I hear more and more people refer to the fact that cabling is becoming commoditized, and more often than not it is seen as a negative thing. Well, it clearly relies on your definition of a commodity!

The following are definitions of “commodity” I found on the internet:

1) Something useful that can be turned to commercial or other advantage.

2) A generic, largely unprocessed, product that can be processed and resold.

3) 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.

4) A commodity is undifferentiated item traded within highly liquid markets.

5) A commodity is a homogeneous product with little or no product differentiation and there are no brand names associated with it.

6) 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, in particular CommScope’s solutions, we hopefully can make a judgment on whether the term is applicable to all cabling solutions.

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. CommScope has certainly tried to be a one-stop-shop for connectivity solutions giving peace of mind and optimization of network operational costs. 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. Solutions such as SYSTIMAX® and HELIAX® are high-quality cabling solutions integrated with worldwide provision and manufacturing, backed by a world renowned R&D organization. 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 solutions 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) CommScope believes that cabling solutions are differentiated items designed and installed by trained partners within high profile markets. The solutions have been designed with considerably improved performance in all the vital parameters for data transmission. But delivering total solutions to customers requires more than just product. The 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. Our SYSTIMAX and HELIAX solutions are two examples and are designed to be high performance, high-quality solutions incorporating advanced transmission performance. 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.

Although I may be a little biased, it is a 4-to-2 win in favor of the “no” camp! What do you think?

About the Author

James Donovan

James Donovan is Vice President of the CommScope Infrastructure Academy. James joined CommScope in 1993 and has held positions in Sales, Technical, Marketing, Training and Business Development and served most recently as VP of Digital and Creative Services for CommScope. James oversees the CommScope Infrastructure Academy, which is CommScope’s partner and customer training platform. Prior to joining the company, he held positions at GEC, ITT and Alcatel. He holds a Masters Degree in Engineering and a BSc Honors degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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Comments

2 comments for "Cabling Solutions for Wired and Wireless Networks – Commodities or Not?"
David Fallon

Great article, James! I agree with you 100%, but unfortunately it's hard to get that across to non-technicians who may be in purchasing or procurement. One solution is for the specifying engineer or technician to use a brand name like HELIAX(r), but even that is no guarantee as the name may not mean anything to the purchaser. It would be nice if there were stricter standards to rule out counterfeits with a single term. For instance, Cat 5e is specific, but a lot of companies call something Cat 5e pre-link testing or based solely on twist-count and not taking into consideration the AWG or other factors that can contribute to performance. Whatever the case, I shared your post on Twitter and hope it gets some attention.

William B. Buckingham, RCDD

James, I completely agree with you. To make it even worse, many IT professionals make the statement that "it's only cable". It is unfortunate that they will place their organization or business at risk by ignoring the importance of this infrastructure.

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