Quality Workmanship – Way to Pass Cable Certification Testing

December 23, 2015 / General, 101 learning, Standard and Certification, Installation and testing, Best Practices

Virtually all of your customers are going to want the system warranty offered by their cabling manufacturer. It also lowers risk for architects, consultants and engineers by proving that the system meets the intended performance to support the customer’s applications, while helping to avoid finger pointing and callbacks that are every contractor’s worst nightmare. A system warranty is essentially your best insurance policy.

Acquiring a system warranty is dependent on proper cabling certification, which is required by manufacturers to receive the warranty. Achieving warranty right off the bat can be a huge cost saver—no contractor wants to spend the time (and money) having to re-certify a cabling plant, or worse yet having to deal with expensive rework, network downtime and customer dissatisfaction after the install was supposedly complete.

Achieving certification is highly dependent on the quality of the workmanship, which is why it is the best way to demonstrate the true quality of an installation. While you may have the workmanship mission accomplished, there are also some testing best practices that can help ensure warranty the first time around. Let’s take a look at a few rather important ones.

Properly Configure the Tester

Before starting in on any cabling certification testing, you should verify the basics. Are you using the latest version of the tester software? Are you testing within its operating range? Have the correct test standards been selected? Is the tester within its calibration cycle?

The tester has to configured for the correct link model outlined in the specification (permanent link or channel), the specified cabling performance and the correct test limits required for the frequency range. If you’re installing 500 MHz Category 6A cabling, your tester must be configured to test to ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 specifications for that cabling type. If you test against the wrong link model, performance spec and test limits, you’ll have to redo the work.

And whoever configures the tester should have the knowledge to do so. This allows testing to be completed by any entry-level technician.

Troubleshoot Any “Fail” or “Marginal Pass”

During certification testing, all links must “Pass” before a manufacturer will issue a warranty, and a “Marginal Pass” is not a “Pass” in the manufacturer’s eyes. Make sure your tester has diagnostic capabilities for finding the cause and location of any faults. Testers with High Definition Time Domain Crosstalk (HDTDX) and High Definition Time Domain Reflectometry (HDTDR) such as the DSX-5000 CableAnalyzer can report the distance to a location where crosstalk or return loss is excessive, greatly reducing troubleshooting time.

And again, make sure the troubleshooting is done by someone with the knowledge to do so. The DSX-5000 offers a FIX LATER feature specifically for this purpose. FIX LATER creates a punch list of links that fail or marginally pass for an experienced technician to deal with, allowing the entry-level technician to continue testing without interruption.

Just don’t forget to address the punch list and and retest fixed links the first time around—this will clear them from the punch list and avoid expensive rework after you thought the job was done.

Document, Document, Document

We can’t stress documentation’s importance enough. It is really the only way to resolve any disputes, facilitate any future troubleshooting, demonstrate your integrity and get the warranty. So make sure to save the results after each measurement. While some contractors wait until the testing is complete to upload results, if it’s a multi-day testing situation, it’s probably better to upload daily or even more often.

Results can be uploaded directly to a PC or to a service like LinkWare Live from Fluke Networks that secures the data, provides real-time access to results and even looks at test setups to help ensure testing was completed to specification.

Regardless of how you save your results, your customers and cable manufacturer want professional, easy-to-read reports. LinkWare™ PC Cable Test Management Software is a Windows-based application that allows you to thoroughly organize and sort test data and create various types of reports—basic, detailed or full color graphical. You can also share results electronically using a common PDF format or LinkWare file. And since LinkWare is a free software, you can give your customers a copy along with their results.

While quality workmanship is the number one way to pass certification testing required for warranty, don’t forget that proper test setup, troubleshooting and documentation also go a long way to making sure you get it the first time around.