Structured wiring technicians carry their own tools for everyday work, but the companies that employ them often find it practical and economical to rent high-end network-testing equipment. Specialty rental companies carry broad selections of network and electrical testers.


Some companies offer rent-to-own programs that reduce upfront costs and can better fit with the contractor’s cash flow. Most rental business is conducted online with product shipped to customers. Customers close to rental facilities can pick up products in person. Transcat, Rochester, N.Y., is actively involved in renting electrical test equipment, including voice/data/video testers.


“Transcat focuses on test and measurement equipment because our customers know us for this segment, and we are able to offer equipment that would be too obscure for most mainstream retail rental outlets,” said Niko Smrekar, senior director of marketing and rentals, Transcat. “We also focus on equipment that is frequently used by contractors. The most commonly requested rentals are for network cable testing equipment for either copper or fiber cable, or both. Some of these network cable and network testers are very costly. The prices for the more feature-rich units can quickly exceed $15,000 and can go up to and beyond $40,000. By renting, contractor companies can transparently and fairly pass off the expense of procuring the equipment to customers and avoid large capital expenditures.”


In addition, some of these units need to be calibrated and maintained annually. Renters receive a unit that is ready to go and avoid the hassle of maintenance.


Smrekar said three primary factors influence the decision whether to rent equipment such as testers. First, if the equipment will only be used for a short period, it may be more economical to rent. Second, the rental company is responsible for maintenance, and equipment is provided fully serviced. Third, renting may give the customer flexibility to procure the equipment from the expense budget rather than the capital equipment purchase budget.


Transcat serves the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Most rental units are shipped to customers. Pickup is available at its Rochester headquarters and in Irvine, Calif.


“We see the market growing, especially in the areas renting equipment that is used occasionally in the field by contractors and it is perceived as too expensive to purchase for a one-time use and too inexpensive to make it profitable for the large-scale test and measurement rental outlets,” Smrekar said. “Transcat is one of the few providers of equipment in this range, and we see the demand growing.”


Perspective from two manufacturers


Mark Mullins, field marketing manager, Fluke Networks, Everett, Wash., said that, while the company does not directly rent products, it has a number of industry partners who do.


“Our Versiv cabling-certification system is by far our most popular rental product,” Mullins said. “It allows contractors who install structured cabling system to certify their projects, and certification is key for end-customer acceptance and manufacturers’ warranties.”


The most common scenario for renting certification testers is to supplement the testers the contractor already owns.


“These testers are a significant investment for a contractor, so they need to have enough work to keep them consistently busy.” Mullins said. “Rather than purchase enough testers to meet their peak usage, contractors will rent testers for those occasions. The second-most- common scenario is for small contractors who only occasionally do structured cabling jobs. For them, renting is less expensive than purchasing testers outright.


“Users also rent testers for small projects and troubleshooting their work infrastructure, especially fiber optics. Another benefit provided by rental companies is maintenance of the testers. They ensure they have the latest software and test limits and all required accessories,” he said.


Test instrument rentals are increasing for two reasons, Mullins said.


“First, the market for structured cabling is growing, driven by the increased spending on construction, especially data center and wireless deployments,” he said. “Second, new equipment, such as our new Versiv cabling certification system, is more efficient, and contractors want newer models.”


Dan Payerle, global product manager, Ideal Networks, Sycamore, Ill., said certifiers are the best type of network tester for the rental market.


“Certifiers are usually rented by contractors who need one or two additional units for large projects or times when they have multiple projects underway at the same time,” he said. “Verifiers and qualifiers are typically at price points that allow contractors to purchase as many as they need, and those price points also make those testers impractical for rental.”


One of the main drivers of qualification-type testers is to provide an alternative.


“Some of our large customers do not need certifiers for their daily jobs, but they do require test reports to prove the work was completed,” Payerle said. “For them, our SignalTEK performance tester is a smart choice to have on every truck, so each technician has the ability to test and document every job. Tester rentals are usually for one to four weeks during the course of a single project. They have a few certifiers for the jobs that require certification, and should they need additional certifiers for a week or two, the rental market is there. We see this model gaining popularity with electrical contractors who service retail and mid-sized commercial accounts. Those users do not usually require certification specifically to ANSI/TIA 568-C standards, although they almost always require test reports to document the work on projects such as new technology roll-outs. This type of work requires that each technician have a tester that can run a performance test and provide a report. The job may be as small as one or two drops per store across many locations. This will require almost daily availability of a tester over many months, which is not a great model for renting.”