Label Those Cables

Approved back in 2012, the ANSI/TIA-606-B labeling standard is taking its time catching on among electrical contractors (ECs). But, some advantages include better clarity and improved efficiency in the long run.

Jay Whitaker, product manager at Panduit, Tinley Park, Ill., said the earlier 606-A standard was “primarily created for smaller network infrastructures, such as a telecommunications closet or room on a floor that connects to offices 
or cubicles.” 

And 606-A worked well in those applications. However, as customers increasingly needed to apply the standard to larger network spaces that might literally contain thousands of terminations, the old standard didn’t scale up all that well.

Specifics surrounding labeling guidelines and cabling administration in complex environments, such as data centers, weren’t included in 
606-A. It is something that Craig Robinson, RCDD, manager of business development for P-touch EDGE Industrial Products at Brother Mobile Solutions in Broomfield, Colo., said was initially addressed in 606-A’s Addendum 1 and has now been incorporated as part of 606-B.

“[It] expands upon A and sets forth labeling standards for not only the data center, but commercial, industrial and healthcare facilities,” Robinson said. 

From the smallest installation to very large data centers, the new standard addresses the majority of applications that contractors are likely to encounter.

Some key differences make 606-B a more robust standard for today’s network needs. There are now more identifiers, and Robinson offered a handful of specific examples, such as cabinets, racks, enclosures and wall segments; patch panels or blocks; and cables between cabinets, racks, enclosures and wall segments. In addition, other new identifiers address interbuilding telecommunications cabling, plus grounding and bonding systems.

For ECs grappling with different standards at home and abroad, Whitaker, who was on the 606-B committee, said that better global compatibility was an important consideration.

“The ISO telecom administration standard in Europe is addressed in 606-B. You have one standard in 606-B that you can use in North America and in other parts of the world and be in compliance,” Whitaker said. 

This becomes increasingly important as globalization permeates companies of every size and industry and contractors work with more customers who maintain a presence in multiple countries.

Fortunately, existing cabling installations were carefully considered while 606-B was crafted. If a customer’s network was labeled in accordance with 606-A, the scheme is likely compatible with the new standard.

“They don’t have to necessarily go back and relabel previous connections that were labeled based on 606-A,” Whitaker said. “Basically, 606-B built upon the older identifiers.” 

That’s good news for customers who probably wouldn’t fund a relabeling project based on standards alone.

A clear perk: 606-B addresses identification and labeling of wall-mounted panels and equipment. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, been forced to find additional space on a blank wall?

“This is something new that was added, which is great because, a lot of times in telecommunications closets, you’ve got connection blocks and equipment mounted on a wall and not necessarily in a cabinet or a rack,” Whitaker said. 

It’s a helpful move forward in providing standardization across multiple types of hardware.

So do you really need those long identifiers on every cable to be compliant with 606-B? The good news is that you don’t, at least not always. Whitaker said the new standard eliminates the requirement to note certain pieces of information depending on the circumstances. He used the example of cabling that goes between two cabinets within a single room.

“You wouldn’t want to include that this cable is in the telecommunications closet on floor three when you’re standing in the telecommunication closet on floor three,” he said. “That’s not required. The information that’s obvious to the viewer doesn’t have to be on the label.” 

In some cases, this might mean a label will display nothing more than a port number. However, remember that labeling must be the same on both ends of the cable, so don’t overlook something that is obvious on one side but not the other.

If you haven’t started using 606-B yet, you aren’t alone. Robinson said that ECs are adopting the new standard slowly, and he suspects a general lack of awareness may be the culprit.

“I’m still seeing specifications out there that are asking for 606-A requirements, so I think it’s going to take a bit more time for this to become more widely adopted in the industry, as more and more consultants, architects, engineers and contractors become aware of what 606-B brings to the table,” Robinson said. 

It’s likely that new construction and new installations will continue to move 606-B into the mainstream.

Good cable identification and administration is an investment in infrastructure.

“As a building owner, you’re going to want to know what you’ve got and where it is,” he said. 

And moves, adds and changes can be accomplished much more efficiently if an EC doesn’t need to re-identify cables that don’t have labels or whose labels are illegible.

“A little bit of time and expense upfront certainly saves a lot of money on the back-end,” Robinson said.

About the Author

Julie Knudson

Freelance Writer

Julie Knudson worked in facilities and telecom management before becoming a freelance business writer. She can be reached at

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