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Properly Labeling Tangled Telecom Cables Makes Life Easier for Building and Facility Managers

free guide to wire marking

Written by Jack Rubinger

Twisted and tangled cables -- allowing us to electronically transport information -- are a nightmare for those responsible for identifying, maintaining and installing telecom system components such as horizontal links, backbone cables, faceplates/outlets and termination hardware. Though largely invisible to the average person, these cables connect our phones, alarms, servers, computers and video images and are serviced by technicians wearing safety glasses, reflective vests and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

Add years of unseen dust to the already confusing state of most building’s telecommunications rooms and you have a task that may feel untouchable.

New Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) standards updated in 2009 make locating, repairing and upgrading these systems much easier. The ANSI/TIA/EIA-606A Administration Standard for Telecommunication – most people call it the 606A – was specifically created for technicians to improve legibility and upgrade the professional appearance of installations through proper labeling of components. The goal is to know exactly what components exist in the system, where they are installed and how they are connected.

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Specifically, 606A calls for labeling visibility (size, color and contrast) and durability. The standard calls for a uniform labeling format that indicates the type, location and purpose of all cables and end-points plus color-coding for faster and easier identification of all elements. Labels must be moisture, heat and UV-resistant, demonstrate a long-life and must be created or printed with a mechanical device as handwritten labels may be illegible.

In the grand scheme of things, a new labeling standard may not seem like a big deal, but when the phones and computers aren’t working because the cables are taking a long time to fix, everyone from business owners to installers to building dwellers suffer the pain of losing productivity, time and money. So it’s important to know which cable leads to which piece of equipment.

Shrink tubes and color-coded self-laminating wire wraps from industrial printer manufacturer DuraLabel provide two proven solutions to marking and identifying wires and cables. Shrink tubes are made from polyolefin -- a very flexible, specially formulated cross-linked material with a low recovery temperature, 3:1 shrink ratio, thin wall, and high flame-retardance. Shrink tubes provide a permanent label that tightly adheres to the wire. Handheld or desktop DuraLabel printers make it easy to create clear identifying information using text, numbers and graphics. Users slip the shrink tube over the end of a cable or wire using a heat gun to shrink the tube.

The result is a tight fitting, permanent label. There are no adhesives that might fail or tags that can get pulled off. With its thin wall, the shrink tube is pliable and can flex along with whatever it encases. Shrink tube material comes in 25 foot rolls.

While shrink tubes can only be applied before a wire is terminated, self-laminating wire wraps are ideal for labeling wires that are terminated. One inch labels wrap around wires as narrow as 0.078” (12 gauge). A clear “tail” that wraps over the printed portion of the label provides long-lasting protection. A major benefit? Color-coding makes identification easy.

When the 606A standard is next revised is anyone’s guess. Typically, these guidelines are updated every 3-5 years. Will our telecommunications infrastructure with its maze of cables and wires grow even more complex? Chances are likely. In that case, new labeling techniques and supplies will need to keep pace.

Other related standards to pay attention to are ANSI a13.1, ASME a13.1 and NFPA 70E which impact both pipe marking and arc flash.


The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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