxVGA and SVGA  applications and more (all of which L-com carries!).

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