By: Charles Barker, Project Manager, Arizona, Low Voltage Contractors
In past meetings with customers, I have heard them simply say “cable is cable”. Hearing this phrase demonstrates that it is important to know how various manufacturers’ cabling products stack up to make sure you are offering the best solution for your client. Knowing how products differ and how they are the same allows you to help make an educated decision.
For yourself, you need to realize that manufacturers are less willing to offer competitive pricing if they know your organization only purchases a certain brand of cabling products. It is important to keep your options open during the bidding process to increase your bargaining power. When a manufacturer is already “spec’d in,” they know they don’t have to compete so you may not get the best price. However, an open competition provides you with the greatest purchasing power.
Many buyers of structured cabling products tend to specify products by brand name instead of performance specifications, which often results in end users paying more for a cable that meets the same industry standards and provides the same performance as a less expensive, but equal quality cable.
I feel the most important factor is purchasing products that comply with the cabling systems standards from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Electrical Testing Laboratory (ETL) and National Electrical Code (NEC), as well as the design and engineering standards of the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) / Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) Commercial Building Wiring Standards. This may mean that a product has been tested using a process that cannot be proven or replicated in real-world applications. For example, some manufacturers claim that their products exceed the megahertz rating of a particular category of cable. Keep in mind these higher megahertz ratings are being obtained in a laboratory setting and not a real-world application.
In short, you should carefully examine whether added levels of performance really provide you with additional benefits. Even though all cables have to adhere to the same industry standards, manufacturers do provide features that differentiate products. It is best to determine which features will offer you the most valuable benefits for your success.