Terminology Tuesday: Interpreting Cable Descriptions


Have you ever picked up a catalog to order cable and thought the descriptions were written in another language. Writing a catalog description for cable that fits into the standard character count – is a lot like tweeting. You have to be a bit creative. So I thought I would create a quick guide for interpreting as many of the abbreviations as I can think of. I will try to go in a logical order, as many descriptions start in the same manner:

AWG = American Wire Gauge (Conductor size). However, many descriptions just start with the actual AWG size and don’t place “AWG” after the conductor size. So the description might start “24-4c”, this would be 4 individual conductors, each sized 24 AWG. If it was written “24-4p” – the cable would be 24 AWG with 4 pairs (or 8 conductors twisted into pairs).

Now here is a breakdown of various other descriptors you might find:

  • SOL = Solid conductors
  • STR = Stranded Conductors (this is usually further broken down by number of strands and the strand AWG size, i.e. 7/32 is 7 strands each 32 AWG)
  • BC = Bare Copper
  • TC = Tinned Copper
  • AL = Aluminum
  • CCS = Copper Clad Steel
  • UTP = Unshielded Twisted Pair
  • STP = Shielded Twisted Pair
  • FTP = Foil Twisted Pair
  • OS = Overall Shield
  • IS or SP = Individually Shielded Pairs
  • DW = Drain Wire
  • BCB = Bare Copper Braid Shield (this is usually preceded by the percentage of coverage the braid shield gives, i.e. 40%, 60%, or 95%)
  • OD = Outside Diameter
  • C6A, C6, C5e, C5 = Category Ratings for data communications cables

In addition, most descriptions will list an NEC Cable Identification Code. These will be all caps like: CM, CMR, CMP, CL2P, FPLP. To view them all and see which cable codes can be substituted for one another click here now.

What other abbreviations have you run across?

2 Responses to Terminology Tuesday: Interpreting Cable Descriptions

  1. Wes Powers said on
    September 27, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    This is fantastic. Thanks for posting and I will be keeping this as a reference.

    • Stefanie Rembiszewski said on
      September 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      I am so glad that this is useful for you, if you have any other terms that would be helpful, let me know and I will add them to my list for future posts.

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