Counterfeit cable - Black Box Network Services

Buyer beware: If the price seems too good to be true, it is.
Counterfeit cable: The dangers,
risks, and how to spot it.
BLACK BOX
®
SOLUTE
FO
GigaTrue® CAT6 Bulk Cable
GigaBase® CAT5e Bulk Cable
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When it comes safety and
performance, cheap cable is no bargain.
R LIFE
GigaTrue® CAT6/ GigaBase®
CAT5e Patch Cable
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Counterfeit Cable
Table of Contents
Buyer Beware—in terms of safety and performance, cheap cable is no bargain.
....................................................................................................................... 3
Policing the industry ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 3
Don’t play with fire—flame and smoke tests .............................................................................................................................................................................................. 3
Don’t pass go—network performance .......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 4
What’s at risk—liability issues ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 4
How to spot counterfeit and non-compliant cable ................................................................................................................................................................................... 5
Black Box Cable—genuine, guaranteed, independently tested ......................................................................................................................................................... 7
We‘re here to help! If you have any questions about your application, our products,
or this white paper, contact Black Box Tech Support on 0118 965 6000 or
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Counterfeit Cable
Buyer beware — in terms of safety and performance, cheap cable is no bargain.
If you’re worried about counterfeit cable, you have good reason to be. It’s one of the hottest topics in the cabling industry today
as the prevalence of non-compliant cable continues to grow. It’s estimated that as much as 20% of the cable for sale now is
unsafe, unapproved, or counterfeit. When you see CATx and fibre cable priced significantly lower than Black Box ® cable (or other
name brands), put up a red flag . The cable is probably counterfeit, substandard, non-compliant, and very cheaply made, even if
it sports a brand name, UL ® number, or ETL logo. Counterfeit cable is primarily imported cable that is marked and advertised as
being compliant to North American fire codes, TIA specifications, and UL safety standards but isn’t. The cable and packaging will
most likely carry false UL and ETL marks.
The subject of counterfeit and non-compliant cable is extremely serious because of public safety and liability issues. Installing
non-compliant cable is a very expensive risk, which can result in civil liabilities, monetary damages stemming from negligence
and fraud, and criminal violations of local and national building codes and regulations.
Policing the industry.
Agencies and associations, including UL, ETL, and the CCCA (Communications Cable & Connectivity Association), as well as the
legitimate cable manufacturing community, are not idly standing by while dangerous cable floods the market. Founded in 2007,
the CCCA is a non-profit association committed to ensuring all cabling products in North America comply with existing codes
and standards. The association is growing, and members include many of the industry’s top cabling manufacturers.
Agency representatives and code officials are aware of the risks non-compliant cable poses and are taking action to stop the
flood of cable in the market through testing and education. If you’re planning to purchase cable, you need to know how to
protect your team, organisation, and building — literally. When it comes to cable, you really do get what you pay for.
Don’t play with fire—flame and smoke tests.
Counterfeit and substandard cable pose significant fire safety concerns. Cable counterfeiters are known for passing off riser cable
as plenum cable, which routinely fails flame- and fire-resistance tests because it has little or no heat protection. Non-compliant
cables are made from lower fire-performance materials and are highly combustible, particularly in building plenum spaces and
in vertical floor-to-floor riser shafts.
In its studies, the CCCA tested cable against fire-safety standards. Seven out of nine CMR cables failed UL 1666 fire-safety tests,
some with serious failures. In one instance a cable that failed the flame spread test burned the entire length of the chamber in an
incredibly fast 45 seconds. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 262 limit is 5 feet. The normal expected value is 4 feet.
Black Box cable is typically in the range of no burning to 1–1.5 feet.
The CMP tests results were far more alarming. All the plenum cables failed the Peak Smoke test as well as the Average Smoke
test. The failures were usually in the range of twice the allowable limit. The NFPA 262 limit for the Peak Smoke test is 0.5
Absorbance, which means 32% of the light is blocked out by smoke. The normal expected value is 0.25. Black Box cable routinely
tests at 0.1. The average of the failing samples was just over 1.5. A score of 1 means that 90% of the light is blocked out by
smoke. A 2, the highest measurement, means 99% of the light is blocked out. So a failing 1.5 score means that approximately
95% of the light is blocked by thick, heavy smoke.
Rapidly spreading fire and heavy smoke makes it extremely difficult to evacuate and rescue occupants of a building. Counterfeit
cable puts lives on the line. Remember the MGM fire in Las Vegas in the early 1980s? Combustible materials, including cables,
burned with such speed and intensity that 84 people lost their lives. What if counterfeit cable causes a fire or accident where
people are hurt or killed? Is that a chance you’re willing to take?
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Counterfeit Cable
Don’t pass go—network performance.
You can’t count on decent network performance from counterfeit and low-grade cable. Counterfeiters are notorious for using
copper-clad aluminum conductors instead of annealed copper. These conductors are very brittle and subject to breakage. They are
also in violation of TIA 568C.2 and UL ® 444. In addition, very often the twists aren’t done to spec either. Because of this, you may
get very poor or erratic network performance, even over short distances. Read on to learn how to identify copper-clad aluminum
conductors.
Bulk cable. The CCCA commissioned an independent third-party agency to conduct two rounds of studies on bulk cables done a
year apart. A total of 17 samples were tested from 12 different manufacturers. The CCCA found that many samples did not comply
with TIA 568 and UL 444 physical construction requirements. The tests also resulted in a high failure rate against TIA performance
standards.
Patch cable. Patch cables are the most overlooked component of the Channel Link, but they are just as important as bulk cable.
Remember the saying, ”A chain is only a strong as its weakest link?” The same principle applies to the channel link. If a patch cable
is non-compliant, it can ruin expensive electronics, invalidate warranties, cause poor network performance, and lead to a loss in
productivity. Patch cables are usually not supplied by the structured cabling installer but by someone in the IT department, who
frequently buys them on-line based on price. Just because a cable is advertised as CAT6, it doesn’t mean it’s compliant.
The CCCA did large-scale performance testing of Category 6 copper patch cords. Test results showed an 85% failure rate in
cables produced offshore by companies who are largely unknown in North America. 78% of the failing samples failed NEXT
tests by a margin of 3 dB or more. A second sample set of Category 6 copper patch cords produced by multiple, well-recognised
manufacturers was also tested and showed a 0% failure rate.
Other patch cord issues include non-compliant plugs that don't meet requirements. Problems can include substandard gold
plating on the contacts, plating that erodes and corrodes, and contact spacing and dimensional issues that can cause intermittent
connections and link loss.
What’s at risk—liability issues.
There’s a lot at risk if you install non-compliant cable, either knowingly or unknowingly. Installing non-compliant cable can result
in violations of national and local building codes and fire regulations. If a contractor installs non-compliant cable and it causes damage,
such as a fire, the contractor can face civil liabilities and monetary damages stemming from negligence, fraud, and breach of
contract and warranty. In addition, contractors can face criminal liabilities stemming from building code violations. Enforcement
can include halting the installation and removing and replacing the cable, which can be extremely costly. Other criminal liabilities
can include fines and imprisonment. The costs of using counterfeit or non-compliant cable can be very high indeed.
The CCCA commissioned a white paper from the law firm of Crowell Moring to look at potential liability for contractors who
install communications cables that do not comply with NEC (National Electrical Code) requirements. The paper can be accessed
at the CCCA web site www.cccassoc.org.
In the white paper, Crowell Moring studied the laws in Connecticut, Virginia, and Florida. Because each state incorporates NEC
into its building codes, a violation of those codes is a state violation. Crowell Moring explains, “Any installed cable that fails to
meet the NEC standards, whether known, apparent, or not, opens a contractor up to penalties for those failures.”
The paper concludes that contractors who install CMR or CMP cable may face liability based on violations of building codes. If a
contractor installs non-compliant cable that causes damage, such as a fire, the contractor can also be held liable in civil lawsuits
and face fines, imprisonment, and replacement costs.
The paper states that “A contractor need not have actual knowledge that the cable is non-compliant to be found negligent. If a
contractor knew it installed non-compliant cable, but said it was compliant, the contractor can be charged with fraud. And lastly,
if a contractor installs non-compliant cable, either knowingly or unknowingly, the contractor is liable for breach of contract and
warranty claims.
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Counterfeit Cable
How to spot counterfeit and non-compliant cable:
1. Price. If a price seems very low, the cable is probably counterfeit. If you see 305m box (1000 feet) of bulk cable priced sign cantly lower
(£30-£50 for PVC and up to £100 for LSZH) than what you would expect, beware. The chart below illustrates some cable
prices recently found on the Web.*
Bulk Cable Prices*/305m (1000 ft.)
CAT5e
CAT6
Suspect PVC Cable
£30.00
£45.00
Black Box PVC
£44.99
£69.99
Suspect LSZH
£39.00
£60.00
Black Box LSZH
£49.99
£75.99
Patch Cable Prices/0.9m (3 ft.)
Suspect PVC Cable
Black Box PVC
CAT5e
CAT6
£0.85
£1.50
from £1.05
from £2.15
* Apprx Prices as of 2012
* Approx Prices as of 2012
2. UL ® number. None, fake, or illegitimate. If there is no UL number, that’s an
instant tip-o . If there is a number, you can look it up to see if it’s legit. And even
if it is a real UL number, it’s possible that it was copied from a “good” cable and
printed on counterfeit cable. UL requires the UL mark on the product, and a UL
holographic listing mark (see below) on the attached tag, reel, or the smallest unit
container in which the product is packaged. Inspect the cable and packaging to
see if there is a UL mark and “E” number. If one or both are missing, be suspicious.
If there are UL numbers, go to the UL Online Cert cation Directory to verify the
number and the manufacturer’s authorisation. If you can’t nd the “E” in the
directory, report the cable to UL. UL also posts alerts on unauthorised numbers
on-line.
UL marks. Cable should have the following marks: UL 444–Standard for Safety for
Communications Cables; UL 910–Standard for Safety for Test for Flame-Propagation
and Smoke-Density Values for Electrical and Optical Fibres Used in Spaces Transporting
Environmental Air; and UL 1666–Standard for Safety for Test for Flame Propagation
Height of Electrical and Optical Cables Installed Vertically in Shafts.
At this point, it should be noted that there are two di erent types of UL marks.
The UL listing is the safety listing indicating that the product has been tested and
evaluated and has met the UL Standards of Safety. The second set of evaluations is the UL Performance V cation. In these
evaluations, products are tested against industry performance standards. The mark is like the traditional UL in a circle, but there
is also the word Veri ed underneath the mark.
UL hologram. UL introduced gold hologram labels in 2009 to help U.S. customs o cers and other law enforcement agencies,
as well as distributors, retailers, and consumers identify legitimate cable. UL requires manufacturers of communications cable
bearing the UL mark to use the holographic labels on the smallest unit container in which the cable is packaged.
The holograms have colour-shifting ink, a repeating pattern of oating UL symbols, a distinctive burst pattern around one of
the UL symbols, and wavy lines. On its Web site, UL o ers a Hologram Authenticator, a special credit card-sized device that
can be used to identify legitimate UL holograms. The card has a special window on it. When moved across the UL logo made
with colour-shifting ink, the logo should appear and disappear. To get the Authenticator Card, go to www.ul.com/marks.
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Counterfeit Cable
The following cable types are subject to the holographic-label requirement:
• Communications cable
• Communications cable verified to UL Performance Category Program
• Data transmission cable verified in accordance with national or international specifications
• Community antenna television cables
• Data processing cable
• Non-power-limited fire-alarm cable
• Instrumentation tray cable
• Network-powered broadband communications cable
• Optical fibre cable
• Power-limited circuit cable
3. ETL logos. Counterfeiters use them whether they are earned or not.
If you see an ETL mark, see if the manufacturer’s number and control number also listed. That information is required on the
ETL Web site so you can verify it. If there is no name on the jacket, you need to contact ETL to verify the mark’s validity. You
can check ETL Listed and Verified products at intertek.com/directories. You can also simply ask the seller for the ETL test results.
Like UL, ETL evaluates products for safety and performance against industry standards. A product bearing the ETL Listed Mark
is determined to have met the minimum requirements of prescribed product safety standards. The ETL Verified Mark is a symbol
of performance integrity.
4. Printing/legend. Is the printing poorly done on the box and the cable? Are there any typographical or grammatical errors?
Check the UL logo. It should have the letters UL arranged diagonally (descending left to right) within a circle with a small ®
symbol directly below the U. Does the cable legend have the proper markings?
5. Colour. Does the colour match previously bought cable?
6. Jacket/construction. Does the cable look like previously purchased cable? Are the conductors straight or oddly “twisty”?
Does the jacket feel like a riser or LSZH cable?
7. Patch cable considerations. Oddly enough, you should smell the cable. Some non-compliant cables have a plasticiser issue
with the jacketing, which can produce a bad odour. See if the cable feels oily or too stiff. Both are indicators of counterfeit cable.
Check the modular plug. It should be intact and not cracked. It should also be made for a fire-resistant plastic. To test this, put a
lighter to the clip. If it catches fire and does not self-extinguish, it is substandard. The gold contacts should not be too shiny. Often
substandard contacts appear shinier than true gold contacts. Check the boot to make sure it is not pinching or crushing the cable.
8. Conductors. Counterfeiters are notorious for using copper-clad aluminum
conductors instead of annealed copper conductors. These conductors are very
brittle and subject to breakage. They also in violation of TIA 568C.2 and UL ® 444.
Copper-clad aluminum provides very poor conductance and inferior network
performance. To check, strip the cable and inspect the conductors. You can
also cut a few pieces of the cable and see if a magnet picks them up. It if does,
your cable is copper, not aluminum.
Copper-clad aluminum conductors provide poor network
performance and are in violation of TIA 568C.2 and UL ®
444. Photo courtesy of The Fibre Optic Association.
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Counterfeit Cable
9. Weight. If the cable box/spool feels light, compare its weight to cable you know performs up to standard. Counterfeit cable
and cheaply made cable often have undersized copper conductors or copper-clad aluminum conductors that weigh half as much
as genuine cable. They also often do not come on spools. When looking at cable, especially on-line, look for the weight. If it’s not
listed, ask.
Cable Weight 305-m (1000 ft.)
Compliant Cable
Black Box Cable
Non-Compliant Cable
CAT5e
CAT6
9.5 kg
12.25 kg
10.5 kg
13.5 kg
6.5 kg
9 kg
Useful links.
UL.com
Verified Cabling Products
UL Numbers
Alerts
Certifications Directory
ETL: Intertek.com
ETL Listed and Verified
products
Intertek:
Intertek.com
cabling-products
ETL Listed and Verified
Products
CCCA: cccassoc.org
Black Box cable — genuine, guaranteed, independently tested.
When you buy Black Box cable, you buy peace of mind. All Black Box copper cable and our indoor bulk fiber cable is guaranteed
for life. To further ensure you get the real deal, Black Box puts its cable through independent testing. Once a quarter, an Intertek
inspector visits Black Box and randomly selects cable and cabling products. This includes all the following: Our GigaBase ® CAT5e
and GigaTrue ® CAT6 Solid Bulk Cable is ETL Verified at the component level. Our CAT5e and CAT6 Channel Solutions (bulk cable,
patch cable, jacks, patch panels, wiring block) are also ETL Verified in a LAN environment. In addition, we put our CAT5e and
CAT6 LSZH and riser cable through independent burn/smoke tests. Black Box cable is the real deal.
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