Another selling point for the cable industry

Warranties. They are both frustrating and appreciated. Warranties are those intangible benefits that consumers look for prior to making a large purchase. Who has not taken the warranty into consideration before buying a car, a freezer, even a house?

The goal of a warranty is to protect the buyer by providing a peace-of-mind guarantee. Cable warranty programs are notorious for being over-the-top as far as timeframes go. Most fall in the 10- to 25-year range, though there are some that promote lifetime guarantees. In an industry that changes quickly, many question whether or not such lengthy terms are warranted. It depends on the circumstance and the end-user. Some view cabling systems as once-and-done projects while others consider them ongoing commitments to keep up with the changing technology. It is subjective.

The cabling aspect is one of the most expensive portions of any systems installation project, which is why cable warranty programs remain a hot topic. Maybe the term “cable warranty” should be changed to “cable/component warranty” since it seems that the two are becoming increasingly interchangeable. Most cable and connecting manufacturers have made a coordinated effort to offer warranty programs that cover one another. This is a smart move, as cable itself doesn't do a lot without the connecting equipment.

What to look for

One of the key things to look for in a warranty program is a clear explanation and indication of what system components are covered. There are some that cover cable only and others that are more comprehensive, covering both the cable and the connecting hardware.

According to Christine Klauck, a Siemon Co. RCDD/LAN specialist and corporate trainer, “Our warranty is based on our connecting hardware and using qualified cable. Some cable manufacturers offer their own warranties for the cable installed, unless a partnership has occurred with a connecting hardware manufacturer.”

This sounds complicated, but it means you need to research both your anticipated cable and connecting hardware choices to make sure that they support each other. Think of it as another phase of the design process. Just as you would make sure that X cable supports Y connector, you would want to make sure that the X warranty would support the Y connectors' warranty and vice versa.

Since being able to offer the warranty itself is a selling point, make sure that what you are offering during the bidding/negotiating phase is what you will be able to back up with an actual warranty.

Training and certification

In the long run, most installers will probably never really have to deal with warranty issues. This may be because most cabling systems are considered antiquated at around the 10-year mark and, at that point, customers may want to do a complete upgrade, cable and all. Another promising point to note is that because of the stringent manufacturer testing and production methods that abound, both cable and connecting hardware are pretty reliable products.

If you do encounter a problem that would be backed by a warranty, there are two bases that need to be covered-training and certification.

A warranty is only truly valid if the installer was both trained and certified by the issuer of the warranty. There are a few isolated programs that do not mandate that, but for the most part, it is a requirement that can make a difference in the end. For an installer, that means don't install a Belden cabling solution and expect to be able to honor the warranty if you are only certified as an AMP installer.

Klauck explained the Siemon policy: “We have parameters that must be met by our cable allies in order for their cables to be covered by our warranty. In order to be considered for warranty, the installation must be designed and installed by a company trained and certified by Siemon by having one installer and one designer take our certification course and successfully pass the written exam at the end of the week.”

New issues

Here are some new issues factoring into the topic of cable warranties. New, more powerful applications such as VoIP are taxing networks like never before. Since they have not been around that long, it is not clear whether they will ultimately affect cabling and connectors. Only time will tell. Time will also tell how manufacturers will respond if warranty claims spike on networks running high-speed solutions. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.