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Network Cabling; A Commodity or Not?

Infrastructure
Posted by James Donovan on 14 January 2015 Connect with James on LinkedIn Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

How important is network cabling?

I hear more and more people refer to the fact that cabling is becoming commoditized, meaning more often than not, it is seen as a negative thing.

The question is, how important is network cabling? Is it a commodity? Or should it be viewed as more crucial?

A commodity can be defined in a number of ways:

  • Something useful that can be turned to commercial or other advantage.
  • A generic, largely unprocessed, product that can be processed and resold.
  • That which affords convenience, advantage, or profit, especially in commerce, including everything movable that is bought and sold (except animals), — goods, wares, merchandise, produce of land and manufactures, etc.
  • A commodity is undifferentiated item traded within highly liquid markets.
  • A commodity is a homogeneous product with little or no product differentiation and there are no brand names associated with it.
  • A commodity is largely uniform and interchangeable regardless of where they were produced.

By considering each of the above definitions in relation to cabling solutions, we hopefully can make a judgment on whether the term is applicable to all cabling solutions.

So, is network cabling a commodity? Or should it be viewed as more crucial?

  1. Cabling solutions are useful items that can be turned to commercial or other advantage. Cabling infrastructure solutions enable customers and carriers to leverage network investment and reduce operational costs with a reliable infrastructure.
    Under this definition, cabling could be said to have the attributes of a commodity.
  2. Communications cabling is definitely NOT a largely unprocessed product that can be processed and resold. High-quality cabling solutions integrate a lot of different materials, with worldwide provision and manufacturing, backed by R&D knowledge. The cables and connectors are designed to work in harmony with one another to achieve consistent total system performance. There is a considerable amount of manufacturing process to take the raw materials and turn them into high performance cabling products.
    Under this definition, cabling is not a commodity product.
  3. Cabling is a product that affords convenience, advantage, or profit, especially in commerce. Cabling solutions, as the transport system for all the different types of networks, are a critical part of any network. However it is a product that is most often hidden from view and therefore not treated as other products and services. Although a large percentage of the network budget is spent on hardware and software; no business or its network can operate without a cabling infrastructure. Installing high performing connectivity solution is an investment in the foundation of the network, minimizing network failures due to infrastructure.
    Under this definition, cabling could be said to be a commodity product.
  4. Cabling solutions are differentiated items designed and installed by trained and certified companies within high profile markets. Solutions are designed with high performance in all the vital parameters for data transmission. But delivering total solutions to customers requires more than just product. The design and installation is a critical part of delivering effective customer solutions. Having trained professionals who have proven their knowledge in cabling technology through certification training is a dependable measure of competency that can be relied on.
    Under this definition, cabling is not a commodity product.
  5. Cabling solutions are definitely NOT all homogeneous products with little or no product differentiation and there are many brand names associated within this market. There are many examples of cabling brands that are designed to be high performance, high-quality solutions incorporating advanced, patented technology.
    Under this definition, cabling is not a commodity product.
  6. Cabling products are NOT largely uniform and interchangeable, regardless of where they were produced. End-to-end performance is the result of a complex chain of events, and performance is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. The primary components that contribute to this are the cords, connecting hardware and cable. The type and nature of the components used in a system can affect the composite performance of the total system. Performance can also be affected by the installation practice.
    Under this definition, cabling is not a commodity product.

The Deciding Vote?

Although only a snapshot and I may be a little biased, it is a 4-to-2 win in favor of the NO camp!

I remain convinced that treating network cabling as a commodity is a danger to any business that relies on its network, whether it be wired or wireless. What do you think?