Cable Qualification Testing


Most cable installers are familiar with TIA-568 or ISO-11801 cabling standards. All cable certification instruments such as IDEAL LANTEK Certifiers perform measurements to these standards at frequency ranges specified by these standards. The concept behind certification testing is that the cable is being tested to provide support for any communications protocol that operates in a given frequency range.

For some installations this level of testing is critical because the cabling nstaller does not necessarily know what types of devices are going to used on the network. For example, a network that has been certified to meet the requirements for Category 5e performance can support various applications such as 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet, 155Mbps ATM, RS-488, RS-232, and many more. However, it is often the case that in any residential or commercial network, Ethernet devices will be the only type used.

SIGNALTEK uses the IEEE 802.3ab (Gigabit Ethernet) standard as a reference for cable performance testing. Rather than a traditional certification test where frequency-based parameters such as Near End Crosstalk (NEXT) and return loss are measured, performance or qualification testing, as it is sometimes called, is a Bit Error Rate Test (BERT).

Data packets are sent down the cable to the remote handset then re-transmitted back to the display handset where the number of lost or errored packets is counted. The results are displayed for the user to get an instant view of the cable’s performance.

A cable performance test is marked as a “pass” or “fail” based on the IEEE 802.3ab parameters which specify the number of error packets allowed in a given test time. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) has created a set of standards that allows hardware and software to perform over a variety of media. Unlike the EIA/TIA which specifies
cabling limits to support various communications protocols, the IEEE creates the actual protocols.

View a sample cable qualification test [PDF]

The 802 structure addresses the following transmission protocols:

  • 802.3 Ethernet over a physical medium (twisted pair)
  • 802.4 Token passing over a Bus topology
  • 802.5 Token passing over a Ring topology
  • 802.11 A family of wireless signaling standards (Wi-Fi)
  • 802.12 Shared media standard that will support Ethernet and Token Ring on the same physical network