Difference Between Cable Verification, Qualification and Certification Tests
In the world of structured cabling, it’s common to hear the terms verification, qualification and certification. Yet, despite this regularity, many don’t fully understand the differences between each validation type. Whether you’re a cable contractor or just someone that needs cabling installed, understanding the differences — and when to use them — is a must-have skill.
For new cabling projects, all pulls are generally tested post-install. These tests validate the cable runs were properly terminated and function as expected. That said, the test types used to validate a proper install will be different depending on the level of assuredness the customer requires. In rare cases, they may only want simple tests performed to ensure the most basic level of operability. In most others, more advanced tests will be run to assure functionality in certain usage scenarios – and to adhere to the cable manufacturer’s warranty install specifications. The more tests that are performed, the more assured one can be that the cabling was done properly and without defects. However, as the number of validation tests run increase, so will the cost. Thus, it’s up to the customer to determine what level of validation is necessary for each job. Let’s start by looking at each level of testing from lowest to highest.
Example Wiremap Test Results
When a cabling project is verified by the installer, this is the lowest level of validation testing. The tests performed assure that the cables are properly connected from one end to the other. This includes checking to be sure that all the wires in a copper cable are properly punched down/crimped to the proper termination points and the overall length of the cable run is within limits. Common problems discovered while performing a cable verification test include mis-terminated wires, cable breaks/shorts and cable lengths that exceed specification maximums.
In most cases, simple verification tests aren’t enough to consider the cabling production-ready, because verification tests tell you nothing about the bandwidth-capability of the cabling. Thus, most cabling jobs require the cabling plant to meet qualification or certification test standards.
The next cable validation category is called qualification. This level of testing performs all the basics performed when verifying cables – and expands on the with several more. The purpose for the additional series of tests is to confirm the cables will operate properly when running certain at certain speeds – or when transporting time sensitive data such as VoIP and streaming video. These tests may include validation of throughput capacity, streaming data performance, and power over Ethernet (PoE) detection. Potential cabling issues that can be discovered during qualification testing include duplex mismatches, cross talk, noise and basic PoE issues. Most qualification testers will be able to test Ethernet links at 10Mbps, 100Mbps and 1Gbps. A qualification and certification tester such as the TestPro CV100 can also validate links at 2.5Gbps, 5Gbps and 10Gbps with the optional AD-NETCABLE adapter.
Example Cat6A Multi-gig Test Results
While cable qualification tests can be used as a lower-cost method for non-critical cable installs, they will not meet the test standards required to apply a cabling manufacturer’s warranty to the job. That’s why most cabling projects include full cable certification testing as part of the plant install process. Instead, qualification-level tests are more applicable when troubleshooting existing cabling.
At the top of the cable test validation list are tests that guarantee all installed cabling and terminations meet the cabling manufacturer’s strict specifications. Doing so will grant the customer a manufacturer’s warranty for the newly completed plant. Certification test tools not only give you all the testing and troubleshooting features found in cable verification and qualification tools, they add sophisticated RF measurement tests that ensure cabling meets industry and manufacturer standards for multiple types of deployments. All certification test results can be saved and shared with the manufacturer and customer for their records.
Copper Certification Test Limit Options
Keep in mind, however, that not all certification test tools are the same. While all certifiers perform the same core standards-mandated tests, others like the TestPro CV100 include optional measurements for key cabling parameters like DC Resistance Unbalance, TCL, ELTCL and more. Other important differentiators include speed of testing and maximum supported frequency. The TestPro CV100, for example, completes a full Cat 6A certification including all optional parameters in just 6 seconds and exceeds 2G accuracy all the way to 3GHz. Additionally, the CV100 combined with the optional TestPro Fiber Certification kit can certify multi-mode and single-mode installations to Tier-1 industry standards as well as test for voltage in hybrid powered fiber.
From a PoE testing standpoint, the TestPro CV100 K30, which includes the AD-NET-CABLE adapter provides the most comprehensive tests in the industry. The tool provides simple and fast PoE verification as well as sophisticated load testing of power for all of today’s PoE standards. This includes the latest 802.3bt standard that provides power to end devices up to 90W. As the Internet of Things (IoT) movement continues to grow, expect PoE testing to become an increasingly important part of the cable validation process.
When testing PoE, each TestPro that comes in the standard kit can be independently deployed giving you double the test equipment for certain tasks.
Understand the benefits and drawbacks of each validation level
If you’re only running a couple of short and non-essential cables – or are troubleshooting a potential cabling issue – validation and qualification tests are going to be enough. However, when you’re talking about large installs that cost upwards of tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, the added cost of testing to certification levels is well worth it. This not only grants a warranty to the customer – it also shifts the risk off the cable installer and onto the cable manufacturer if performance problems do arise.