11 Jun Network Cabling + Electricians
The correct installation and termination of Network cables are essential for the effective, efficient and trouble free provision of a network throughout any building.
We see on a weekly basis, incorrectly terminated and poorly installed networks and in the vast majority of cases the installation has been completed by the Electricians that were employed to do the Electrical Wiring – a case of “oh we can do that” from them and “well its got to be ok because it is cable like any other” from the client who wants and easy life and the lowest cost.
I am very much aware that some Electrical installers are trained and certified to install networks, and there are a lot of these around and there is no issue at all with the work that they do, however when we are called to a “new build” and are presented with a handful of cables, solid cored with Cat5E or CAT6 cable and crimps stuck on the end with straight through 1:1 connections I really despair!
In this small technical article all we are asking is that they do the basics.
- “All Cable is not equal” – Use decent cable from a reputable manufacturer, if it is cheap there is a reason !
We see a lot of very cheap bulk cable that is Copper Clad Aluminium, this is a very cheap low quality cable that looks as if it is copper but at the core it is cheaper aluminium which has completely different properties. This cable will often be marked Cat5e, ANSI/TIA-568-C, ISO/IEC 11801 and/or BS EN 50173, this makes it look compliant but is only there to attract a low cost buyer. Copper Clad Aluminium can NEVER be CAT5E Compliant this is because the CAT5E Standard says simply
“the conductor shall be annealed solid copper and comply with the requirements of EN 50288-1:2003, 4.1. The conductor shall be plain or metal coated. NOTE Copper covered (clad) aluminium and/or steel conductors are not permitted.”
As a client you will not save anything on the installation cost, the difference in cost of cheap and compliant cable is very small and in the Global Scheme of things in a build is miniscule, but for the person installing it can be a nice addition to their bottom line for the job to sell you inferior cable.
Reputable Brands include Brand-Rex and Excel (our and out installers preferences)
- Terminate solid cored cable in a Patch Panel/Bay and in Wall Sockets – PLEASE!
As a general rule, solid cored “Installation” cable is not meant to be terminated in a Crimp Connector, Crimp Connectors are made to be used with Multi-stranded Cable, I know that there are some specialist crimp connectors made for Solid Cable, however they are very expensive compared to standard connectors and as such are both difficult to find and also require additional work when crimping as the “blade” is chamfered and therefore requires preparation to make the connection.
You can see the chamfered crimps on this solid core crimp example.
At the cabinet end, solid cored cable should be installed in a Patch Panel when the cable is “punched down” or “Kroned” into a Patch Panel using an inexpensive tool
Using a patch panel has many benefits apart from complying with standards, because installation cable has solid cores, it is not supposed to be bent and flexed (hence another good reason why it should not be used for Patch Cables that are plugged and unplugged regularly), the cables are punched into the connectors and these break the insulation and then grip the cable sides giving very good conductivity.
At the device end, so by desks or outlet positions, you should use a CAT5E Socket, or module as an outlet so again you then connect a patch cable to the socket and to the Computer or device. Patch cables are low cost and meant to be bent and flexed, if you bend and break a solid cable, then you have to re-crimp the end again – call the electrician back ? The alternative is to replace the patch cable which takes seconds and costs little.
- Never use solid cable to make Patch Leads
Very simply – Patch Cables are meant to be bent, flexed, plugged and unplugged, installation or solid cored cable is not !
- Use a wiring convention not One to One
The installation of network cables requires the removal of any possibility of cross-talk , to do this the cables are connected in a specific way. For most patch cable uses ( patch panel to device) the TIA 568B Standard will be used at BOTH ends, this is actually called a “straight through cable” even though some of the colours are not together.
TIA 568B Standard
- Maximum Cable Lengths
CAT5E Cable often comes on 305 Metre Boxes, this does not mean that you can install a 305M cable!
For CAT5E. the maximum length of a single cable run is 90M, that is the standard. If you need to go further than this then you should look at alternative technologies. It is correct that if you make a 150M cable. it may work now, but as speeds and requirements increase it will at some point become unreliable, but it will fail any test for compliance. Stick to 90M on a single run and you will not have problems with anything that supports the CAT5E Standard.
- Don’t Bend it like …
The MAXIMUM bend radius for CAT5E and CAT6 Cable is 4 x the diameter (Cat5E approx 15 mm, Cat6 is thicker so approx 25 mm ), any tighter and you will find that you can experience problems with higher speed communications, and of course again is it not within the CAT5E/CAT6 Specification.Cat5E in Blue, Cat6 in Orange gives you the idea.
- Testing and Certification are not the same
If you want to certify a network installation (and this should be the normal procedure) you will use a certification device to check the cable installation again the relevant specification, every cable that has been installed should be Certified and a printout of the test given to the client for every one. Many cabling systems such as BrandRex when certified by a trained installer will come with a 10 year guarantee against failure.
Continuity testing ONLY confirms that that the cable is connected in a way that is the same at both ends, that is it, nothing more, it does not say that the cables are connected to the correct standard ( this requires physical and electrical test) it does not say that a cable is too long, that it has a kink in it, that is has been pulled around a tight corner, it can handle the maximum network speed for the particular category of cable and lots more.If you don’t get a report like the one below, then your network has not been certified (you should get one of these reports for EVERY connection in your installation).
- If you are installing to a standard then meet it
Installing to the CAT5E or CAT6 Standards does mean buying cable that has the text stamped on it !If you are installing to Standards then a good guide and overview can be found here
(please note that this link takes you to an external site over which we have no control of the content)
Our stance on cabling We do not install CAT5E or CAT6/6A Cabling, we decided that it had become much too much of a specialist job 10 years ago. We found a partner company PSP Data Communications (www.pspdatacomms.com) who we use and subcontract all our network cabling requirements from CAT5/6/6A and Fibre and since that time we have never had a single issue with network reliability or performance ( ok we have had rats chew cables in lofts and barns, but this was not an installation problem!).
If you would like to discuss any of the points raised above then feel free to get in touch – 01948 820787.