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. 
 

Choose the Right Cable Jacket Material

July 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM


Plenum, LSZH and More

 

L-com's Plenum rated multiconductor cable

 

For buyers and technicians using signal-grade cabling, much attention is usually given to the connector type, termination process and bulk cable construction. Another aspect not to be forgotten that can be critical to many applications is the cable jacket material.

 

 

What does the jacket do?

 

More than just a color coding cable management technique, the jacket has several important functions. It allows the separate conductors to be organized into a single data line for ease of organizing, or it can even contain several conductors or wires to be broken out at a drop point.

 

The cable jacket also aids tremendously in the cable's flexibility and durability. In covering any shielding within the cable, it can prevent noise that collects on the shield from degrading the signals of other cables nearby, or from draining at inappropriate spots. Finally, the outer jacket is often the last line of defense between the data-carrying conductors and the environment in which the cable is used.

 

 

Fire Code Considerations

 

Comparison of cable jackets burning

Perhaps the most important aspect of a cable's jacket is how that jacket burns in a fire. PVC, the flexible plastic material that makes up most general purpose or residential grade cables is cheap and convenient, but it burns quickly and releases poisonous gas while burning.

 

If cables are run behind the walls of a building or in a vehicle and a fire breaks out, that fire can "leap" from room to room or floor to floor by burning along the cables behind the walls. And if the location where the cables are run is difficult to exit, as in a submarine, ship, airplane or even crowded warehouse, the poisonous smoke would compound the difficulty in dealing with the fire.

 

Because of this, many cables are given flammability compliance codes to help technicians from buying or using inappropriate cables. But, differences in measurement techniques and designations can make the process very confusing. In general, though, there are two "types" or classes of jacket materials other than PVC.

 

 

Plenum for Fire Retardation and Self-Extinguishing

 

In many large buildings, the duct work between rooms and floors is also the raceway for much of the building's data cabling. This space is often called the building's "plenum", and so the types of cables run in these environments are often called Plenum rated cables or just Plenum cables.

 

Plenum materials must be self-extinguishing, meaning that after they start burning and then the external fire or heat source is removed, the material must stop burning. This prevents the cables from "carrying" the fire to another location in the building and re-igniting unexpectedly. Sometimes Plenum cables are referred to as CL2P, OFNP, or CMP. Plenum cables are known to be more expensive than PVC, but in cases where a fire code requires plenum the cost must be factored into the overall installation job.

 

 

Low Smoke, Zero Halogen (LSZH) for Sealed or Mobile Locations

 

Jacket materials that have been designed to release very little smoke and no poisonous gas when burned are often called LSZH. These are typically reserved for special applications where the occupants near the cables may not be able to escape or ventilate the room in the instance of a fire. Again, this occurs frequently in military and aerospace applications.

 

 

Special Jacket Considerations

 

In addition to the above designations for particular fire codes, jackets may have other features useful in niche applications. UV resistance is important in applications where the cable may be exposed to strong sunlight for long periods. UV light can weaken and eventually destroy many PVC compounds over time. Or, oil resistance may be needed in many factory automation apllications as the petroleum-based compound could dissolve if immersed in oil. High-flex or hi-flex cables often use a special jacket that will not crack and split when the cables are flexed over and over again.

 

If you're looking for industry's largest selection of off-the-shelf Plenum, LSZH and other special-jacketed cable and cable assemblies, stop in at L-com's online configurator or contact customer service to get a quote started. We can custom manufacture cables with the jacket type you need.

 
© L-com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. L-com, Inc., 50 High Street, West Mill, Third Floor, Suite 30, North Andover, MA 01845