Think You Know Jack

Plug vs. Jack in Security Installations


Plug ended Horizontal Cable

In the cover article of BICSI News January/February issue, entitled “Bending Cabling Standards for IP-based Security Surveillance,” Berk-Tek broaches the topic of the plug-ended horizontal runs for security installations. This has stirred up quite a bit of debate in the cabling industry. 

Known as a “direct attach,” putting a plug on the end of horizontal cable has been a common practice in the security world for a long time. However, since security cameras are now attaching themselves to IP networks over UTP or fiber optic cable, there are new rules – such as the TIA-568 Telecommunications Standards for Premises Networks. But these rules need to be reviewed where they apply to security cameras and other BAS devices attaching themselves to a structured cabling environment. Luckily there is a standards body being formed by ANSI/BICSI to look at applying standards to a non-standard environment; so, help is on the way.
The current industry standards, which are recommended best practices are voluntary and are not enforceable by law, like codes. Standards provide many benefits, which include network flexibility, interoperability between components, application reliability, and also investment protection to be able to easily add future devices. However, the TIA-568 and related standards were written for the design of data and voice applications. A standard horizontal channel typically consists of the horizontal cabling from the patch panel in the TR out to an outlet at the device end connected with jacks and patch cords on both ends. But this defined channel is often not plausible when the security camera is the end device, due to the unusual environment and device locations. As a result, other alternatives are being explored such as a direct attach.
Following Directions
If the direct attach method needs to be used, there are some guidelines for attaching plugs. Following these procedures will help to assure that the plug contacts line up and work properly. But, since there are no standards to attaching plugs other than lining up the conductors to match TIA-568-A or B, each plug design varies between manufacturers.  Use these as guidelines, but refer to the manufacturers’ specific instructions and use their recommended tools:  
  • If there is a strain relief (boot), slide it on the cable
  • Trim off 1” to 1 ½ of the jacket and untwist the pairs
  • Align the conductors to match the proper color layout for either TIA-568A or 568B, depending on the other end of the termination in the TR
  • If there is a load bar or management bar, trim the conductors at a slight angle. If no load bar, evenly cut straight across (to make it easier to load in)
  • Line up the conductors on the load bar and trim the excess wire once pushed through. There should be no more than a total of ½” of untwisted wire from the tip of the housing to the cable jacket
  • Make sure that all conductors touch the end of the housing and are visible when looking thru the end of the housing
  • If there is a strain relief, slide up to the rear of the plug housing
  • Using the manufacturers’ recommended crimp tool, crimp the plug into place. This is a critical step because if done incorrectly the wires can become loose and lose end to end contact.
Warranting a Direct Attach
Berk-Tek recommends installing a well-designed structured cabling channel per the TIA standards. This includes up to 100 meters of twisted pair horizontal cabling terminated on both ends with a modular jack and corresponding Category cables.
In some real world camera installations, there are circumstances that do not allow a jack-to-outlet scenario on the device end. Berk-Tek’s OASIS warranty is being reviewed to cover a plug-ended “direct attach” when using our recommended vendors’ plugs on the device end and when best installation practices are performed including link verification through standards’ field testing. Here are the recommended plug part numbers.
Plug Part Numbers
Testing for the Channel/Link
Berk-Tek is testing the plug-ended scenario, both in the Nexans’ DCCC lab in New Holland, PA, as well as with test equipment manufacturers.  A major concern is that in a four-connector channel configuration, most testers cancel out the first connection. At the device end, this would be the plug, which could provide a false “pass” reading. To test with the LanTEK or LanTEK II, Dan Payerle of IDEAL Industries suggests the following general steps:
  • Step one – Calibration. Calibrate the tester following the on-screen prompts using either the included patch cords (category 6A F/FTP) or with high quality, factory made Category 6 or better cords and follow the manufacturers' specifications.
  • Step 2 – Attaching the tester to the “channel.” Attach the tester on both ends of the horizontal run. In the TR, set up the tester patch cord into the patch panel jack. On the camera side, attach the remote handset directly to the plug at the end of the horizontal cable.
  • Step 3 – Test. Set the tester to “permanent link” (versus a channel test) because you will need to get a read of the plug termination. Select either Category 5e or 6 to match the grade of installed cabling. (Note: If you tested a channel then you actually might get an increase in cable/channel performance as it will cancel out the patch cords that occurred in the calibration.)
  • Step 4 – Test results. The autotest will give you a “pass” or “fail.” If NEXT or PSNEXT fails at the camera side (Remote Handset) replace the plug at the end of the “channel”.
Berk-Tek continues to explore the plug versus jack scenario as we recognize that installations in security are somewhat different than typical LAN environments. Look for future notification of our technical brief which will further detail testing parameters and recommend best practices and how Berk-Tek plans to expand their warranty “outside of the box.”

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Carol Oliver Berk-Tek Marketing Analyst