The $48 Rolex watch is obviously a counterfeit. Counterfeit products are found throughout in the communications industry today. Some are even labeled and packaged to look identical to the real deal. Distributors can be great allies.

Imagine discovering—after installing a 700-station cabling system for a call center and bank—that the cable did not meet the transmission requirements of the product you thought you bought. While this occurrence is not common, it happens. What safeguards can help minimize the chances of such a horror story happening to you? 

A lot of time and money go into evaluating a product. Technology in the communications network industry moves quickly. A purchasing agent would have to be dedicated to researching new products and improvements full-time, which is not practical. Add product testing and quality control, and don’t forget the million-dollar test lab. You also have to put the product to work in a real network to calculate the actual performance with other components.

Powerful resources are available that give real insurance to the quality control challenge. Researching the communications industry, we have found a set of solutions from an unexpected source. The world's largest electrical/datacom distributors have programs for the communications cabling and infrastructure industry that preserve integrity in the purchasing process with a level of quality control that we have found to be superior to all other sources. 

Counterfeits or faulty products happen. A contractor can take many steps to reduce or eliminate this scenario. The most sensible approach to protecting yourself is following the distributor program. It’s a no-brainer for many reasons.

The distributor is the largest buyer in the communications cabling and connector markets. For the manufacturers, maintaining the best working relationship possible with a distributor is an absolute must. The distributor is the focal point for the products to meet, combine and create the network systems required in the marketplace. We don’t buy parts anymore. We buy systems that must be integrated and maximized.

A distributor has more purchasing power than any other buyer in the marketplace, commanding and delivering competitive prices far more effectively than a single contractor could ever hope to achieve. The distributor is a high-volume repeat customer with the ability to enhance the manufacturer's product value. When there is a problem with a product, the distributor works to find the solution or negotiate the remedy.

The communications infrastructure was once a formula of 80 percent labor and 20 percent materials. Today, that formula is closer to 52–48. A contractor can’t wait until after the installation to discover glitches or mismatches. A change-out could cost the contractor the entire labor investment. Your best bet is having a distributor that will go to bat for you with the manufacturer, using their clout to get the best resolution possible. 

While contractors can somewhat control timetables and labor availability, they usually cannot control material inventory. Maintaining large inventories to service customers is not a good business practice for a contractor. Out of date, obsolete or incomplete materials mean wasted dollars. Turning to a distributor to manage inventory can be a sound business solution for a contractor. 

Communications network materials are only part of the equation. We must have the peripherals. We need labeling and record systems. We need testers and analyzers. We need to stay abreast of technology, codes and standards. We also need to plan for the future. Adding a distributor program to your total solutions package is an effective business insurance decision.


BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a