Wire is Worst

Broadcast-Van_1

Maybe you read one of my recent blogs about how wire and cable are never mentioned in magazine articles or reviews of touring groups. In permanent installs, 70% of the install time, and the labor cost, revolves around wire, cable and connectors. I’ll bet it’s close to that for those non-permanent installs such as touring companies or mobile trucks (OB Vans, as my European friends like to call them).

At least in data networks, wire, cable and connectors are also the #1 source of network failure. This is one reason why Belden has resisted those constant requests to allow you (the installer or end user) to put on your own RJ-45 data connectors. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late to say that to our audio, video and broadcast friends. You’ve been putting on BNC and XLR connectors since they were invented. So how old are you? Do you remember the Canon P connector?

It looked like a giant XLR. Those pins would easily handle 20 amps. If you were wiring up an RCA 44 or 77, you could use a 100-watt soldering iron and do a great job. Times have changed. In the data cable world, we have moved from Category 5e (100 MHz) to Category 6 (250 MHz) and now Category 6a (500 MHz). Have you put an RJ-45 on any of these? Did it work?

I have a friend, Kurt Denke of Blue Jeans Cable, whom recently bought a Fluke DTX-1800. This tests data cables up to 10GbaseT (10 gigabits) or Category 6a. Just for fun, he went shopping and picked up patch cables from your standard vendors (office supply stores, electronic parts stores, etc.) He then tested them on his Fluke meter. Not a single one passed! Worse than that, some of the Category 6 cables didn’t even pass 5e! So just because it says “Category 6” (or anything else) on the bag, well, I would take that with a grain of salt.

Kurt also wired up his home with Belden 1700A, our top-of-the-line Category 5e. His wife wanted to watch a program that was only available in Europe so they were streaming it. The freeze-frames and pixilation made it hard to watch. But now he had his trusty tester! He tested the Belden cable. It was well beyond the Cat 5e spec. (There are some places that do their own testing, such as Los Angeles County, where they call this cable Category 6.) So then he tested the two patch cords at each end. Fail! Just like the others he had bought. He replaced them with patch cords that his company is now making (and testing every one with his Fluke tester) and bingo, perfect streaming, no frozen frames, no pixilation. So, if you’ve said to yourself “These cables are too short to have any real effect. As long as the right wire goes into the right hole, they’ll work just fine,” well, think again.

This is another reason why Belden doesn’t sell regular male RJ-45 connectors, we don’t think you can put them on right without testing them. However, we have just begun to offer a new kind of RJ-45. This one is the first design that allows you, a field technician, to consistently put it on a Category 6a (10GbaseT) cable and actually get it to work. It is Belden R301602. Check it out on our web page or talk to your local distributor. The one thing you can tell is that this connector is not cheap. It is almost all metal, very rugged.

But I’m sure you audio-video folks are saying “RJ-45? That doesn’t apply to me.” Well, maybe not right now. Of course, Ethernet networking is coming your way. Heard of Ethernet AVB ‘audio video bridging’? Or it’s big brother TSN ‘time sensitive networks’? They are both ways of making low latency Ethernet networks that would be ideal for audio and video. AVB is a ratified standard. TSN (even better) won’t be ready for a year or so. So you might just be running Ethernet for your audio-video installation eventually. Then you’d better check out your RJ-45 wiring skills! Of course, you could always buy Belden’s pre-made patch cords. Every one is tested and guaranteed to work or we will replace it free.

OK, so you’re still doing BNC or XLR connectors, and will until the day you retire. You think those installations have no cable-connector issues? There was a recent webinar put on by Miranda, a Belden Brand. (To be posted later). They discussed something very interesting. The #1 bottleneck, the thing that takes up the largest chunk of time in the mobile truck (OB van) world is “cable and corrector issues”. Do tell!!

Since we now make both the cable and connectors (at least the RJ-45 and BNC versions), we’re working hard on making them easier to install and more reliable after you put them in. Not an easy thing to do! And when you consider our next step is 4K (12 GHz clock) connectors, you become aware that we are getting fairly close to doing the impossible. But, as they say, the impossible just takes a little longer.

Now if you have some bright ideas how to simplify, streamline or reliablize (invented word) our connectors, we’d love to hear from you. Just fill out the card below or send an email directly to me, steve.lampen@belden.com

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