How To: Open Cat6A Shielded and Unshielded Field Term Plugs
Written by Don Schultz, trueCABLE Senior Technical Advisor, Fluke Networks Copper/Fiber CCTT, BICSI INST1, INSTC, INSTF Certified
For those who know about the benefits of field termination plugs and use them, trueCABLE almost never sees any of our customers coming back asking questions like “how-to”. Usually, those customers ask how to buy more. There is one question that comes up, though, and it can be a challenging one to explain over the phone. Unfortunately, as easy as field termination plugs are to get on they are not as intuitive to figure out how to remove. That is what we will cover in this blog. First, we will talk about field termination plugs in general and then get into the “how-to”.
trueCABLE sells two great pieces of Ethernet cable termination hardware that makes putting male ends onto your cable runs easy and effective. Ironically, the less experienced installers are the folks who will benefit most from the usability of these accessories but less experienced installers don’t understand what they are for. What is this secret weapon that makes lives better and cables perform? They are known as Field Termination Plugs. They come in shielded and unshielded. Both are rated for Cat6A and are backwards compatible with Cat6 and even some thicker Cat5e cables. In a pinch, you can even use the shielded field termination plugs on unshielded Ethernet cable and not cause yourself any technical issues--although doing so might cause cable misidentification and is considered bad form. But, the option is there if need be. The primary factor is no matter what Category Ethernet cable you use (solid or stranded copper) our field terminations work with 23AWG and 24AWG conductors only.
When you need to put on male ends, field termination plugs are by far the best way of terminating thick Ethernet cable--especially the really thick shielded Cat6 or Cat6A types.
The design of field termination plugs makes it easy to:
- Achieve correct Category performance for your cable (especially critical for Cat6A cable being driven to 10G performance)
- Avoid fitment problems induced by production tolerances. Despite every effort by manufacturers to hold tolerances within a certain range, edge cases can and do occur that may result in poor performing or outright non-working terminations with RJ45 8P8C connector plugs.
- Understand how to put a male plug on your cable the right way, the first time. Field termination plugs terminate like a toolless keystone jack with user friendly features such as color coding. This reduces your learning curve considerably.
- Deal with thick bulk Outdoor or Direct Burial Ethernet cable
The Problem with RJ45 8P8C Connector PlugsPutting an RJ45 8P8C connector plug onto thick, shielded solid-copper conductor network cable is not a fun task. To remove any doubt about the level of effort required I suggest you take a look at Slaying the Dragon: RJ45 Termination of Cat6 Shielded Direct Burial Ethernet. You have to get every part just right and your RJ45 8P8C plugs must be fit to your cable with a degree of perfection you might not expect. Then, to top it all off, production tolerances can throw you a curve ball too as outlined above. Field termination plugs give you more than a usability edge, they have a huge edge in performance and reliability. For more on how field termination plugs bring great benefits to your installation see Choosing the Right Termination - Keystone Jack vs RJ45 Connector vs Field Termination Plug.
- Disassembly of Cat6A Unshielded 3-Way Field Termination Plugs
- Disassembly of Cat6A Shielded Field Termination Plugs
Of the two, the shielded style is the more involved process due to the strain relief boot also acting as the lock mechanism. We will cover those last. But, before we jump in we should go over the tools you need to make this possible to do.
- You will need a flat blade screwdriver (thin and narrow blade precision style)
- Flush cutters--to cut any zip ties that were used to close the plug
Good tools to have in your tool kit! Flush cutter and precision screwdriver.
For instructions (videos included!) on how to terminate trueCABLE field termination plugs onto your cable in the first place, please see Cat6A 3-Way Unshielded Field Termination Plug: Have it Your Way! for unshielded plugs and How to: Terminate a Cat6A Field Term Plug for shielded ones.
Now, with that all out of the way, let’s get into taking a field termination plug off!
Unterminating Cat6A Unshielded 3-Way Field Termination Plugs
One very nice thing about field termination plugs is they may be terminated, removed, and then re-terminated up to 20 times. The main thing to keep in mind is you cannot re-terminate a thinner (like 24AWG) copper gauge cable once you use a larger one (like 23AWG), but you can go up in size, though….
Unshielded field termination plug body. Notice four notches (two each side) for the wire holder cap.
Wire holder cap. Notice locking tabs. They mate with the latches in the plug body.
Termination plug snapped together.
Insert screwdriver between the plug body and wire holder cap and swipe forward as shown. This will unlatch one side of the plug assembly.
One side unlatched and on an angle. Don’t let it latch again while working on the other side!
Working on the other side. Insert screwdriver and swipe forward like before.
Tada! You got it.
Don’t be frustrated if you accidentally re-lock the other side while working on the opposite side. This will occur. It certainly happens to me. Keep at it until you get some practice in. In fact, practice on one that is not terminated onto a cable for good experience.
Unterminating Cat6A Shielded Field Termination Plugs
The process for disassembling a shielded field termination plug is very different due to the hinged construction and locking mechanism that includes the cut-to-fit strain relief boot.
Assembled shielded field termination plug. The sliding locking latch is removable.
The blue locking strain relief boot must be removed FIRST. There are four locking points. Two on the sides and two on the top/bottom. See pictures above.
First, pry CAREFULLY on the top tab.
Second, pry CAREFULLY on the side tabs one at a time.
If you accidentally break the locking boot all is not lost. You can use a zip tie to secure the plug after re-termination. Be extra careful not to exceed the bend radius of the cable if you get into this situation.
Boot removed and not broken!
Next, pry at either side of the metal housing at the notch as shown. You only need to insert the screwdriver into the notch and then…
Twist! The twisting motion of the screwdriver blade will pop the lid open.
Housing open and conductor holder cap removed.
Removing the Sliding Lock Tab
One of the features of our Cat6A Shielded Field Termination Plug is the sliding lock tab that serves as the mechanism to unplug from a RJ45 female port. This tab is removable to prevent accidental disconnection. It is not a high security device to prevent intentional unplugging.
Sliding locking tab.
Slide the tab to the rear of the plug and lift up on either side of the locking tab at the notches.
Notches and slide rails.
Locking tab removed. Be careful not to break it! It is plastic.
So now you know all about field termination plugs! If you read through this entire blog, and also read the other blogs that were linked, you now fully understand not only how to terminate a field termination plug, but also how to un-terminate one! The bonus is that you also know why field termination plugs are so critical to good terminations. Yes, they cost a bit more but what is your sanity worth if you are fighting RJ45 8P8C connector plugs? Save your sanity and use the right termination hardware the first time. With that I will say…
trueCABLE presents the information on our website, including the “Cable Academy” blog and live chat support, as a service to our customers and other visitors to our website subject to our website terms and conditions. While the information on this website is about data networking and electrical issues, it is not professional advice and any reliance on such material is at your own risk.