We work in an industry built on cables, and without them most of the systems we install would not be practicable.
However, this reliance on cabling has put Australian home automation integrators in a precarious position.
Installers of any form of network-connected cabling must be registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and hold a valid Open Registration qualification. Yet early results from the Australian Size and Scope Survey by CEDIA indicate that as many as 60% of integrators are not working within the regulations.
This leaves many CEDIA members vulnerable to prosecution by ACMA, and their insurance cover is at risk of invalidation.
Is registration essential?
Kevin Fothergill is registrar of TITAB Australia Cabler Registry Services. Recently, he joined CEDIA as a panelist for our Australian Registered Cabler Update virtual roundtable.
“The people who are required to be registered are those who work on customer premises equipment (CPE) connected to the public network, or likely to be connected,” he says.
Although ACMA is the statutory body that regulates telecommunication services in Australia, it has appointed five cabling registrars to ensure compliance with the guidelines.
The registrars include TITAB, Australian Cabler Registration Service (ACRS), Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL), Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) and BICSI.
Kevin says a lot of people are caught out because they might do an installation, small or large, that isn't connected to the public network at the time. But if it is likely to be connected in the future then the original installer needs to be registered when completing the work. This includes home automation integrators.
"For a long time, some people have used the excuse that home automation is in a ‘grey area’,” Kevin says.
"This is not the case. The rules are simple: if you are installing something that is likely to be connected to the public network in the longer term, or if it is currently connected, you must be registered.
“We know that a lot of your staff are already connecting equipment back into the public network. They are required to be registered.”
Peter Lamont, national director of ACRS, says there are some commonsense exclusions.
“If you're installing a smart TV, for example, that you just plug in and connect to the local WiFi network, that's not something that requires a registered cabler.
“But if you run a cable through a home to connect the TV to another device that connects to the public network, then you would need to have a licence.”
Open vs Restricted
“The Open Registration for cablers allows you to do just about anything,” Kevin says.
“There is a Restricted Registration, but we don't often recommend that. It is limited to where there's a direct line in from the network to the first stop of a residence. Those sorts of jobs are pretty limited these days.
“Further, if you work on fibre, coaxial or structured cabling there are extra endorsements you need to hold. If you have a Restricted Registration you are not eligible for the endorsements.”
What is ‘cabling’ in the home?
This may sound like a silly question, but how do you know if you are working on cabling and not just a plug-and-play device?
Kevin says the easiest way is to ask whether you have to pull a cable through a wall.
“Normally, a patch cord is a plug-in device. However, if the patch cord goes through a wall, or you run it up through the ceiling to get to another room, it becomes cabling premises wiring. At that point you need to be registered.
“Simply plugging in a router is fine, but if it goes through the wall it becomes CPE, and it's illegal for an unqualified person to install it.”
Penalties for working unregistered
There are substantial penalties for working while unregistered.
"In addition to a potential fine of about $13,000 per offence there are criminal offences for which you could be prosecuted,” Kevin says.
“Further, if an investigation shows that you are not a registered cabler, you will not be protected by insurance. You will be personally liable for any damages – and this industry works with some fairly ‘mission critical’ equipment.”
Will one registered cabler do?
To achieve cover under the regulations, a registered cabler must ‘directly supervise’ every part of an installation.
“A business cannot get away with having one registered cabler on staff unless that person is directly supervising every other staff member," Peter says.
"The registered person cannot be elsewhere on the premises; it's essential to be present and watching.
“As a registered cabler, you have to take full responsibility for the work. You must sign off on the TCA1 form, so you need to be aware of what you are putting your name to. You will be held personally responsible if something goes wrong.
“This doesn't mean that every single worker in a business needs to be registered, but it would be unwise to rely on just one person (unless you’re a sole trader).”
What about legacy cabling?
Kevin says the industry caters for legacy cabling on a job site.
“You can sign off on the work that you have undertaken as long as you note what legacy cabling was in place when you arrived. This means you are only responsible for the new cabling.
“That said, you should check that the other cabling isn't dangerous. If it is bad or risky for whatever reason, you'd be silly to do any cabling that links with it.”
Kevin says it's OK if a licensed electrician or registered cabler has installed the cabling and you are just ‘finishing off’ – connecting patch leads between the equipment and the rack.
“Patch cords supplied from a manufacturer are exempt from the Cabling Provider Rules. However, it is illegal to make up your own. And again, if they enter a wall or roof cavity they become CPE and you must be registered.”
Where to from here?
Given the importance of cabling registration to our industry, CEDIA has established a relationship with Conquest Communications, a national registered training organisation (RTO) for the cabling sector.
Conquest is offering CEDIA members discounts to undertake their Open Registration training as well as the three endorsements: Structured Cabling, Optical Fibre and Coaxial Cable, as well as a more time-efficient way to access this training.
Instead of requiring two weeks out of your business and in a classroom, CEDIA members can undertake the theory aspect of their training online and become qualified within two-and-a-half days of practical, hands-on learning (or one-and-a-half days if you already have a valid Open Registration and just require the endorsements).
Conquest's hybrid learning system packages include:
- Structured Cabling ICTCBL301
- Coaxial Cable ICTCBL303
$2,270 per person (a $120 discount for CEDIA members).
This package, which includes prerequisite OH&S and language, literacy and numeracy testing, will ensure that CEDIA members are completely up-to-speed with all regulatory requirements for registration with one of the five registrars.
The bulk of your learning will occur online and requires just two-and-a-half days in a classroom.
- Structured Cabling ICTCBL301
- Coaxial Cable ICTCBL303
$1,295 per person (a $100 discount for CEDIA members).
This package, which also includes prerequisite OH&S and language, literacy and numeracy testing, is designed for any CEDIA member who currently holds a valid Open Registration but needs to undertake training for the Structured Cabling, Optical Fibre and Coaxial Cable endorsements.
In addition to some online learning, this package requires just one-and-a-half days in a classroom.
All online learning is self-paced, so you can complete the necessary learning at your own pace.
All in-person classes are limited to six places.
Conquest operates in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and it will soon be operational in Western Australia.
If you are interested in this training, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, company name, location and the number of staff you wish to have trained.