Should I use DTX-PLA002 to test Category 6A?
Answer: YES, with the DTX-1800 CableAnalyzer, because the same plug on the end of the DTX-PLA002 is used in laboratories to test connectors to Cat 5e, 6 and 6A.
ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 defines the specific performance of the RJ45 test plug for NEXT, Return Loss and FEXT in Annex C to 500 MHz.
DSP-PM06 meets the NEXT requirements to 500 MHz, but not the Return Loss requirements near 500 MHz.
The DTX-PLA002 does meet the NEXT, Return Loss and FEXT requirements to 500 MHz.
- Category 6A rated wiring blocks such as the SYSTIMAX VisiPatch® 360 will still require the use of the DTX-PLA001 with the appropriate personality module.
The tester manufacturer is required to produce a Permanent Link test lead with a plug on the end that meets these specific requirements.*
* ANSI/TIA-1152 and IEC 61935-1 Level IIIe accuracy requirements exclude having to use an RJ45 plug that meets the Return Loss requirements. Although we are not required to make a plug that meets the Return Loss requirements to claim Level IIIe accuracy, we do. The Return Loss performance of the plug will affect the outcome of the field test result and can mean the difference between PASS and FAIL.
Trying to terminate an RJ45 plug that meets NEXT, Return Loss and FEXT requirements as per Annex C is considered impossible by many. An experienced laboratory technician can take days of trial and error to make just one test plug - if they are lucky enough to be able to make just one plug. Most laboratories cannot.
As a result, ANSI/TIA-568-C.2 has defined an alternative type of test plug that is based on a PCB substrate. The standard gives such an example, shown below:
Figure C.26 - Example of a test plug using a PCB substrate
It goes on to say:
- Plugs of this type may be obtained from: Fluke Networks, Everett, WA or SMP Data Communcations, Swannanoa, NC. Alternative equivalent components may also be used.
- Photos are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by TIA.
Testing connecting hardware
The standard references a test fixture from Superior Modular Products for connecting hardware vendors to use with the PCB substrate style test plug. This fixture allows them to verify that their connector meets the component requirements of Category 6A.
Figure E.8 - TP6A PCB based plug assembly with adapter
NOTE - The PCB based plug TP6A assembly with adapter may be obtained from: SMP Data Communications, Inc, Swannanoa, NC 28778 www.smpdata.com (SMP part number N450060).
SMP only supplies the Fluke Networks tips because of their consistency/yield.
This means that the very best result will always be obtained with the DTX-PLA002, assuming the connecting hardware vendor is using a TIA qualified test plug to verify the performance of their connectors.
Does not have to be the Fluke Networks Test Plug
It is very important to understand that this is an open standard. The connecting hardware vendors do not have to use the Fluke Networks plug to verify the performance of their products to Category 6A. They can use ANY plug so long as it meets the requirements stated above for NEXT, FEXT and Return Loss in Annex C of ANSI/TIA-568-C.2. At the time of writing this article, the author is not aware of any other vendor offering a PCB substrate style test plug.
Typical Return Loss Plug Performance
Users may observe a difference in Return Loss margins when moving from the DTX-PLA001 with DSP-PM06 to DTX-PLA002. The good news is that the Return Loss margin typically gets better. Looking at the performance of just the plug, you can see why:
The Return Loss properties of the DTX-PLA002 are stable (consistent) to 500 MHz.
Can I use the DTX-PLA002 to test Category 6?
Yes. The standard states: "The test methodology specified in this annex may be used over the frequency range of 1 MHz to 250 MHz for the qualification of category 6 connecting hardware.” You can also use the DTX-PLA002 to test Category 5e and Category 3.
Test Plug Requirements
NEXT LossReturn Loss
- 10 Gigabit
- Fiber Testing