Comprehensive Surveillance Cabling Guide

By Brian Rhodes, Published Dec 17, 2014, 12:00am EST (Info+)

Surveillance cabling seems mundane, yet is a critical topic. A system with the best equipment can still be a failure if the network connecting it is shoddy or not properly installed, while carefully designed and installed cable can potentially be used for decades.

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Comments (6)

I think there is a trend from some well known security distributors and china resellers selling less than spec versions of popular cable products i.e. Cat5, Cat6, Siamese. What are the thoughts on that? For example, we see alot of copper covered aluminum coax, or less than 85% copper braid instead of 95% copper braid, etc. What is the impact of this, in various applications? Who cares and who doesn't?

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First, great article.

@Undisclosed A: Copper Clad Aluminum (CCA) is the single best mark of a trunkslammer. The problem is unless you know what to look for, who knows what they are buying? I am going to assume many CCA purchasers are just looking for the cheapest cable and it's not like those distributors say "it is $180 for this box of REAL Cat5e plenum or we have this CCA plenum for $140". The odds are if an integrator is laying cabling direct on the ceiling grid or tie wrapping cable to electrical conduit, being wary of CCA isn't high on their list.

CCA should be avoided because of sub-optimal performance. I have seen a subcontractor's entire job site pass continuity tests (pairs wired properly) only to have a nearly all fail channel certification with a cable analyzer (Fluke DTX-1200 or similiar). There have been warnings about this put out by UL and many others. Without a cable analyzer I don't know how people would realize this is the source of many problems and just repull cable until one works. Not every integrator owns a cable analyzer and a $50 continuity tester will pass anything, including 3000' cat3 runs as long as it is wired properly.

In the example you provided regarding coax I think the deficiencies are much harder to quantify. The common field testing tools for coax are not nearly as sophisticated as Category rated copper or fiber. If an analog camera should be good 1000' over good RG-59 who notices if it only carries usable signal 875'?

To a structured cabling guy (I'm sure there are quite a few RCDDs on here which will back me up) CCA is analogous to the Big Box retailer special on surveillance cameras.

The reasons not to use CCA UTP are:

1. It's more brittle. Who likes repulling cable?

2. It has higher DC resistance. Resistance = heat. POE+ and CCA are a bad mix.

3. CCA oxidizes (rusts) when exposed to air.

4. CCA has higher attenuation.

5. If any of the above issues exist it is challenging to troubleshoot the root cause. Is it a broken conductor? Is it sub-optimal performance? Is it over-length? Since CCA doesn't usually list the NVP (Nominal Velocity of Propagation) on a spec sheet a channel certifier would inaccurately provide the length.

6. As we move into higher bandwidth over twisted pair it is recommended to not even use tie wraps on UTP since crushing the twist could present issues. What will messing with the electrical properties of the conductor do?

Be extremely wary of using CCA for anything like 8 ohm/70v/100v audio.

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Does everything above apply to Coax cable as well? Meaning, does coax or (coax with 18/2) need to be rated depending on your use?

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Yes, the 'riser' and 'plenum' ratings apply generally to cable, not just category types.

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I've seen some very cheap pre made CAT5e cable that comes without twists inside the jacket. They seem to work fine (testing purposes, comes less than 70ft in cheap IP Kits) although I've never installed them. Overall I do agree using CAT6 in some cases may not add any advantages. But I do know with runs exceeding 120ft, using a thicker AWG bare copper cable is often a safer bet. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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When ever possible run cat6 as the next generation of POE devices may require a larger gauge wire to handle the increased power requirements. I know cat5e is fine for todays equipment but the future is hard to predict. CCA just seems like a liability for very little savings . Would a government or industrial customer even allow CCA to be used?

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