- by George Petersen
FALLBROOK, CA — The Fiber Optic Association (FOA), an international non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards, has issued a video on the dangers of counterfeit Cat-5 cabling.
As the audio industry becomes more dependent on audio over Ethernet (AoE) and high performance LAN networking, the integrity of that data is an essential part of our livelihood. We wouldn't pass mic signals using cheap, narrow gauge coax with substandard conductors, so why turn to "just anything" in terms of Cat-5 cabling when your entire production is at stake. Poor quality cabling can lead to audio and data dropouts and other irregularities. It's bad enough in a portable sound system, and can be a disaster if used in an within the walls of an installation.
As professionals, we try to select the best possible components, cabling and connectors for any job. However, an influx of low-grade cabling that's marked as Cat-5 and UL approved has surfaced, yet often contains substandard products that does not meet fire safety standards, durability of performance specs. It may even be priced the same as genuine Cat-5 product. Some are made with copper-clad aluminum (or steel) conductors which may outwardly look like genuine copper wiring, yet exhibit poor conductivity, problems making punch block terminations and too much resistance to support POE (Power Over Ethernet) applications.. Counterfeit cabling that was mismarked as 24 gauge, which actually turned out to be non-spec 26 AWG has also been reported.
It doesn't stop at the conductors, as counterfeit cabling may use insulation and jacketing materials that have increased flammability and may emit toxic fumes when burned.
Things to watch out for include bulk cable boxes with no manufacturer name or importer information, no UL registration number and sometimes an old-style UL logo, like the one on the box in the photo. Likewise, the cable itself may have no printed registration numbers, even though it may falsely list that it is UL TIA/EIA certified.
To increase awareness of the dangers of counterfeit cabling, the FOA has released a video that covers ways of identifying fake (and genuine) cables, and demonstrates the problems that arise when this substandard product catches fire. The video is available on YouTube by clicking here.
For more info, contact the Fiber Optic Association at www.thefoa.org.