Like any industry, the cabling and network infrastructure market is susceptible to significant shifts in strategy and approach according to changes in key regulations governing the sector.
One such change recently took place with the confirmation that the EU-mandated Construction Products Regulation (CPR) would be expanded to include new fire safety rules that affect cable manufacturing. Following a one-year transitional period, the new regulatory framework took effect on July 1st 2017, meaning all businesses are now expected to be compliant.
As with any regulatory shift, this has created a certain amount of disruption for network operators - but it has also represented an opportunity for companies to upgrade their infrastructure as a range of new, improved and CPR-compliant products emerge on to the market.
What is the CPR?
The CPR is designed to set out harmonised rules for the marketing of construction products across the EU, establishing a common technical language to assess the performance of various products and components, which makes it easier to compare solutions from different manufacturers across the continent.
As with most centrally-mandated EU regulations, the CPR is intended to ensure that all manufacturers throughout the region are operating to the same standards, meaning companies can select the products that are most suitable for their intended purposes with full confidence of their safety and performance.
How do the new CPR changes apply to cabling?
The new change to CPR has taken this a step further by applying a shared technical approach and uniform assessment methods for fire performance of all fixed cables, including copper and fibre optic cabling.
Covering the reaction and resistance of EU-distributed cables to fire and the release of noxious substances, the revised laws apply to all cabling used in electricity, communication, fire detection and alarms, especially in cases where maintaining the continuity of power or signal supply to safety installations is essential.
This means that all such products now need to be assessed and categorised according to the seven-step EuroClass performance rating system - with this information appearing on the product or their packaging - in order to be legally sold.
It is worth noting that the new CPR rules only apply to fixed cabling infrastructure and do not cover connecting hardware, patch leads or fanout assemblies; nevertheless, it remains a significant and important consideration.
How is the industry responding?
Happily, the cabling industry is responding positively to the legislative change, and is ramping up the development of new and amended cable products to meet the need for better fire resistance.
One example of this is the introduction of CPR-compliant cables to the CommScope
Systimax Category 5e, 6, 6a, 7 and 7a portfolios, all of which have been approved by authorised notified bodies, with declarations of performance documents for each cable now accessible via the company's online electronic catalog.
Offerings such as these, as well as those offered by other manufacturers, will help network operators to upgrade and replace older cabling systems where appropriate, with the necessary papertrail in place to demonstrate their adherence with the new rules. This will allow them to show their commitment to fire safety and regulatory compliance, with minimal disruption and zero loss in network performance.