Recently we performed an installation using Category 5e cable provided by the customer, it did not have a manufacturer name on the box or on the cable and we warned the customer right away that it is not a good idea to install no-name material purchased from the internet or retail electronics stores because there have been many reports of sub-standard and out-right counterfeit products being sold through these channels.  When it came time to test the cabling we discovered that it would not pass several of the key tests such as insertion loss and various types of cross talks.  It clearly said “Category 5e” on the box and cable, but it certainly would not perform to a Category 5e specification!

The industry has been hit hard by counterfeit material and sub-standard products these last few years, much to the dismay of installers and manufacturers alike.  The problem is that the raw material costs have skyrocketed and there are overseas manufacturers making “Category 5e” and “Category 6” products that do not actually meet performance standards and/or fire code requirements, and on top of that there have not been enforcement avenues available until recently.

This problem of sub-standard and counterfeit product often goes unnoticed and unreported because the persons who typically purchase cabling materials through outlets such as the internet and local electronics retail stores do not perform testing with a cable analyzer which tests for things such as insertion loss and various types of cross talk.  Worse yet, the material very well may not meet fire code.

If you recall there was a famous Las Vegas MGM Grand fire in 1980 that raised awareness of the toxic nature of cabling when it burns.  That particular fire killed 85 people, one died from burns and all others died from toxic smoke inhalation, primarily on the upper floors.

Now, cabling installed in buildings must be either plenum or non-plenum rated, and any outdoor cabling must transition to an indoor cable within 50’ of entering a building (due to the toxic nature of the plastics used in outdoor cables).  The types of plastics used in these indoor cables are significantly more expensive and some of these non-standard cables that have been discovered recently are out-right mislabeling the types of plastics in their cables.

Even though professional installers do not purchase these sub-standard materials, it is still having a very real effect on our industry:  we are expected to provide products for costs similar to these no-name (and often sub-standard) products.  Always remember, you tend to get what you pay for.

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