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Quabbin Wire & Cable Co.

Quabbin Wire & Cable Co. deserves a lot of credit for initiating and following through on an exhaustive evaluation that revealed the sorry state of patch cord manufacturing in this industry.Nobody was...


June 1, 2003  


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Quabbin Wire & Cable Co. deserves a lot of credit for initiating and following through on an exhaustive evaluation that revealed the sorry state of patch cord manufacturing in this industry.

Nobody was more surprised at the results than Tom Russell, the company’s vice-president of technical marketing, who spearheaded the project. He recalls that early in the process, there was an argument between engineering, marketing and sales personnel on just how many cords should be tested.

In the end, a total of 149 cords were purchased from 34 different vendors throughout North America. Category 5e cord testing results were very surprising. Russell and Quabbin’s chief engineer had a side bet with the latter figuring the failure rate would be only 10 per cent. A more skeptical Russell figured it would be closer to one-third of products.

It turned out that both were wrong. “Since most systems sold today are Cat 5e, one would think that few cords would fail,” the company said. “The testing revealed a 69.8 per cent failure rate. Because Category 6 cord requirements are new and much more severe, higher failure rates could be anticipated. We were not disappointed. The data showed 83 per cent of Cat 6 cords tested did not meet the TIA requirements.”

Until now, most cords have not been tested by either the cord manufacturer or users, the company adds, and as a result, most buyers simply believe what is printed on the cable jacket.

Fluke Networks also deserves credit for exposing shoddy workmanship. Earlier this year, the company introduced a new adaptor that complies with strict TIA requirements that sets down the ground rules of patch cord test procedures.

Quabbin says that when it realized the impact this new testing capability would have on the patch cord market, it instituted the test program.

“We weren’t being Mother Teresa doing this,” says Russell. “We’re now going out and training assembly houses how to make a proper assembly, what the proper components are and how to test them. We figure that if someone is willing to plunk down US$6-7,000 for the Fluke tester, they’re serious about making good cords.”

As far as the results are concerned, if a patch cord manufacturer wants to see them, it can, but Quabbin has no intention of making the results public. As Murray notes, “we would (upset) the whole industry if we published the data.”

His advice to the manufacture is the right one: Make sure a test is conducted before product leaves the plant.

Bell Canada’s John Bakowski certainly hopes so. “The weakness in the structured cabling system today continues to be the patch cord,” he says in this issue’s cover story on the state of the industry. ” We’ve got cabling, the connectivity and the jacks, all down to a real fine science. The patch cord continues to be the weak link in the system.”


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