Warning Issued for Deficient Cat 5e, Cat 6 Cable

In what is described as a new scam, two associations say copper-clad aluminum Category 5e and Category 6 cables are being marketed as solid copper conductors.

Jason Knott · March 21, 2011

In the ongoing effort to educate the structured cabling industry on non-compliant cable products, the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) and the Copper Development Association (CDA) have issued a warning about cable using copper-clad aluminum conductors that do not comply with UL, NEC or TIA codes.

The CCCA has encountered several sources in the U.S. marketing Category 5e and Category 6 communications cables made with copper clad aluminum conductors instead of solid copper conductors. Communications cables made with copper-clad aluminum conductors violate several industry standards, including UL safety standard UL444.

Consequently, such cables made with copper clad aluminum conductors do not have a valid safety listing and cannot be legally installed into areas of buildings which require CM, CMG, CMX, CMR or CMP rated cables.

The CDA also expressed safety and performance concerns over the proliferation of non-compliant copper clad aluminum conductors for certain data cable applications.

The applicable industry standards, which require solid copper conductors for multi-conductor communications cables, are the National Electrical Code (current and older versions), UL 444, and TIA 568C.2.

The National Electrical Code (Section 800.179) states that “Conductors in communications cables, other than in a coaxial cable, shall be copper.” UL 444, Standard for Communications Cable (Section 5.1.1) states that “The conductors shall be solid or stranded, annealed, bare or metal-coated copper.”

UL444 compliance is a basic requirement for any communications cable to receive fire/safety ratings from Underwriters Laboratories or other nationally recognized test laboratories.

The Telecommunications Industry Association’s TIA 568C.2 specification (Section 5.3) requires compliance to ANSI/ICEA S-90-661-2006 and ANSI/ICEA S-102-732 which both include the following language: “Solid conductors shall consist of commercially pure, annealed, bare copper …”

Kevin Ressler, CCCA chairman says: “The use of copper-clad aluminum conductors in cable designs is a relatively new development, so some contractors may be unaware that such cable does not meet the NEC, UL and TIA codes and standards referenced above. Fortunately, copper-clad aluminum conductors can easily be detected by scraping the thin copper surface, exposing the underlying bright aluminum.”

The CCCA points out that the best practice to assure quality cable and network performance is to buy from known brands and quality distributors.

Frank Peri, CCCA’s executive director says, “When dealing with lesser known brands, users should consider asking for complete documentation of product specifications, in writing, to confirm the product meets recognized industry standards. Users should also carefully examine cable for proper marks and labels to show it has been verified or listed by an independent third party such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and/or Intertek/ETL. As an added measure, UL and ETL website directories can also be checked to assure cable manufacturers are in compliance and authorized to display the appropriate mark.”

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  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at

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  Article Topics

News · ANSI · Association · Distributor · NEC · UL · Wire and Cable · All Topics
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