There are many solutions at your disposal when working to improve cellular signal for your customers. Some can be silver bullets when it comes to solving signal and connectivity problems, but some solutions and tools aren’t as straightforward, making it difficult to know when to use them. Cabling is one of the tools of the trade that can play a major role in the ultimate success or failure of the signal-boosting solution you implement for your customer.
Plenum cable is among the cable solutions available to facilitate cell signal booster installations in buildings when standard cable options aren’t robust — or safe — enough. Still, many integrators are unsure when this solution is best suited for a job. In this post, we’ll take a look at exactly what plenum cable is, and when and how integrators should use it.
Plenum is a term derived from the HVAC industry. It refers to the spaces in a building’s ceilings or floors where air circulates to aid in heating and cooling functions. The space between a drop ceiling and a standard ceiling would be considered a plenum space, for example. This space provides the air supply that is used by the building’s various HVAC systems. Check out this video to learn more about plenum spaces.
Because fire and smoke can travel quickly through plenum spaces, cabling used within them must be “plenum-rated.” Plenum spaces are full of fresh oxygen, which is pumped throughout a building by its HVAC systems. This presence of oxygen means that even a small fire can quickly spread once it makes its way into these spaces. Any resulting smoke is then quickly dispersed throughout the entire building via its HVAC system.
Plenum-rated cable is coated with flame-resistant material, such as Teflon®, to increase safety in these spaces and to reduce toxicity from spreading throughout the building’s air supply should the cable come into contact with heat or flames. Other types of cable produce toxic — and potentially deadly — smoke when burned.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) sets the standards in terms of code requirements that protect plenum air spaces. All plenum cable undergoes rigorous testing by one of the many nationally recognized testing laboratories in the United States to ensure it meets this strict set of standards before it can be truly classified as plenum-rated.
When Should You Use Plenum Cable?
As a cell signal booster installation professional, you must always choose plenum-rated cable when cabling is being run throughout plenum spaces of buildings, including air ducts.
Plenum cable can be safely installed just about anywhere, although it might be considered overkill in spaces where open air and the potential for heat and flame are not necessary considerations. There are some instances in which you absolutely must install plenum cable, however. For example, many commercial buildings — including hospitals, secure facilities, and government buildings — require the use of plenum cable in order to meet specific fire and building codes.
Although standard cable can be used in plenum spaces in buildings with less-stringent requirements, it must be run within a conduit in these areas. Still, standard cable is never the best solution for signal boosters because it would require puncturing the conduit and running cable out into the plenum space in order to connect the booster to the corresponding antennas. This is why it’s best to choose plenum-rated cable anytime you’re dealing with plenum spaces and air ducts.
While plenum cable is not necessary in every install, it is definitely among the tools that all booster solution integrators should have in his or her arsenal of tools since plenum spaces are so often a factor in cell signal improvement. Wilson Pro’s Wilson 400 Plenum cable is a low-signal-loss coaxial cable for wireless applications. The cable’s flexible conductor features a tight bend radius to facilitate any install space scenario and exceeds all code requirements for installation in plenum air-handling spaces.
It’s important to understand all of the different cable ratings and to ensure that you are using properly rated cable in every install you perform. If you’d like to learn more about cable ratings, or find out where to buy plenum-rated cable from WilsonPro and how it can improve the installations you provide, contact us today.