Patch cords fulfill an important role in every network and data center. Typically, patch cables are used as a link between important components. Patch cables also provide the flexibility for moves and changes to the network. These patch cables are typically the most abused component in a cabling system, and often their performance is untested. There are two different ways that a patch cable's performance: patch cord testing and channel testing.
Per the TIA–568–C.2 specification, maximum allowable combined length of patch cords in a cabling system is 10m. For Category 6 and above cabling, cables of 10m and less should be tested using patch cord testing. Patch cord testing requires test equipment that uses specially controlled jacks. A single patch cable is connected between two pieces of test equipment for testing. Cables that pass this test may be certified as suitable for use as work area or equipment cords. Compliant patch cables may be constructed with either stranded or solid conductors. Any cable that is longer than 10m is not compliant and should be tested to channel specifications.
Channel testing looks at the whole combined cabling circuit. An example of a combined channel cabling circuit is a patch cord, wall plate, horizontal cable, patch panel, and patch cord. The maximum length for this combined cabling circuit is 100m. This test is designed to be run using cable test equipment connected to both ends of the cabling circuit after it has been installed. Because there are no unknown components the testing limits are more relaxed. Circuits that pass this test are suitable for network deployment.
These testing requirements are designed for high speed networking and data center applications. In these applications, a faulty patch cable or cabling circuit may result in network or data center downtime which may lead to a significant financial loss. Because these tests add significant expense to the cable and or the installation, a common home or small business user does not typically need these levels of cable testing.
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