How to: Terminate a Cat6A Shielded Field Term Plug
Is it a RJ45 connector plug or a tool-less keystone jack? We have a potential personality disorder going on here! In all seriousness, field termination plugs terminate your raw cable like a tool-less keystone jack but are then used to plug directly into a piece of equipment. Field termination plugs perform the same basic function as a 8P8C (aka RJ45) plug, by functioning as a male end connector, but are far better at the job!
This blog is a companion to the video above. I strongly recommend you watch the video and read the blog. Both mediums bring something to the table.
Aside from the obvious differences as compared to traditional 8P8C plugs, field termination plugs have a printed circuit board inside (PCB) that allows for impedance matching and are Category rated. In regards to performance, a field termination plug will typically perform much better than a traditional 8P8C plug, especially when it comes to solid copper Ethernet cable. See Terminating Pass-Through RJ45 Connectors onto Solid Copper Ethernet Cable — A Really Bad Idea? for more information.
Field Termination Plugs vs. 8P8C (aka RJ45) Connectors
Field termination plugs have the following pluses:
- Much easier to terminate than traditional 8P8C (aka RJ45) connectors
- Far less fitment sensitive than traditional 8P8C connectors. 8P8C connectors are notorious for bad connections due to variance in insulated conductor sizes and require careful matching to the cable you are using via specification sheets and research. Not all 8P8C connectors and cable are documented well enough to permit a decision! Even if you do run down all the pertinent information, there may not be a 8P8C plug that will exactly match. What do you do then? Field termination plugs care a lot less about cable dimensions.
- Impedance matching and cross-talk dampening features in field termination plugs ensure a high performance termination. 8P8C connectors provide no performance-enhancing features.
Field terminations plugs also have a couple of downsides:
- Field termination plugs cost more (per piece)
- Field termination plugs are physically much larger than traditional 8P8C connectors and may not fit (literally) into your installation. Examples would be tight outdoor camera or WiFi access point housings that won’t physically accept a field termination plug.
So, field termination plugs are not for everyone but they do have their place and you should use them when possible if you are looking for a male end termination. What are some common scenarios where field termination plugs are ideal?
Common Scenarios for Field Termination Plugs:
- Making a custom patch cable (male connectors on both ends) from switch to switch or router to switch in a telecommunications room where maximum speed and reliability is required
- MPTL runs (Modular Plug Terminated Links) where you have a keystone on one end and need a male connector end on the other for PoE devices
- Any cable run that requires solid copper Ethernet cable, maximum reliability and speed, but keystone jacks would be physically difficult if not impossible to install
- One end of your cable requires a male connector end but the cable is thicker than any 8P8C can accept
For shielded Ethernet cable, it bears mentioning that putting 8P8C ends on can be frustrating. Really thick outdoor shielded Ethernet cable might not fit 8P8C connectors at all. The only solution is the field termination plug if you need a “RJ45” style connection at one end.
The rules around Ethernet cable length are not as simple as the cut and dry “328 feet” answer that you may have been exposed to. In fact, Ethernet cable maximum length can vary due to temperature and how you construct your entire run. Do field termination plugs change the rules around length? They do! Here is a handy table. Please note this table does not account for ambient temperatures. For more on how temperature can affect maximum length please see Temperature's Effect on Ethernet Cable Length.
*When connecting one end of your Ethernet cable to a keystone jack or patch panel and then the other end to a field termination plug you have what is known as MPTL or Modular Plug Terminated Link style run. Such runs have a maximum solid copper segment length of 295 feet from jack/panel to field termination plug. The “head end” connection is made with a factory made pre-terminated patch cable that will plug into something else, like an Ethernet switch. Since you are using only a single patch cord your length will never reach 328 feet by default. The gauge of the patch cord can impose additional length restrictions.
trueCABLE sells two types of field termination plugs:
- Shielded Cat6A
- Unshielded Cat6A
Both field termination plug types have built-in strain relief and are “tool-less” in nature. Of course you will require tools, just not a 110 punch down tool. Both field termination plugs are fully backwards compatible with Cat6 and Cat5e.
For the remainder of this blog, we will focus on terminating the shielded Cat6A variation found here: Cat6A Field Term Plug｜Shielded. The unshielded variation is found here: Cat6A Field Term Plug｜Unshielded and the process of termination is documented in Cat6A 3-Way Unshielded Field Termination Plug: Have it Your Way!
Closer Look at the Cat6A Shielded Field Termination Plug
- Fully backward compatible with Cat6 and Cat5e
- Nickel plated zinc housing, designed for shielded Ethernet cable
- Impedance matching technology
- Cross-talk dampening technology
- 100W 802.3bt Type 4, 4PPoE compatibility
- 10Gb/s performance with Cat6A Ethernet cable
- Auto-adjusting bond/ground spring ensures positive low resistance when terminating the cable shield
- Removable sliding latch help prevent accidental disconnections
- Cut-to-fit locking strain relief boot, no nylon ties required
Required tools for termination
*Alternatively, if you have channel lock (slip joint) pliers on hand you can use those to close the field term plug lid. Cat6 and Cat6A shielded cable, with their thicker conductors, will require more finger and hand strength than you may expect. I often cannot close the housing, especially with my teeny hands...
Helpful accessory for shielded terminations...
Although not strictly necessary, our Copper Fabric Strips are a boon to terminating your cable shield to shielded field termination plugs. The old method of folding back the cable shield and wrapping the ESD drain wire around the foil shield will work, but it is rather inconvenient and adds unwanted thickness to the very end of the cable. Instead, remove the foil shield (keep the ESD drain wire!) and then wrap the ESD drain wire backwards around the cable jacket. Tack it down with our copper infused fabric strips, which have conductive adhesive. This makes the process far easier.
Termination process for shielded field termination plugs
For this demonstration, I am using our Cat6A Shielded Riser cable — in blue. Let’s get to it!
First things first. The boot MUST be placed onto your cable before termination. Put it on the “wrong way” until it stops. Flush cut at the stop point and then put it on the right way.
The strain relief boot also serves as the locking mechanism to keep the field term plug closed. Once the boot is on, slide it down out of your way.
If you see the cable shield has been cut by the strip tool, you might have nicked a conductor! Start over unless you are certain you did not.
Now cut off the rip cord, cable shield, and any other plastic wraps. Leave the ESD drain wire!
In this step, if you are working with direct burial Ethernet cable, you will need to fully cut off the water proof fabric tape (not shown). This is also a good time to inspect the conductors again for nicks at the cable jacket edge.
Take a look at the color sequence on the sides and front of the conductor cap. You will notice a sequence for both T568A and T568B. I am using “B” for this.
Now, look at your cable and how the pairs are oriented. Place the pairs into an orientation that lend themselves to minimal cross-over. Place the blue and green pairs first into the conductor cap, under the bar.
Slide the conductor cap downward to the cable jacket and raise the two rear (brown and orange) pairs upward so they will be above the bar. Get the conductor cap as close as reasonably possible to the cable jacket as shown.
Untwist the rear pairs fully (brown and orange) FIRST. Use a piece of cable jacket to help untwist the pairs. Put the conductors into the correct slots. Then work on the green and blue pairs.
All pairs seated. This is the T568B sequence.
The distance from the last twist in the pair to where the individual conductor wires seat into the conductor cap cannot exceed 1/2”. The closer the last twist is to where the wires actually seat, the better the performance.
Flush cut the conductors even with the cap housing.
Remove the sliding latch from the housing. The latch will slide rearwards and then up. Be careful not to break the small plastic pins.
Take note the conductor holder cap has a notch at the front. Align the notch with the front blue post (middle taller one).
Place the conductor holder cap into the housing using the notch for alignment. PRESS DOWN ON CAP TO PRESET CONDUCTORS.
The conductor holder cap will only go in one way. There is a notch at the front of the cap that mates to a plastic blue tab at the front of the housing.
It is very helpful to press downward to “pre-seat” the conductor cap into the housing. This will reduce the possibility of crushing the cap and bending metal prongs, which will ruin your field termination plug during the close process.
Hinge the lid downward to start closure. Most of the time it is not possible to close the mechanism with your fingers. You will need a tool.
Using the inside steps of the parallel jaw pliers (trueCLOSE) align the field termination plug so it is centered.
Do not place the trueCLOSE pliers at the rear of the field term plug. There is a risk of damaging the lid hinge. Place the jaws directly in the center of the plug housing.
Slide the locking boot upwards over the metal of the field term plug until it snaps. Mate the “WiFi” signal icons for proper alignment.
Wrapping Things Up
And your last step...
Well, there you have it. A ready-to-go shielded Cat6A field plug termination. Now you can plug it into your equipment and if necessary un-terminate it for future use. Talk about versatility!
WAIT! Something went wrong? Check out What Does a Bad Termination Look Like?
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