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CCA cables present new concerns for installers

18th August 2011

The Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) is alerting installers to reports of fake Cat 5e cables in the UK and in particular the growing rise in Copper Clad Aluminium (CCA) Cat 5e masquerading as the genuine article.


In light of customers reporting very competitive prices for Cat 5e cable in the UK, the quality of these cables has now been called into question and as to whether they meet required British and International Standards.


Cat 5e cable is a twisted pair cable for carrying signals and is used in structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet as well as telephone and video signals. Cat 5e however is not a generic description for an unscreened twisted pair cable commonly used for transmission of data. It is a specification detailing materials to be used, methods of production and performance characteristics, and test requirements.


There should be no ambiguity with regard to any aspect of the requirements that constitutes a Cat 5e cable - the detail in the specification is comprehensive with specific reference to the cable conductor.


According to experts, however, the market is seeing a rise in CCA conductors (a composite of 80 percent aluminium compound and 20 percent copper cladding around the aluminium). It is also believed that the conductor material requirements fail scrutiny - since aluminium is a less efficient conductor than copper – and the cable is also liable to produce reduced performance characteristics and not meet some of the Near End Cross Talk or Return Loss requirements of Cat 5e.


In the US, the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) and the Copper Development Association (CDA) have already issued alerts about the presence of twisted-pair cables with Copper-Clad Aluminium conductors rather than solid-copper conductors. Concerns are that this is a problem that has now spread to the UK with reports of loss of data, systems shorting out and cable having to be re-installed.


The Approved Cables Initiative is warning that contractors purchasing twisted-pair cable may be unaware that Copper-Clad Aluminium cables won’t meet appropriate Standards.


Commenting upon this development the ACI said: “It seems that contractors and installers are unaware of this issue because the production of cable with copper-clad aluminium conductors is a relatively recent turn of events. Installers need to be aware of the temptation to purchase low cost products purporting to be Cat 5e cable. It is a simple exercise to determine whether your purchase is copper clad or solid copper by scraping the thin copper surface which if the cable is counterfeit will reveal aluminium. It is in the interest of all parties to ensure that such counterfeit cabling is avoided."


“We also have concerns where CCA cables are installed with the rise in the use of power over Ethernet. Without clear indication of conductor resistance such cables could overheat and cause problems.


“Distributors and contractors should look for third party independent approval of all their purchases and if they are in any doubt about a cable they should contact the Approved Cables Initiative for further advice and testing.”


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