The Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) has issued a new warning about the growing practice of miss-selling data cable (Cat/Cat 6) products with Copper Clad Aluminium (CCA) which are non-compliant with published national and international standards.
Issuing the warning, the ACI has also alerted the marketplace to some inaccurate reporting on the BBC website where a piece in February reported that ‘traditional cable can be replaced with aluminium coated in copper’.
Although several instances of installation failures have already been reported in the media, a spate of further failures and the BBC piece has prompted the ACI to speak out and advise against the purchase of CCA products.
The potential consequences of installing Cat 5e cable manufactured with CCA, particularly within installations where Category 5e or a CLASS D network has been specified, are clear and the ACI is advising installers to look for the following warning signs:
• Products described as CCA Cat 5e or Eco Cat 5e: These descriptions normally appear on the invoices or packaging but rarely on the cable product itself. If a CCA product is supplied then it should be returned to the re-seller for an immediate refund.
• Cat 5e products marketed with a restricted installation length: In these instances the restriction on the installation length will be as a result of the increased resistance of the CCA conductor.
• Problems with conductors breaking during the punch-down termination process: The reduced strength of the CCA conductor normally leads to poor retention of the wire within the Insulation Displacement Connector (IDC) and consequently poor termination reliability. IDCs are designed for copper - CCA will snap off immediately or later on, fail.
• Problems with oxidisation: Aluminium does oxidise which will cause low and high frequency problems, which might not occur immediately after testing the installation. After some time the installation could slow down or even crash.
• Low frequency testing problems associated with the longer installed channels: Low frequency insertion loss failures on longer channels normally represents a good indicator that CCA has been used.
• Products described as CCA Cat 5e or Eco Cat 5e generally do not carry a CE mark and therefore should be avoided within the UK and Europe: CE marked products are associated with reputable brand names and should appear on the product packaging alongside other compliance statements.
The ACI is also advising that CCA products are unlikely to stand scrutiny by an independent authority or a knowledgeable end user.
Iain Ballingall, spokesperson for the Approved Cables Initiative, said, “This is an extremely important issue and while the dangers associated with CCA products are not life threatening, as with faulty electrical cables, they can have a disastrous affect upon a company’s reputation and livelihood.
“From our investigations we believe a number of resellers, including some established wholesale outlets, persist in the miss-representation and miss-selling of CCA cables into the UK structured cabling market as Cat 5e solutions. Squeezed by competitive pressures, a number of wholesalers and distributors are demanding increasingly lower cost products from their supply chain which in turn forces further compromise in terms of product quality and ultimately the most expensive element of the cable, the copper conductor.
“We are advising installers to avoid non-compliance by being vigilant. They must check documentation associated with a product’s purchase, including invoices and product data sheets to ensure what they have purchased is compliant. If anyone is in any doubt regarding a product they should contact the ACI immediately.”
Already this year the ACI is aware of a number of installation failures which have ultimately resulted in the expensive replacement of non-compliant Cat 5e cables with compliant copper products.
Quality issues associated with Cat 5e cables manufactured with CCA have been corroborated by the ACI following sample testing of suspect products obtained from the UK market. In addition, Eco Cat 5e cables - which may appear upon first sight to be an environmentally friendly alternative - have also typically been found to use CCA as the conductor and therefore must also be considered as non-compliant.
The ACI has advised the BBC of the inaccurate information on the BBC News Technology page.