Is the trend toward cheap cable bringing installers back to premium cable?
With our company’s roots deeply entrenched in the custom residential AV channel, ICE Cable Systems‘ wire and cable message to installers has always been about the importance of full performance and safety, and certified cables. To not look at the category as a ‘commodity’ but rather consider that today’s bandwidth-hungry technologies impose huge demands on your client’s infrastructure and that in the future, even heavier bandwidth demands will be required. After all, it’s the backbone of your installation.
Yet with access to feedback from installers across many different vertical markets, along with that of industry watchdog associations like the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association (CCCA), we hear often of instances where low-grade wire and cable has led to AV system failures. Worst cases have included scenarios where inferior product (cheap, counterfeit or not certified) has led to fires in residential or commercial applications. This can leave the installer financially, and worse yet legally, liable. In addition to ruining the reputation of the installer, these stories can serve as an eye-opener to many.
While cable manufacturers including ICE and other industry partners like REELEX have been banging the drum about the importance of purchasing cable that meet legitimate safety certifications (i.e. UL, NEC or ETL), people still view wire and cable as a commodity. This means that many installers still seek out the least expensive solution. And since prominent CEDIA channel vendors weren’t always offering it, many installers have been going outside the channel to electrical contracting to get their wire and cable – which is even worse. This all brings us back to the vulnerabilities overviewed above.
Many manufacturers are simply going along for the ride, making no attempt to raise-the-bar for better wire and cable. They are simply caving to the demands of the installers, who in turn are catering to the desires of the home owners who want their installs done for less money. Yet for the home owner this is as bad a decision as not installing smoke detectors in order to simply save money! Conversely, we want to eliminate options that make homes unsafe.
Let me pose this to you: If installers were putting unsafe electronics in homes, people would be up in arms. Once exposed, it probably wouldn’t last, it would lead towards a trend in the opposite direction. So why is accepting unsafe and low-performing wire and cable so prevalent in the cable market? Sadly there are two reasons: 1) price, and 2) installers and consumers don’t know that it’s in the best interest of the home owner not to.
New trend in AV cabling
But here is the interesting thing… in our channel, we are seeing a trend of increased proliferation either by new entry-level companies or existing companies that are building-out (expanding) their product lines to address the entry- and mid-level markets. This is by way of solutions that meet critical application criteria while still priced in accordance with entry-level.
This concept is not a new one, for example premium computer brand Apple achieved this years ago with their foray into the entry-level computer market by way of their $599 Mac Mini. The Mini represented a more intelligent, well-thought out entry-level solution that still delivered on performance.
ICE followed suit on this with PRIMAL – our company’s first bulk solution that targets entry-level price points without sacrificing important product safety and certifications. Until now, safety certified products were hit-and-miss at these price points.
Product like PRIMAL could be the first step in raising awareness to these important aspects. So I riddle you this…. As ICE and other vendors continue to educate (by exposing cheap cable for what it is) — and touts the merits of safety, premium and performance – could this actually lead to a rebound effect where the focus is brought back to the solutions that should be considered the standards? In the end, that would be the ultimate benefit for your clients.