As everyone in broadcasting knows, the cost of copper has skyrocketed in recent years. Tight supply (fewer mines and refineries due to economic and regulatory issues) and increased manufacturing (China now accounts for 40% of the global demand for copper) have combined to create a classic seller's market.
It's also created the classic shyster's market, as anyone who's dealt with the theft of transmission line, air conditioning equipment or power supply materials from a transmitter site will attest.
The latest shady dealings in the copper market are counterfeit cabling, sold under brand-name labels as the genuine article – but without the manufacturing processes, quality controls and, sometimes, without even the proper metal inside them. While this may not be much of a problem for folks hooking up a set of home stereo speakers, it can be a very big issue indeed in a data-rich environment like a network-based broadcast studio.
So much of a problem has this become that veteran electronics-design journal ECN Magazine published last month a detailed article ("The seven deadly counterfeit cable sins" , written by David Fallon & David Gallagher of L-com) that outlines ways to tell whether the cabling you've bought is the real deal, or just a slick trick.
Some of the tricks being used to pass of inferior cabling as premium goods include:
- Using steel- or aluminum-core wire in place of pure copper, which impairs signal-to-noise ratio and increases crosstalk over long runs.
- Substituting inferior, non-fireproof jacket material for CMP-rated jacketing.
- Falsified cable markings.
- Using undersize wire gages to save on material costs.
There are ways to protect yourself from counterfeit cabling, say Fallon and Gallagher.
First, purchase from reputable sellers; resist the urge to take the lowball bid that's "too good to be true." Second, get a Certificate of Conformance for the cable you're purchasing. And, finally, trust but verify: run random QC tests on cable you receive to make sure you're getting what you paid for.
You can read the entire story at http://www.ecnmag.com/blogs/2012/06/seven-deadly-counterfeit-cable-sins.
References: Marketwatch.com, 19 July 2012, "Copper outlook 'positive' on tight supply:Freeport", http://www.marketwatch.com/story/copper-outlook-positive-on-tight-supplyfreeport-2012-07-19  ECNMag.com, 7 June 2012, "The seven deadly counterfeit cable sins", http://www.ecnmag.com/blogs/2012/06/seven-deadly-counterfeit-cable-sins