Applies to Audio, network and all cable, We have come across this several times now when people prewire with the cheapest wire they can find things don’t always work out. Once the job is wired there is noting you can do! At ITS beside using name brand wire we qualify all our wire with a Fluke IQ.
From Fluke Networks:
Application Note: Copper Clad Aluminum(CCA) Cables
There are growing concerns in the network equipment industry about the significant amount of multi-conductor communications cables containing copper coated aluminum (CCA), copper coated steel and other non-standard conductors masquerading as Category 5e or even Category 6 cables.
The existence of these non-standards compliant, and often counterfeit, cabling products in the market can present serious problems for the companies using them, as well as the cabling installers and engineers who place these products within their
customers’ network environments.
While these products might look like standard cable and appear to perform like them in some situations, there are significant
differences that could present network problems and safety hazards.
The presence of counterfeit cabling is not a new problem for the industry; fake or non-standard cable products have existed in the
market for several years, according to experts. It has been a persistent issue for the industry that does not seem to be going away.
Part of the reason for this is many companies are looking for inexpensive networking solutions, and these cable products tend to
be less costly.
Existing methods for identifying these non-standard products have only been partially successful. In order for the industry to
effectively address the concerns of CCA and other non-standard cable products, new methods are needed.
Testing solutions from Fluke Networks show promise in accurately identifying such products. While these solutions can not
immediately identify counterfeit cable products with the push of a button, Fluke Networks is determined to develop capabilities to
make it easier for organizations to identify these less-than-standards compliant products.
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Ongoing Challenge for the Industry
CCA cable products have been showing up on the market for several years, in large part because there is demand for less
expensive cable from companies looking to save money. Since aluminum is less costly than copper, CCA cable is typically less
expensive than all-copper products. Many buyers working with tight budgets therefore find the cheaper cable products appealing.
They might not realize that they are not receiving standards compliant solid copper cable.
“It’s not difficult to find these products on the Internet through wholesalers and distributors,” says Frank Peri, executive director of
the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA), an organization that provides best practices and educational
information about quality communications cables, connectivity devices and related products. Providers are offering the nonstandard
cable products at significantly lower prices than compliant products. Some sell both compliant and non-compliant cable.
Peri points out that there are industries and applications where CCA is approved and suitable, but it’s the cases where CCA is not
suitable that need to be addressed.
A Common Problem
It’s difficult to quantify the market for counterfeit cables, Peri says, but he thinks the number of distributors and CCA cables
represent significant enough share to be a major concern. “We tend to find more of these on the west coast [of the United States],
because Long Beach [Calif.] is a huge port of entry,” he says.
According to sources that are both knowledgeable and reliable, about 300 kilometers of CCA cable masquerading as Category 5,
5e and 6 is being sold in the U.K. each month by certain wholesalers and distributors, says Mike Gilmore, managing director of e-
Ready Building Ltd. and technical director of the Fibreoptic Industry Association (FIA), who is involved in standardization of the
design, implementation and operation of telecommunications facilities and infrastructures in the U.K., Europe and other regions.
“The cables are generally sold through the electrical wholesaler market rather than the data market, so I only see them after a
problem has been identified,” Gilmore says.
Gilmore attributes the demand for CCA cabling to commoditization of the products and the “de-skilling” of the data cabling industry.
“Electrical contractors are now an obvious supplier for small data cabling tasks and they are very cost-driven,” he says. “The
wholesalers know this and react accordingly. On many occasions the install is not tested using ‘industry standard’ test equipment,
so the problems are not found out until too late.”
Efforts are underway in the industry to address the problem of counterfeit cables. For example, in November 2013 CCCA and
BICSI, an association supporting the IT systems (ITS) industry with information, education and knowledge assessment, announced
that they will collaborate on an international effort to stop counterfeit and non-compliant cables.