The Basics of Patch Cords

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The Basics of Patch Cords

Patch cords are a critical component of structured cabling systems. Poor patch cord performance can cause signal egress, increase RFI and EMI interference, and increase channel error rates.

In addition to identifying the right patchcord for your application, you must also consider other factors such as connector geometry and termination techniques. Using a reliable assembly manufacturer will ensure the correct patchcord for your needs.


There are many different types of patch cord, depending on the cable and connector type used. They can be made with twisted pair cables for data transmission, coaxial cable for audio/video applications or a combination of both. They are typically short in length and come in different colors to facilitate organization and identification.

They can also be covered with different jackets, including PVC, LSZH or OFNP. For example, fiber optic patch cords with LSZH or OFNP sheaths are flame-retardant and are suitable for use in ducts and plenum spaces. They are also much more durable and have higher performance characteristics than their non-LSZH and OFNP counterparts.

Other types of patch cord include UTP, CAT6 or CAT7, LC, MPO/MTP and MU. Each type of fiber optic patch cord has its own set of specifications and features, based on the cable’s core size, mode field diameter and connector types.

It is important that patchcords match the type of cable to which they are connected. For example, it is not appropriate to use OM2 patchcords with OM3 fiber cables. Similarly, it is crucial that UTP patchcords match the correct standards and specifications of the ethernet cable to which they are connected. The same is true for single-mode or multimode optical fiber patch cords, which must match the fiber type used in the cable plant.


Regardless of cable type or length, patch cords support an array of networking applications. The most common uses include interconnecting devices in a network, replacing patchcord damaged cables, and facilitating temporary connections between equipment.

The physical design of a patch cord can also impact performance and reliability. For example, short patch cables may be more susceptible to return loss (signal reflection), crosstalk, or electromagnetic interference (EMI). This can reduce data transmission rates and lead to errors in information processing. To mitigate this issue, IT professionals should consider a number of factors when sourcing and installing patch cords:

Copper patch cables are available in both solid and stranded wire formats. Solid patch cords use a single metal wire for each internal conductor, which offers greater durability and flexibility than stranded cable types. Stranded patch cords have multiple metal wires for each internal conductor, which can improve bending resistance and provide increased flexibility.

A fiber optic patch cord is a type of optical cabling that supports various data transmission standards. These cables are capped at both ends with connectors that allow them to connect to optical switches and other telecommunications devices. When connectors are attached to only one end of a fiber patch cable, it is known as a pigtail.

Single fiber patch cords can be categorized as simplex jumpers, duplex jumpers, or fanouts. These cords can also be referred to as LC fiber jumpers, and they are typically linked to simplex or duplex transceivers.


Patch cables are used to connect electronic devices, such as a computer to a network switch or an audiovisual system to an amplifier. They play a critical role in establishing wired networks, and their performance can influence the speed and quality of data transmission. It is therefore vital to understand the basics of patch cords.

In the past, patch cords were typically terminated with crimped or soldered connectors. However, with the advent of modular connector designs that snap into place without the need for crimping or soldering, terminating patch cables is now much simpler.

It is essential to avoid bending or twisting a patch cable, as this can cause internal stress and interfere with signal flow. It is also advisable to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for termination and always use a crimping tool with enough pressure to ensure a strong and secure connection.

Mode conditioning fiber patch cord is a special type of multimode patch cable that incorporates a short length of single mode fiber at the beginning of the transmission line to improve data signal reliability and reduce bit errors. This patch cord is recommended for applications where the total transmission distance does not exceed a few tens of meters. Guitarists often use patch cords of shorter length to connect floor stompbox style effects to their amplifier or recording interface.


Creating patch cords requires precision and technical know-how. When done data center incorrectly, it can lead to poor performance, system downtime and even data loss. It is best to leave this type of work to cabling contractors.

Before beginning the cleanup process, consult with the end-user or contact person to learn more about their current patch cord management systems. This will help you get a better idea of how to manage the cleanup project and also will help you understand the equipment in use. For example, if the TC is configured for 10Base-T and 100Base-T users in separate concentrators, determine how many ports are reserved for each user to help with labeling at the time of cleanup.

Decide if you will use copper or fibre patch cords and the optimum lengths for each. Fiber patch cords require special care due to their higher cost and lower bending radii. Typically, you should bring a kit with the correct lengths of patch cord and test them in the field prior to cleaning.

Evaluate the operating environment for the telecommunications closet and ensure it is clean, free of obstructions, and has unobstructed airflow and vents. This will reduce your cleanup costs, eliminate potential damage to network components and facilitate troubleshooting. Determine which switch port connects to which patch panel port and create a chart for reference during the cleanup process. The chart will be a useful guide when re-patching the cables in the future and it will save you time by eliminating the need to refer to your notepad or calculator.

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