Should You Certify Every Cable You Terminate?

Certify meaning wiremapping plus testing attenuation, crosstalk(s), skew delay, length, etc.

Or just test the wiremapping?

Or try it out first and only use a LAN tester if it's not performing?

It depends on the scale of the project. If you're installing three cameras in a gas station then I would just test the wiremap and use a cable certifier for more in-depth troubleshooting if needed.

If I was doing a large project, say a college campus facility, I would certify every cable. It resolves many long term headaches and finger pointing. Perhaps even more important than that is if we were doing a large scale project of that nature we are likely making use of cabling and connectivity that is much higher grade than what is picked up at a local hardware store... perhaps something like Panduit and Belden Cable or similiar. If that is the case, there is are 15-20 year+ manufacturer warranties to take into account which are (usually) only applicable if cable certification results are submitted.

"....there is are 15-20 year+ manufacturer warranties to take into account which are (usually) only applicable if cable certification results are submitted."

Just to add on that, the ability to offer your customers that type of warranty on the cabling goes a long way, and is a big selling point for why chose our system vs. joe the coax guy and his trusty screw on terminations.

But I make our guys wiremap every connection for small jobs, and anything that is bigger or relies on networks provided or installed by others we certify with the fluke, just to eliminate the finger pointing.

Just a FYI , Warrantys and garantees are only as good as the stability of the company and the background of that company.

If co. sells off, changes status or changes ownership structure , Void warrantys

just a lot of feel good fluff.

Background, Reputation, Past Performances are the best warranty's

I agree to a point here. I love it when a 2 year old start up offers a 15 year warranty.

But back on topic here, the integrator isn't offering the warranty, the cable manufacturer is, right?

If co. sells off, changes status or changes ownership structure , Void warrantys

Do you really mean in the case of a judge approved dissolution/reorganization due to bankruptcy? Short of that a contract is contract, no?

I think it is smart for certain jobs, even if not required. I did a job hanging cameras in/on a series of aircraft maintenance hangars for the US Air Force. Huge buildings with roofs 60' or higher, luckily every bit of cable was run in trays fully accessible by catwalks.

It was a dream, really, you could run 200' of cable sixty feet off the floor just by walking down a catwalk. Accessibility was not an issue, nor would it ever be. However the customer demanded we certify even the patch cables we made. Why? Because it was a big thing to allow workers overhead of airplanes in the hangar.

According to rule, if we even wanted to climb up there to check one cable, they had to shut down the entire hangar and move all the airplanes outside. They had extreme concern over someone dropping a tool or a bit of trash down on an airplane and causing big damage.

So it made sense. We certified everything to 'prove' it was good at the time of install, and they could plan work with some certainty we wouldn't disrupt them with unplanned cable troubleshooting.

We are currently upgrading technolgy in every classroom of 60 building school system. This includes adding wireless access points to every classrom, making every room projector ready, and adding security cameras to 6 High Schools.

The cabling system involves adding Cat 6 and 6a cable system by Commscope. The installers test every cable and submit the resaults. All sites are then inspected by a Commscope representative. The warranty to me indicates that the contractors are following proper installation standards.

How does one prove a certification is done? What type of record / document / proof does one turn in?

Many certifiers can output a log file via USB at the end of a job. There are even some that have a thermal printer accessory that spits out a paper copy from a roll of calculator paper on the spot.

Fluke tester are used with documentation that the testers have calibrated and certified. Printed test results for every cable are then submitted.

If using something like a Fluke DTX-1200 or Ideal LanTek II it archives the test results to internal memory. It can then be exported to each manufacturer's software (e.g. Fluke Linkware) and exported to PDF or sent to the manufacturer as-is. I believe, at this point, that all of the manufacturers have sites to upload the results and submit the warranty request.

Here is a sample of Fluke test results.

Here's a sample test report.

Even when I was still in cabling (12 years ago), we were submitting results on CD to Leviton, instead of printed results.

I think whether you certify or not depends on a couple of things.

1. Do you own or have access to a certifier? If you do, then certify. It takes 30 seconds more than running a wiremap/length test with a small tester, and you get the documentation that yes, this cable is properly installed. When I worked in network install, even if I added two cables, I'd certify them. But I also carried our Cat 5e certifier in the van.

2. If you don't have access to one, it depends on the customer and quantity of cables. If you're doing a mom and pop shop? No, don't bother. But at least run wiremap and length on your cables.

If you're walking into a school, corporate campus, government facility, etc., where the cabling plant as originally installed was certified? In my opinion, yes. You should also be matching the cabling system in place if possible, but that's a separate topic.

Ideally, even if the customer doesn't care, I'd prefer some sort of test documentation. I wouldn't invest in a $10,000 Fluke kit, but it would be nice if some of the smaller handheld (wiremap/length) testers saved results. Adding that documentation to the project closeout,that these cables are terminated properly at a basic level, is good practice.

You can always rent them. Still not that inexpensive but on a larger job that doesn't have $10k-$20k built in for a certifier it may be worthwhile.

I agree. That's what I did in the past. It was mind blowing when I went to work for an integrator as opposed to the mostly cabling contractor I was at before, and they told me they didn't have a tester. There were jobs that weren't even getting wiremapped.

There were jobs that weren't even getting wiremapped.

Not even a 'slammer certification*, i.e., using a cross between two jacks and then checking the switch LEDs for activity on both ports, as well as confirming that the fastest transmission mode (link speed) was auto-negotiated?*

The 'theory' apparently being if double the length at least half works, half the length will work twice as good.*

*Not recommended.

On my Side, on large installations, I perform an iperf scan (requires 2 PC) during mini 30 sec(you can print your iperf.exe results in a text file) if the theorical vallue is reached for the disrtance and the technology your are using (so 95Mb for FE, 900 Mb for GE but 65Mb for some Wifi birdges given for 300.. it's ok. Remember you can do 800 meters with some strange technologies and Fluke will get issues to measure non Ethernet bridges..

Then when cameras are installed a multiping with latencies during 1 day or 1 week will measure if the global installation is matching the expections including also the cntral switches, NVR, NAS ..etc (this give the opportunity to measure potential crosstalk during night when electrical devices can alien low voltage wires) In videosurveillance you can have Cat6a or 7 but also very small Cat5E to connect inside tide fixed domes ... adding POE micro disconnections and also more dB attenuations

I seriously doubt not everyone is going to carry a Fluke Network tester or an equivalent or know how to use it. If I don't install the cabling myself one would be prudent to get certification on a large job of more than 8 cameras if in fact this is what we are addressing? I've had projects that required certified testing on completion for POS sales and network across the board. It was an invaluable lesson, fortunately I only had one bad cable ended up being a punch down issue on patch panel. It would have passed for IP cameras.

I had contacted Belden technical support prior to installation as to why most network cabling fails testing. Mostly due to poor quality modular plugs, excessive pulling on cable and not adhering to radius bends. Most technicians from alarm companies, so I was told, dont even address mechanical characteristics of actual cable etc.

You all seem to be in agreement that in general agreement that for larger systems, cable certification would be a good thing. Here is some spec language for you guys to thow darts at.

  • Submit (in .pdf form) printed test reports on all new cables installed under this contract to cable manufactuerer as/if required for cable warranty and to Owner's Representative. Resolve any deficient cables before submitting such results.
  • Reports to consist of those generated by a cable test management software such as LinkWare or equivilant and completed by a professional test instrument such as Fluke DTX-1200 or Ideal LanTek II.
  • Do not accept cables installed by others until they have been tested and certified as passed.
  • In the same manner, test existing cables that are reused for this project to ensure they are suitable for reuse. Once exisigng cables are certified, the cable becomes the entire responsibility of the integrator as if it were installed by him.
  • Integrator assumes all risk for existing cable that is reused under this contract unless specifically indicated in writing by the Owner. No addtional cost will be accepted for cable that is assumed to be good at the time of bid, but is found to be defective during installation unless so indicated by the owner.

Also, in my estimate of the work, what would be a good metric to figure the cost of this testing process in a new system? I like to tell clients how much things cost.

I used to estimate 3-5 minutes per cable when doing large installs. But in that case, testing was faster, as we were doing as many as six jacks in one faceplate, and two at the least. Surveillance is a different story and more spread out, so there may be more walk time in between tests.

That estimate included the test itself (which took 45 seconds on the Wavetek we used), as well as downloading results at the office.

Thanks. Thoughts on the spec?


At our shop, where we do a lot of telecom design, we reference ANSI/TIA standards such as:

ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 –Balanced Twisted-Pair Telecommunications Cabling and Components Standard

ANSI/TIA-1152 – Requirements for Field Test Instruments and Measurements for Balanced Twisted-Pair Cabling

There is a bunch more, but these are a couple of key ones.

In addition to certification, personal accountability goes a long way here to insuring quality work.

Regardless of the level of testing performed, it is critical to record the technician who performed the work, preferably thru the termination label itself. It instills a desire for exellence in the tech and will help management identify those who need further training.

Also cuts out the typical banter of "it's not mine, actually it looks like one of Bob's", during a failed cable inspection. In any event, 'Bob' is usually no longer an employee.

Undisclosed A, I agree with you on the personal accountability... I am not sure about most certifiers but we use a JDSU 40G and the technician(s) selects their name before running tests, afterwards their name is on the results...

Certify every cable you terminate and terminate every tech who will not certify. :)

In July 2014 Triplett acquired the assets of Byte Brothers, who makes cable certifiters between $500 and $900. I have seen the reports from Byte Brothers tests (models variously save to USB stick and/or print to printer). I do require cable certification for every cable installed for a project. More than half of the time that's simply a reflection of the client's IT department requirement. I haven't been involved in a project smaller than 50 cameras.

From what I have seen, it's not necessary to use a $10K test setup to get reliable results.

On a project about 4 years ago, when certification was performed at the very end of the project (instead of certifying cables as they were run), 6 cables runs out of 50 had to be replaced. I don't know the causes, but I suspected poor cable pulling practice, because redoing the terminations did not correct the issues.

Can anyone provide feedback on their use of Byte Brothers certifiers?

I had typed out a reply to this on my iPad last night but apparently it didn't send. So let's try again!

We had a Byte Brothers RWC at my last job. I didn't particularly care for it, but it was better than the nothing they had before that. I just sort of thought of it as a wiremapper with a couple bells and whistles. The ability to save results was nice, but downloading was clunky, because you had to set up their driver which was essentially to emulate a serial port.

It does "crosstalk", prop. delay, and skew, but doesn't indicate to what standards. It just shows PASS/FAIL. That makes me a little suspicious, coming from the cabling industry prior to that. An actual certifier will show you nanosecond and dB measurements so you can not only see PASS/FAIL, you can see why. The fact that they do not include a calibration certificate nor do they talk about recalibration also seems a little dubious to me. All test equipment needs maintenance. This is no different.

Finally, I really doubt engineers and manufacturers would accept these results as being to standards. I've never asked one, but I can't imagine a cable manufacturer applying a 15, 25, or 30 year warranty to cables tested with the RWC.

All that in mind: If you want something that's a little bit more of a test than a verifier showing wiremap and length, it's not a bad deal. I just think of it as more of a qualifier than a real certifier.

ALSO SEE IPVM's Network Cable Testing Guide by Ethan Ace added Jan 25, 2015. It includes a downloadable PDF with an example test report.

I have posted some additional questions to Ethan on that page. Although related to this topic, the specifics of my questions are more pertinent to the Testing Guide page.

Can anyone estimate what a normal or expected defect rate for a competent tech is crimping an RJ-45 8P8C, A or B?

Meaning either cable fails testing with tool, or if no tester used, fails to work when used. One out of 20, 100, 1000?

I usually expected 1-2 per patch panel, which amounts to 1-2 out of 50. Hands down the most common issue was just a bad termination on one end or the other, and a 5 minute fix.

I wonder if it's logical to therefore conclude that up to 2% of hand terminated camera cable runs that were NOT checked with a tool might have defects in the unused pairs. Defects that won't be noticed until someone tries to use 1000Mb at some point.

Does that sound right?

"the contractors are following proper installation standards."

Can someone send me this standard?

John H-

An article on certification and wire mapping would be fantastic and helpful.

Hi John,

We have posts on both the BICSI standards as well as certification and wiremapping.

The standards aren't free, they're a few hundred dollars each, but we cover what's in them in our BICSI post.

Thank you Ethan, much appreciated.

Yes. This is for the end-users benefit and should be specified by the end-user or their consultant/engineer. The certification ensures application performance to gigabit or 10 gig (with 6a). Today's device most likely does not require all the cable bandwidth the link or channel can provide, but future devices most likely will. If the end-user does not want to re-cable his premise he should always as for certification. Cabling is like plumbing in the walls, you only want to do it once if at all possible. Going with a major North American made brad will also ensure you are covered for 25 years or more.
Yes Jon the cable or the connectivity MFG would hold the warranty. By picking longstanding, established North Amercan brands the end-user, and installer are covered. I agree with all the worries about flyby night or start up companies....but companies like Superior Essex, Commscope, Legrand, Belden etc. have been around for as long as 60 years, in some cases and are not going anywhere anytime soon. Cheers

I can't speak to certification, but I certainly wish that we had commissioned our cabling before the walls were closed up. It's more expensive to remedy problems afterwards.

Of 40 total cables, 3 (so far) haven't met expectations. Each problem was discovered upon first use. One was corrected under warranty, and the other two were discovered after the warranty period had expired. We haven't used every cable yet, so there could be more surprises.

As you can see from the photo, it's a real dream installation. Here are a few interesting tidbits:

-Note the highly sophisticated Cat5e splice (bent double with black electrical tape) -- that cable still gets 10 Mbps. The splice was cleverly buried in the middle of a 4" bundle.

-The duct tape is my own classy signature to mark a Cat5e with outer insulation damage. It appears to have no effect on performance.

-Although not particularly evident from the photo, I'd say that the installers had no sense of the need for slack to accommodate a variety of equipment configurations. In our opinion, the insertion loss of a few extra feet of cable is much less than the insertion loss of an addition inline patch panel, and we'd prefer to preserve Gig Ethernet performance.

In our prior office, we installed dual Cat5e wall jacks about every 12 ft. We verified each cable with inexpensive ethernet static fault testers. It worked fine.

A lot is happening during new construction, and we didn't realize we needed to place a priority on Cat5e verification. We expected professional installers would run intact cables and would verify end-to-end connectivity, just as we had. We certainly didn't expect splices and nicks in Cat5e.

Live and learn.

Cable Clutter

Who signed off on that work? THAT person should be FIRED!

I can literally feel the signal reflecting back from that pigtail. :(

I would have to say my favorite part of that photo is the use of the ratchet strap as cable management...

I have taken the liberty of submitting this fine example of cable craftsmanship for the annual cable installation of the year award by the Hall of Shame! Expect a call soon from the nominating committee!