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Ethernet testing for everyone

April 13, 2021
Cable and network tester simplifies identification, fault finding, wire maps and performance

In times of rapid technical change, even users that don’t test cables and networks regularly may still install many devices and need to test cables and networks. To give them a much-needed assist, Fluke Networks is introducing the LinkIQ industrial Ethernet (IE) cable and network tester.

“Many networks are moving from point-to-point hardwiring or fieldbuses to Ethernet, and users jiggle or swap out cables when they experience problems. However, they often don’t have the right tools and use specialized devices like protocol analyzers, which isn’t a great approach,“ says Mark Mullins, product marketing manager at Fluke Networks. “We've got a long history in cable testing, so we know it's OK for an email to resend a data packet, but it's not OK on an industrial network. Our idea was to make it easier for users to test cables and networks, and illuminate problems because just over half of Ethernet failures are related to cabling.”

Mullins reports that LinkIQ lets users:

  • Validate cable performance to support using Ethernet protocols, such as EtherNet/IP, Profinet, EtherCAT and others;
  • Identify miswired and split pairs on cables terminated with RJ45, M12X, M12D and M8D connectors;
  • Identify connected switch information, such as switch name, port number and virtual local area network (VLAN);
  • Install and troubleshoot Power over Ethernet (PoE) devices via switch negotiation and PoE load test methods; and
  • Document work steps done with LinkWare PC software.

Mullins adds that LinkIQ can typically determine if a cable is bad in six seconds. It also finds the distance to the fault and provides a wire map of the cable under test. This new tester also performs nearest-switch diagnostics to identify network issues and validate switch configuration, eliminating the need to use another device. Other features include analog and digital toning, port blink, 802.1x authentication, remote office locators, and the ability to manage results via LinkWare PC software.

LinkIQ also determines switch port speed up to 10 Gbps, evaluates PoE performance under load, and saves time by combining and automating formerly separate tests. "The three things LinkIQ can connect to are cables, cables with remote identifiers and cables plugged into networks, which can tell users about the far ends of their networks," explains Mullins. "LinkIQ shows cable lengths up to 1,000 feet, complete wire maps, and cable and switch configuration. Previously, users needed multiple devices to get these results. And, even though an equivalent, high-end device like a network certifier might deliver more data, it would cost five or six times as much."

Mullins adds LinkIQ's biggest breakthrough is it simplifies cable, connector and network testing, which also makes it easier for users to ensure performance in their devices and applications. "Users often don't know if a given cable can handle the communication speed they'll need, so it helps that LinkIQ can show its bandwidth like a speedometer. It provides the simple pass/fail indication they want, so they don't have to waste time interpreting results, " adds Mullins. "They also want to know where their cables go, and LinkIQ provides a tone generator that works with a probe, lets users blink on a port like a light switch, and displays the connected switch’s name, port and VLAN number."

Because many devices rely on Ethernet power, LinkIQ tells users how much is available. Finally, LinkIQ also lets users quickly document their work, save up to 1,000 test results, and store and report them in one LinkWare PC database. And, once these results are in a database, users can compare current results with those from years ago to enable higher-end testing and commissioning projects.

"One of our beta testers told us, 'I can do all the cable and network testing I need by pushing one button on LinkIQ. It makes me feel like I can give it to interns, and they can install and troubleshoot devices on my network for me.' "

For more information, visit www.flukenetworks.com/edocs/linkiqtm-industrial-ethernet-cable-network-tester

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