Network Cable Testing Guide

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Jan 22, 2015

Proper cable installation is key to trouble-free surveillance systems.

However, testing is often an afterthought, with problems only discovered when cameras have problems, resulting in increased troubleshooting, or even worse, reinstallation. Simple, inexpensive testers are available, which can easily prevent these issues without adding substantial install time.

In this guide, we examine:

  • Wiremapping
  • Cable Identification
  • Service Detection
  • PoE Detection
  • Crosstalk
  • Propagation Delay
  • Cable Verifiers
  • Cable Qualifiers
  • Cable Certifiers
  • Choosing Between Verifiers, Qualifiers and Certifiers

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Comments (14)

Ethan,

Nice article! Concise, with a lot of info!

At our consulting firm we require all cables to be certified, with the test results submitted prior to final acceptance. We want the cable plant to be certified because, among other reasons, we expect a minimum 15 year cable infrastructure life. In the real world that life span may be 20 or 25 years. Even in 15 years, I don’t expect we will be using 720P and 1080P cameras; we may be looking at 32K cameras, and server storage will be in the Exabytes, or maybe even in Yottabytes. They may not be even be what we recognize today as a camera, but one thing is for sure, whatever it is will require more bandwidth.

The cameras we install today will be replaced, in the lifetime of the cable plant, with technology that requires significantly higher bit rates. This will require the cable plant to perform at higher levels. So a stretched cable here, a kink there, may not matter today, but the next gen technology may well see it.

Ah, to be a pure cable geek, now that's the good life!

Questions, sir:

Do the qualifiers give a clear pass/fail indication on 'soft' errors, such as crosstalk and prop latency?

Are there certain errors that indicate the failure to be the termination at one end or the other, or the cable itself? If you reterminate and still the errors persist, should you just rip and redo, or try a different spool or ??

Should there be any consideration given to the intended usage when determining whether to rip a cable due to a 'soft' fault, e.g. Cat 6a cable only being used for 100 Mb, so cable need only perform to Cat 6 levels, etc?

Ethan, this is a great article and I'm very happy to see it.

I am left with some questions, probably because I don't perform these tests myself - the integrators or network service providers perform them for the project that I work on. I'll tell you my thoughts and then see if you think my suggestion has some merit and is feasible for IPVM to do.

This article puts the ByteBrothers RWC1000K product ("Real World Certifier") in the category of "verifier", which seems to be presented in this Guide as the lowest category of capability.

This RWC1000K's Real World Certifier – Feature Comparison page paints a better picture than that. Additionally, the Byte Brothers Pocket Cat Tester does test to the EIA/TIA568B standards.

This Testing Guide states that "Certifiers are the only of the three to test to EIA/TIA568B standards." The RWC1000K tests to IEEE/ISO/IEC 802.3 standards. They are not the same thing. The Byte Brothers Pocket CAT tester tests to test to EIA/TIA568B standards.

I am under the impression that a combination of Byte Brothers products (at around $600) would provide the same certifier" coverage as the more expensive equpment, plus provide some additional practical information that the more expensive equipment does not provide. Isn't this the case?

Here is my suggestion: Would you be able to expand this article further, maybe by making a chart that specifically compares products accross these three categories? I don't think that falls outside the scope of this article's title.

i am sure that you did not intend to make this into that kind of a research project, but I think is would be helpful if you can do it.

Also, I have not had a customer's IT department reject the test results from the Byte Brothers testers as not being up to snuff. I'm not specifically trying to promote the BB products. What I am thinking is that if a less expensive set of equipment would suffice for security system network installations, I'd hate to discourage anyone from using them if they can't affored the $4k plus category of equipment.

I am under the impression that a combination of Byte Brothers products (at around $600) would provide the same certifier" coverage as the more expensive equpment, plus provide some additional practical information that the more expensive equipment does not provide. Isn't this the case?

The problem is that not only does EIA/TIA 568.C2 define the specs of the cable, it also defines the specs of the certifying equipment itself. And unfortunately Byte Brothers uses a non-standard, digital, "real-world" way of checking everything except for the most basic verification tests. Like they say:

Unlike traditional certifiers, the RWC uses digital circuitry and digital testing techniques to perform its tasks. These tests include traditional TIA568 cable verification (length, opens, shorts, split pairs, wire map) for UTP (unshielded twisted pair) plus RWC's own sophisticated crosstalk, timing and cable parameter tests that yield a UTP cable's category (CAT3, CAT5, CAT5E, CAT6) and speed capability (10, 100, 1000 MB)! ion.

So the tool itself cannot be certified 568.C2 :( As for the Pocket Cat, it on looks to be a merely a verifier also... Whether ByteBrothers digital RW tests are as good as the analog ones or not is immaterial, as you can not officially certify using them...

Undisclosed A, thank you! That answers my questions.

Now I understand why someone would rent certifying equipment as opposed to buying the lower cost equipment. And also answers why, on a recent small project, the integrator subcontracted out the cable certification. The sales rep said that it was their standard practice to sub it out, but he didn't know the specific reasons why.

Since a collection of verifiers, no matter how good a job they do or don't do, don't meet the technical requirements for certifiers established in the standards, they can't be used where standards-based certification is required.

Anyone who actually enjoys this video showing how category wire is extruded, twisted and jacketed, is a certified cable geek...

i ate popcorn while watching that...

Having a 3rd party do the certification would be considered a plus to the end user I know some models (omni) of testers can have certain test patterns omitted from testing therefore allowing an installer who knows he has a good wiremap but may have several kinks in the cable or run near high voltage to turn off the tests that check for that. We use Fluke DTX series and completely fitted out are around $20k. Although you can make each test individually you cannot remove tests from the certification scan. Another thing to note that the article doesn't cover or I missed it is the speed in which the certifier runs. The DTX will certify the cable in under 10 seconds when you have hundred or thousands of cables this is a huge plus, not to mention built in communications between base and remote. So you can talk to your tech and tell him the problem. One thing I wish these would have is displays on both ends! That way both test people can immediately begin troubleshooting rather than waiting for the base operator to get back to the display to relay the info.

Anybody know what category this Fluke tool would fall into, it looks like it's got a few cool feautures, like uploading results to the cloud thru hotspot. But I'm not even sure it actually does a proper wiremapping test...

If there was a category for waste of money then this one would fit. It's not necessarily a cable tester rather a connectivity to the network tester, but you have all that this does with a laptop or the computer already on the desk.

This would be good to test the nic in the PC is functional or not. The only one advantage I see of this tool is it will check to see if a port is Poe enabled, but since most switches auto negotiate Poe, it's not common that this feature is turned off on port basis.

The overview doesn't show a base and remote adapter so it doesn't in anyway test the cable itself just network connectivity.

I also doubt the feature about being able to determine the switch port the cable is connected to. How would it know how many switches you have in a stack and with port of which switch it's connected. Perhaps if you have just one switch in the network closet.... And then who's switches is it compatible with does it work with intellinet? Or just big names like Cisco?

I also doubt the feature about being able to determine the switch port the cable is connected to.

I assumed it meant you hit the button, then go to the closet and observe which port light is "flukering" on and off in some kind of rhythm.

In a large video system, what would you consider to be reasonable testing protocoal to require as a part of the specficiation?

I would recommend a qualifier. It tells you the length of the cable along with a lot of other useful information. And from most of them you can download the test results.

Very good.

I've been looking into verifier vs. qualifier. I want our branch to get a qualifier, I believe that's the best bet for us to check the cables and see the length and check if there's any trouble on the line.

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