By Patrick McLaughlin
Cabling Installation & Maintenance
Although we may not like to admit it, human error plays a part in every
endeavor - whether that endeavor is constructing a building, completing
a tax return, or installing a structured cabling system. As a means of
ensuring that the workmanship - whatever it is - is of acceptable quality,
the final product is usually examined in one way or another. A construction
manager reviews the general contractor's work on behalf of a building
tenant; the Internal Revenue Service reviews and sometimes audits tax
returns to verify their accuracy; and cabling installers test their systems
before the end-user plugs in.
In these three scenarios, the cabling installation is the only project
in which the same person who does the work verifies that work's accuracy.
No independent third party is involved. While this situation opens a door
to unscrupulous installers who may choose to modify test results or provide
sub par workmanship for their own benefit, it also increases the possibility
for honest human error to adversely affect the verification process.
Intertek Testing Services (Cortland, NY), grantor of the widely recognized
ETL verification, has initiated a program aimed at minimizing the human-error
factor in structured cabling-system installations. The ETL Field Verification
Program is based on the rationale that an independent, third-party evaluation
of an installed cable plant will provide an accurate analysis of the network's
integrity and will supply end-users with a quality-control measure heretofore
absent from most cabling installations.
The program is similar to work Intertek has performed on an as-needed
basis in the past, reports Donald Nicholson, Intertek's industry manager
for communications products He says that, occasionally, the company has
been asked to provide an independent evaluation of an installed network.
Those requests typically came when a conflict has arisen between an installer
and an end-user, he says, but stresses that the Field Verification Program
is not necessarily association with such an adversarial relationship.
Rather, Nicholson, says, the program provides "an independent set of eyes"
to examine the job.
Under the program, Intertek verifies that a cabling plant meets the
performance requirements established in the TIA/EIA-568-A commercial building
telecommunications wiring standard and any other cable-performance requirements
that the end-user specified in the contract.
Integral to the program are Intertek's field verification partners (FVPs),
who conduct the actual tests on site, then send the test results to Intertek
for analysis. Intertek has established four criteria for a potential FVP.
The candidate must:
- have a registered communications distribution designer (RCDD) on
- use an ETL-verified handheld local area network (LAN) cable tester
or a calibrated Hewlett-Packard network analyzer. Currently the WireScope
155 from Scope Communications (Marlborough, MA) is the only handheld
LAN cable tester with ETL verification;
- prove knowledge of the TIA/EIA-568-A standard through an open-book
- be an independent consultant not affiliated with a cable manufacturer
or installation firm.
Along with the test results, FVPs send a floor plan of the cabling system,
a copy of any applicable warranties on the components and the system,
and the system's numbering scheme to Intertek, which then assembles this
information and reviews the details to determine the job's pass/fail status.
The four basic tests that FVPs conduct for installation of Category 5
unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable, which are subject to change as standard
requirements change, are those specified in telecommunications system
bulletin TSB-67: attenuation, near-end crosstalk, wire map, and length.
For fiber-optic installations, the FVPs verify compliance with the fiber-optic
performance requirements set forth in the TIA/EIA-568A standard.
Visual inspections include checking all outlets and cross-connection
points to ensure that they are properly labeled, checking terminated spaces
to see if UTP untwist exceed the 1/2-inch Category 5 limit, looking for
excessive jacket abrasion and prohibited splice points within a building,
analyzing test results to verify that all workstations have been tested
and that they correspond to the floor plans at the time of inspection,
and inspecting the cables for jacket removal in terminated spaces.
"The program is designed to be flexible," says Dennis Mazaris, RCDD and
president of Concert Technologies (formerly PerfectSite) (Sterling, VA), the first FVP enlisted by Intertek.
He explains that both the testing lab and the FVP will customize test
procedures to conform to the end-user's demands. For example, if the customer
would like to test characteristics other than the TSB-67 requirements
- such as power-sum near-end crosstalk, resistance, return loss, and fiber
distance - the FVP will test the cable to ensure that it achieves the
electrical and optical performance characteristics specified.
Mazaris also points out that the end-user can have the installer conduct
an initial test, then have the FVP test the system, or the end-user can
forgo the labor cost associated with the initial test by the installer.
"If the contractor tested the installation, then there's the possibility
that a small percentage of the stations were missed. In an installation
of 300 workstations, may 5 or 10 could have been missed. Or each cable-test
report may not be thoroughly diagnosed to see if the cabling links have
additional headroom for better-performing channels.
As is the case with installing cable, the time it takes to verify the
installation depends largely on access to the work-area outlets, according
the Mazaris. " The network's layout really determines how long the testing
will take, he says.
Mazaris states that one of the most important characteristics of the
verification program is that it provides an independent evaluation. He
also says that a result of the program, for many users, will be solidification
of bids. In other words, the sometimes large variances among solicited
bids will probably be reduced if all bidders are aware that their work
will be independently tested and visually inspected to the TIA/EIA-568A
standard and customer specifications.
The program's official kickoff occurred shortly before BICSI's (Tampa,
FL) Winter Conference, which was held January 19 to 22. On January 8 and
9, representatives form Intertek, Concert Technologies (formerly PerfectSite), and Scope Communications
were present for the verification of the cabling system in BICSI's recently
constructed Tampa, FL, headquarters.
"The BICSI building had 83 locations to be tested," Mazaris recalls.
"Each location had four Category 5 cables and one duplex fiber." He says
many installations will have fewer cables to each workstation, but Nicholson
again emphasizes that under the Field Verification Program, " the customer
is king. Whatever they tell us to test, we'll test."
Structured Cabling System Verification Program