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HOTS 05/2002

Issue: May 2002

By: Frank Bisbee

Headline News

Featured Story


Choosing the right cable

In today's market, choosing the right communications cabling is more important than ever before. If it's not more important, it is certainly more expensive. The technology in the cabling has not followed the price path of the PC. While the PC's seem to be getting less expensive, cabling has gone in the opposite direction. The good news is the cabling technology has generated a remarkable increase in value.

Today, there is no easy "one size fits all" cabling solution for the myriad of datacom applications. Specialized products and systems have evolved to a technical level that was not envisioned even 5 years ago. It seems like the more we learn about cabling and networks, the more we realize how much we don't know. Today, the buyers are demanding answers. Like the Wall Street shark, specifiers and purchasing agents are treating the infrastructure dollars as a real investment. "Tell me what I don't know". They don't want surprises, but they do want to get it right the first time.

Cabling is now experiencing pressures from several sources. Traditional codes and standards plus the environmental and new safety standards, challenge the best designers to develop solutions, which address all of these areas. The new pressures in the world of cabling are focused on:

  • The removal of abandoned cable-the implementation of the new NEC 2002
  • The elimination of LEAD and other hazardous materials in cable construction
  • Sustainable materials for long-term stability and CMP code compliance
  • Reduced fuel load and flammability - lower fire hazard
  • 100% Recyclable
  • Performance over a wider range of temperature & humidity
  • Meet and exceed performance standards relative to all aspects of transmission
  • Provide some barrier to obsolescence

While these areas of concern seem easy to understand and concise in description, be assured that there could easily be multiple volumes of information behind each item. The technical, legal, environmental, and financial underside to the cabling infrastructure is intensely complex. Just selecting the best cable for your datacom performance requirements, is no longer sufficient to ensure a "smart buy". Not too long ago, we saw specs that did not address the materials, installation practices, testing & records, or codes beyond the basic plenum or non-plenum definition. A 40-page boilerplate project spec sometimes had less than two paragraphs defining the actual cabling infrastructure. We have seen examples as shockingly brief as: " the cable shall be CAT 5e - plenum or non plenum as required." In the sage words of Chuck Seibuhr of Cabling Business Magazine - Remember - you get what you spec - not what you expect.

A couple of years ago, we heard about a project in Massachusetts where the contractor left more than 700 boxes (1000') of CAT 5 plenum cable in a storage trailer over the weekend. The temperature plummeted and the FRPVC jacketing material, which absorbs moisture, froze and cracked. That was an expensive lesson. However, what really made the lesson expensive, was the installation of more than 600,000' of this damaged cable was completed before the first tests identified a problem. There was some serious finger-pointing going on.

The long term stability or retention of fire protection properties of some insulating and jacketing materials, have been in question. The plenum rated (CMP) cable that you install today, may not be plenum code compliant "tomorrow". Long-term performance, aging, and stability tests at elevated temperatures found in the plenums, are needed to ensure that the fire protection properties do not change with time.

Allan Shepard, the first US astronaut, was asked, "what are you thinking about now" as he sat in the capsule just before the first launch. His reply was rumored to be " I keep thinking this damn thing was built by the lowest bidder". Standards like CAT 5, CAT 5e, and CAT 6, were developed by protracted negotiation between the powerhouse manufacturers and they represent the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM acceptable for a certain level of performance. All cables are not created equal. Obviously, some manufacturers build a significant barrier to obsolescence in the quality of their cabling products. Understanding those differences is crucial to selecting the best and most desirable quality level. The science of data transmission and networks, continues to develop faster than the standards. When a major advancement in design criteria is ignored because it is not a standard yet, the buyer will get the point and it's usually in the pocketbook. Our recent discussions with Pete Lockhart, Vice President of Technology & Product Research of Anixter, confirmed this scenario has occurred several times in the last decade alone. The Anixter Levels Programs seem to stay several jumps ahead of the standards approval process.

In summary, we must continue to press for more education in the world of cabling. The education can and should take many forms. Magazines and industry publications, white papers and manufacturers materials are the foundation for a self-updating educational system. Specialized publications dealing with codes, standards

and technology are a must to go to the next higher level. Finally, we need formal training, as offered by manufacturers (certification programs), distributors, industry associations like BICSI


and independent training services like The Light Brigade

and Cabling Business Institute

. If this sounds a little overwhelming, then you are getting the message. The cabling business is a highly technical and critically important sector of the communications industry.

The BICSI Spring Conference will generate many new press items about products, services, codes, standards, and education. The post conference news report will be added to the HOTS column in a midmonth posting. Look for the May midmonth addition of Heard On The Street in Las Vegas…..

The following editorial by Patrick McLaughlin, Chief Editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine is another fine example of why their publication is Number 1 in the cabling industry.

Abandoned thoughts

By: Patrick McLaughlin, April, 2002 issue

Maybe "abandoned" cable should be called something else that will provoke building owners to remove it.

My bad.

In the January issue, I went off about why we should rid the world of useless cabling that has accumulated in the plenum spaces of office buildings throughout the country (see "Cleaning up after ourselves," page 9). Well, I was so busy patting myself on the back for my "original" idea that I neglected to mention that the 2002 National Electrical Code says that we have to get rid of the stuff.

Several readers wrote to me, kindly stated that I hit on a worthwhile topic, and tactfully said that letting all of this magazine's readers know about the new NEC requirement might be a good thing.

Beth Levin, a designer with Cosentini Information Technologies, wrote, "All cabling is a potential river of fire. National Electrical Code 2002 will require that all low-voltage abandoned cable be removed from accessible spaces (see Section 800.52(B) and other applicable sections). "When adopted by a local authority having jurisdiction [AHJ], this additional cost to owners will be a requirement, not an option. This means a possible doubling of the cost to install new cabling when the old is not in conduit and therefore, non-accessible. "Bidding contractors will have to price this requirement into a job, once they pull a permit to cable and NEC 2002 is in effect by that AHJ.

I remember old, abandoned PVC cabling bundles that had congealed together, and had to be hack-sawed out in chunks from the ceilings to utilize an existing pathway, in which case the contractor's use of that ceiling pathway should be additional cost (versus providing a new pathway as part of their scope of work). When and if NEC 2002 is in effect, the contractor will have to use this removal as an additional line item." Stan Folz of Folz Electric said, "Removal of old cabling has been a pet peeve of mine for the last ten years." He pointed out Section 800.52(B) and also 830.3(A) of the 2002 NEC specifically, and added, "There are other references to removal of other low-voltage abandoned cables, such as instrumentation and HVAC controls. "In the past, customers would balk at paying extra to remove old cabling, or a competitive bid was not competitive if you included removing old cable. Now it's required, although it will probably take ten years or so until it is cleaned up."

And an anonymous network administrator within an insurance company commented, "The trouble I am having is proving why this is good practice." And once this administrator armed himself with the fact that removing abandoned cable is now required by code, does he believe he will get the go-ahead to remove it? "Not likely," was his honest reply.

That reply stayed with me. Here's a network manager who wants nothing more than to get rid of the cables in his ceiling that are of no use to him. And based on my correspondence with him, I have concluded that a corporate decision may very well keep him from doing so, despite the logical arguments and the code requirement.

At that point, I was out of ideas and just about out of energy. Then I thought maybe all it needs is a name change. This industry is no stranger to name changes. If the "RJ-45" can become the "8-pin modular," the "main distribution frame" can become the "main crossconnect," and the "telecom closet" can become the "telecom room," then maybe "abandoned" cable can become something that will provoke building owners to remove it.

How about "forlorn cable"? Nah. Maybe "forsaken cable"? Sounds like it comes from a trashy romance novel. Then it hit me: "cable that will put you out of compliance with a building code if you don't get it the heck out of there." Kind of subtle, but I think it might work.

Fortune Consulting merges with JRA International

Fortune Consulting of West Long Branch, NJ recently announced it has merged with JRA International. The combined company, called Fortune Consulting, provides communications and network management consulting services.

"The practice is concentrated in three specific areas," explains Karl Kjellberg, president. "Savings from telecom carrier negotiation, optimizing the reliability of voice and data systems, and the essential planning necessary for network security and data protection." The company serves corporate, government, and non-profit entities in the United States and internationally.

CDT Lands Madrid Barajas Airport Contract - Multi-Million Dollar Deal to Deliver Gigabit Systems

Cable Design Technologies' (Pittsburgh, PA) Nordx/CDT subsidiary announced today an initial order with the Madrid Barajas Airport of approximately $3 million. Under the contract CDT will provide the airport with Nordx/CDT's patented IBDN Structured Cabling Systems that includes complete fiber and copper gigabit solutions.

Madrid Barajas Airport is developing into a major hub with worldwide connections and is the foremost European airport with links to Central and South America. Conveniently located nine miles from the center of Madrid, the airport handles more than 25 million passengers a year, a figure expected to almost double by 2010.

Normand Bourque, Nordx/CDT President commented, "We are very pleased to be working with a top-notch organization such as the Madrid Barajas Airport. This relationship is indicative of our commitment to provide value-added solutions to our customers and underscores the continued acceptance of our comprehensive gigabit system products."

Emilio Prado, Madrid Barajas Airport's Project Director noted that, "Those of us who are responsible for this project are excited to be using the Nordx/CDT IBDN Structured Cabling System. Throughout the selection process we were impressed with the high level of engineering that went into developing the IBDN gigabit systems and we are eager to implement these innovative technologies."

About CDT

Cable Design Technologies is a leading designer and manufacturer of high bandwidth network connectivity products, fiber optic cable and connectors, assemblies, components, computer interconnect cables for communication switching applications, and communication cable products used in wireless, central office and local loop applications. CDT also manufactures electronic data and signal transmission products that are used in automation and process control and specialty applications.

The Siemon Company, Holocom Networks announce strategic alliance

Compiled by Brian Milligan - Cabling Installation & Maintenance April, 2002

The Siemon Company and Holocom Networks, have formed an alliance to co-market a solution designed to bring network intelligence closer to the desktop. The venture, called Extensis, joins Siemon's technology in copper and optical-fiber connectivity with Holocom's zone cabling enclosures. Both companies hope the partnership will enable them to draw on their strengths to successfully market a single end-to-end solution. The Siemon Company, based in Watertown, CT, manufactures structured cabling systems and connecting hardware for voice, data and image technologies. Holocom Net works, based in Carlsbad, CA, provides solutions that simplify the delivery of network connections to the desktops of Fortune 2000 companies.

The companies claim that they are the first to offer a solution of this nature. Extensis is designed to work with all modular furniture systems, including Steelcase, Herman Miller, Knoll, DRG, and others. C.K. Siemon, vice president of reseller services for The Siemon Company, believes that his company's Category 5e, Category 6 and optical-fiber MAX outlets and patching equipment will fit neatly into Holocom's Active Gateway and Passive Gateway enclosures. Extensis is geared toward businesses with an extensive cubicle office layout, such as a manufacturer or major bank. The solutions will cost about $150 per workstation.

Mike Clemens, marketing manager for The Siemon Company, says both companies believe Extensis will help businesses reduce labor and costs associated with moves, adds and changes to workstations, and that it will offer the ability to run cabling through pathways that retrofit on the top of modular office furniture panel systems.

At the point where the pathway meets the consolidation point, Extensis offers enclosures of various sizes that can be located throughout the office. This is designed to simplify network changes and office reconfigurations. "Cubicles get shifted around, and this solution makes changes way easier than they would have been in the past," says Clemens.

The system is also designed to push network intelligence closer to the desktop. "It eliminates the need to have furniture with it," says Joe Ramirez, vice president of business development for Holocom Networks. "This frees up the need to run cable through a furniture system in its simplest form." Ramirez says one of the biggest challenges is convincing company managers that it will be advantageous to have a network that is not centrally located. "They [company managers] are used to having control in the telecom closet," says Ramirez. "Now they are moving further out in the network. They won't lose control, but it won't be centrally located anymore."

Mohawk/CDT New Media Pull(tm) Bundled Cables - ETL Verified Hybrid

Mohawk/CDT is pleased to announce an addition to its list of many firsts to its credit with independent third party verification for Hybrid Cables.

ETL has verified Mohawk/CDT Media Pulltm bundled cables of 2, 4 and 6 groups to TIA/EIA-568-B.2 to the Category 5e requirements for Bundled and Hybrid cables. The power sum NEXT loss on each pair and all pairs external to that pairs jacket within the bundled are a minimum of 3 dB better than the NEXT loss requirement of that recognized cable type within the bundle at all frequency ranges. Additionally each cable meets all individual cable requirements for Category 5e cable. The 3 dB better NEXT requirement makes this the most robust bundled cable construction in available today.

Media Pull design is the result of extensive research and development work preformed by Mohawk/CDTs engineering group, including patented cable design criteria to ensure complete product performance across all pairs in each group. Applications include horizontal cabling either as home runs from the telecommunications room to the outlet connector in the work area or in Multi-User Telecommunications Outlet Assembly (MUTOA). When used with MUTOA's the maximum Media Pull lengths allowed will comply with the table below:

Length Of Media PullM (ft) Max. Work Area CableM (ft) Max. Combined WA Cables, Patch Cords and Equipment CordsM (ft)
90 (295) 5 (16) 10 (33)
85 (279) 9 (30) 14 (46)
80 (262) 13 (44) 18 (59)
75 (246) 17 (57) 22 (72)
70 (230) 22 (72) 27 (89)

Mohawk/CDT is currently the only manufacture to produce an independently verified Category 5e bundled cable. The elements of this construction are recognized cable types for horizontal cabling applications, meeting or exceed all requirements of TIA/EIA-568-B.2, making it an ideal product for modular furniture applications. Multi-pair backbone cable is not a recognized media for horizontal or zone cabling applications. Media Pull is printed ETL Verified Category 5e Hybrid Cable.

AMP Netconnect and iTRACS team up

Tyco Electronics and iTRACS Corp. has announced a strategic relationship to develop, market and sell an intelligent structured cabling solution combining Tyco Electronics' AMP NETCONNECT premises cabling systems with iTRACS' real-time infrastructure management system.

The joint solution is designed to enable enterprise customers to minimize network downtime, reduce IT staff workload, and streamline moves, adds and changes by automating the management of the physical layer. It also provides security to the physical layer as well as a complete up-to-date documentation set as the basis for troubleshooting and disaster recovery preparedness. In addition to this alliance, the agreement includes provisions for sales, marketing and fulfillment of the iTRACS active monitoring equipment and iTRACS enabled premises wiring by Tyco Electronics. Tyco Electronics will promote the solution, to be launched in May, to customers building new facilities as well as those seeking the addition of intelligent network management capabilities to existing installations.

"There is a growing demand in the marketplace for intelligent structured cabling, and aligning with iTRACS Corporation will enable us to meet that demand with a mature sixth-generation network monitoring system that offers more flexibility and functionality than most competitive product," says Charlie Fox, general manager for the AMP NETCONNECT group of Tyco Electronics. "By allowing us to tap into the retrofit market as well as our installed customer base, iTRACS Corporation gives us the ability to reap the maximum business benefits from our entry into the infrastructure management space."

The iTRACS infrastructure management system consists of a series of sensors, patch cords and analyzers that are installed on top of the enterprise-cabling infrastructure. The system self-discovers the network topology in data centers, comms rooms and wiring closets; automatically detects both authorized and unauthorized changes; utilizes patent-pending technology to quickly pinpoint wiring trouble spots; alerts IT staff to problems via alarms, emails, pages, user-defined scripts and/or photos; and issues work orders or trouble tickets to initiate corrective action. All iTRACS circuitry is isolated from the network, ensuring that the system does not impact data flow or network performance.

Belden Appoints Robert W. Matz to Head Communications Division

Belden Inc. (St. Louis, MO) announced the appointment of Robert W. Matz as Vice President, Operations, and President, Communications Division. His appointment will be effective May 13, 2002.

Mr. Matz has served as vice-president of Federal Mogul Ignition and Fuel Products. Previously, he was vice president and general manager of Champion Ignition Products, a division of Cooper Industries, and held other engineering and general management positions at Champion.

"We are very pleased to welcome Bob Matz to Belden," said C. Baker Cunningham, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of Belden. "Our Communications Division has made great strides in regaining its competitive position that had eroded before Belden acquired it in 1999. Bob has extensive experience in successfully managing industrial businesses with high volume, precision products serving sophisticated, demanding customers. This is an ideal background for leading Belden's push to solidify our position as a preferred supplier to the communications industry."

Mr. Matz holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Ohio State University in ceramic engineering, and an M.B.A. from Wayne State University. He will report directly to Mr. Cunningham. Belden is linking people and technology by designing, manufacturing, and marketing wire, cable, and fiber optic products for the electronic, electrical and communications markets. Belden has manufacturing facilities North America, Europe, and Australia.

Mohawk/CDT ETL Product Approval - 5eLAN Power Sum

Mohawk/CDT with many firsts to its credit is pleased to announce an addition to that list with independent third party approval from ETL on 25 pair Category 5e cable. ETL has verified Mohawk/CDT 5e LAN Power Sum, a 25 pair Category 5e cable to the TIA/EIA-568-B.2 requirements for multi-pair (backbone) cable. This is the most stringent requirement for any backbone cable in the market today.

This cable offering is a result of extensive research and development work preformed by Mohawk/CDTs engineering group, including patented cable design criteria to ensure complete product performance. Applications include interconnect cables allowing for high density switch to switch and switch to panel interconnections and other multi-pair backbone applications. The compact 25 pair design reduces cable tray and conduit fill rates making it an attractive option to architects, facilities engineers and data center users.

Mohawk/CDT is currently the only manufacture to produce a 25 pair cable construction, which meets or exceeds all requirements of TIA/EIA-568-B.2. As such the product is printed ETL Verified Category 5e Backbone cable.

Tyco Aborts Breakup after Shares Dive

Reversing direction, Tyco International Ltd. announced Thursday it would not break up the company as planned. "The breakup plan was a mistake," Chief Executive Dennis Kozlowski told analysts and investors in a conference call. The Bermuda-based company, with its security division in Boca Raton, has lost close to $70 billion in market value since the breakup plan was announced in January.

Tyco's stock price has fallen from a 52-week high of $60 to $20.75, down $5.15 at the close of Thursday's trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In a letter to investors, Kozlowski wrote, "... I take full responsibility and am aware that Tyco's management has let you down."

Tyco also posted nearly a $2 billion second-quarter loss on Thursday, and said it would lay off 7,100 workers, mostly in telecommunications. After failing to find buyers for its CIT finance arm or its plastics division, Tyco said it would sell CIT and keep plastics. Tyco filed a plan to sell as much as $7.15 billion of common stock for what could be one of the biggest initial public offerings ever. Proceeds from the sale of CIT, a finance company with about $50 billion in assets under management, would be used to pay down debt.

Kozlowski said "distraction costs" hurt revenues and led to Tyco's quarterly loss. Short sellers and others have questioned Tyco's accounting practices, which hurt company's stock in the wake of the scandal and collapse of energy trader Enron Corp.

Tyco tried to ward off concerns about tricky accounting by holding weekly teleconferences with analysts and investors. But Kozlowski said employees, customers and suppliers were affected by "outlandish headlines." In its press release, Tyco said the company incurred substantial costs "as a result of the wave of rumors and misleading press reports during the past quarter, as well as from uncertainties arising from our announced breakup plan, which distracted employees, customers and vendors, and increased our borrowing costs."

Plastics customers, for example, started looking for alternative vendors because they were concerned about the division being sold. Kozlowski said European suppliers began demanding cash on delivery, and employee productivity was hurt by rumors about the company. The second-quarter loss broke Tyco's 10-year record of quarterly earnings improvement, Kozlowski said. Because of these costs and the change in market environment, Kozlowski said that "breaking Tyco apart was no longer the right strategy."

Anixter Intl. relocates Headquarters in Suburban Chicago

Anixter International Inc. (Skokie, IL) the world's leading distributor of electrical wire, cable, connectors and data communications products today, announced that it will be relocating its corporate headquarters to suburban Glenview, IL from its current location in suburban Skokie, IL.

Anixter reached an agreement with the Village of Glenview and Catellus Development Corporation to purchase a 9.5-acre land parcel to construct a new 165,000 square foot facility in the new Prairie Glen Corporate Campus development in Glenview. The land is part of the redevelopment of the former Glenview Naval Air Station, now called ''The Glen.'' Ground breaking is scheduled to take place in May of 2002. The facility is expected to be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2003.

''The new corporate headquarters in Glenview will allow us to control both our short and long-term expenses associated with operating a headquarters facility,'' said Bob Grubbs, President and CEO of Anixter International. ''The location of 'The Glen' in Glenview also provides an environment that helps keep and attract the quality people needed to succeed in our business.'' ''The Village of Glenview has become synonymous with world-class organizations,'' stated Lawrence R. Carlson, President of the Village of Glenview. ''We are proud and excited to add a Fortune 500 company in Anixter International to our community.''

The Prairie Glen Corporate Campus will include 1.1 million square feet of office, light industrial and R&D space. The facility is proximate to I-94, I-294, and O'Hare International Airport, and also includes a METRA station. New onsite amenities at The Glen include an 18-hole championship golf course and club, fitness and wellness centers, nature preserves and recreation trails, daycare facilities, and a major new shopping and entertainment district. Catellus Development Corporation will serve as the developer on the project. Wright Architects of Chicago served as the project architect.

About Anixter Inc.

Anixter is the world's leading distributor of data communications products and electrical wire and cable. Founded in 1957, the company now employs more than 5,000 people in 180 cities worldwide. The company provides products for data, voice, video or security networks, wired or wireless, in any office, factory or data center. Anixter has the technical knowledge to determine the right products for any application and also has the unparalleled global distribution capabilities to get that product where it needs to be, anytime, anywhere.

Graybar "Frequent Buyer" program

A recent survey by the New York-based SITE Foundation is reinforcing a decision by Graybar, a specialist in supply management services and the nation's leading wholesale distributor of telecommunications, data, and electrical gear, to expand a campaign to reward "frequent buyers" in a recovering economy, it was announced today.

"The SITE Foundation, a branch of the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, shows that tangible incentives dramatically increase work performance by an average of 22 percent," said Karl Griffith, director, Reseller Markets, Graybar. "Based on our early success with our ePoint program, we're announcing that we're expanding this sales incentive program to contractors in the telecommunications, data and electrical industries."

Graybar's ePoint program

is one of the most innovative loyalty programs available to contractors and resellers who buy the thousands of high-quality products distributed through Graybar throughout North America. The program was previously only available to telephone resellers.

Totally web-based, ePoint offers representatives from contractors, resellers and dealers a choice of more than 2,000 incentive awards when they buy selected manufacturer-sponsored products and systems from Graybar.

The ePoints earned are deposited into member accounts every month and can be exchanged for merchandise and travel for their employee incentive programs -- for sales, safety or other activities -- from Graybar's web-based catalog, which is located on the ePoint web site.

Contractor representatives must register for the program on the ePoint web site and can begin earning ePoints immediately by purchasing selected products from Graybar. Once registered, purchasing is handled in the normal manner and purchases are tracked automatically to the ePoint member online.

"One of the key features of the program is that participants do not have to do anything except register online," said Arnold Kelly, director, Graybar Electrical Contractor Market. "Once registered, they immediately begin earning ePoints on their purchases-no paperwork and no hassles, just easy access to their account via the Internet." More than 25 additional supplier sponsors have just joined the program to support our telecommunications, data and electrical contractors, Griffith added.

The SITE Foundation study, the most comprehensive research on the effectiveness of the $27 billion incentive industry and its usefulness to employers in determining the relationship between incentives, motivation and performance in the workplace, was released last month.

The findings are particularly relevant today as companies struggle with improving productivity, performance and profitability in a down economy. "Incentive programs may be the single most important performance-improvement tool available to executives today," said Mike Hadlow, president of the SITE Foundation. "They help create positive motion in a work environment."

Other key findings of the SITE Foundation study:

  • Incentive programs aimed at individuals increased performance a substantial 27 percent. Programs aimed at teams increase performance a stunning 45 percent.
  • An overwhelming 92 percent of workers surveyed indicated they achieved their goals because of incentives, and 57 percent of corporations surveyed reported that objectives were met or surpassed.
  • Long-term incentives are more powerful than short term (44 percent gain for programs beyond a year versus a 20 percent gain for programs less than one month).
  • While even poorly designed incentive programs improve performance, proper analysis of the performance issue, the design and implementation of an incentive program is key to its success.

"We invite and encourage all Graybar resellers and contractors to get involved and register with ePoint, which we believe will be very successful, especially as the nation's economy continues gathering steam," Griffith said. "ePoint will enhance all of our sales, but it also serves as a great incentive program for our loyal customers, the men and women who buy and sell Graybar products, services and technology."

About Graybar

St. Louis-based Graybar, a Fortune 500 company, is a specialist in supply management services and the leading distributor of equipment and materials for the construction, telecommunications, networking, industrial, commercial and utilities industries. One of the largest employee-owned companies in the United States, Graybar has distribution centers throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Westminster man charged with attempted theft of cable compound trade secrets

A Westminster, Massachusetts man was charged Thursday in federal court with attempted theft of trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act. United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan and Charles S. Prouty, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New England, announced today that JEFFREY A. FORGUES, age 39, 212 Ashburnham State Road, Westminster, Massachusetts, was charged in a one count indictment with attempting to buy trade secret proprietary to AlphaGary Corporation's , wire and cable insulation compound business. The indictment alleges that in January 1999, FORGUES attempted to receive, buy, and possess the generic industry names of chemicals used in AlphaGary plastic wire and insulation products. AlphaGary identified chemical ingredients of its formulations with proprietary coded names. If convicted of this charge, FORGUES faces up to ten years' imprisonment, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne M. Kempthorne in Sullivan's Economic Crimes Unit the U.S Attorney's office said.

Nexans reports stable sales of medium and high voltage cables in Q1 while telecom drop

Nexans (Paris, France) said in a press release that sales to the telecom sector dropped 44% in Q1 on a year to year basis, while sales of power cables remained stable. Nexans said it expects to post a net loss in the first half this year on the back of restructuring provisions of 40-60 million Euro but operating income over the period should be positive despite a negative contribution from the telecom division. It said also it expects to see an operating margin improvement over the second half. The solid sales performance of the energy division boosted by two substantial orders for umbilicals and high voltage cables, plus the anticipated upturn in the electrical wire segment as well as the initial impact of restructuring, the group should be able to improve operating profit in the second half, the company release said.

CommScope posts first-quarter net loss

CommScope Inc. (Hickory, NC), a maker of coaxial and fiber-optic cable, posted a first-quarter net loss because of weak demand and pricing pressures for its fiber-optic cable products.

The company posted a net loss of $1.6 million, or 3 cents a diluted share, compared with a year-ago profit of $16.6 million, or 32 cents a diluted share. It posted a net loss of $1 million, or 2 cents a diluted share, in the fourth quarter.

Excluding the impact of $8 million, or 13 cents a share, in after-tax equity related to its stake in OFS Brightwave, a fiber-optic joint venture with Japan's Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd. (5801.T), CommScope earned $6.3 million, or 10 cents a share. Revenues in the quarter fell to $159.8 million from $217.4 million a year ago, but rose 11 percent from the fourth quarter. CommScope said in March it expected first-quarter sales to be modestly higher than the fourth quarter's $143.5 million. It also forecast income, excluding the joint venture, that was comparable with the fourth quarter's $5.9 million, or 10 cents a share.

"CommScope's sequential growth during the first quarter in orders and sales supports our belief that we have passed the low point in sales for the current downturn," CommScope Chairman and Chief Executive Frank Drendel said in a statement.

"While we cannot precisely estimate the pace of recovery due to the turbulent economic environment, we are cautiously optimistic," he added. "We expect modest sequential improvement in CommScope's sales and operating performance for the second quarter, excluding expected losses from OFS BrightWave''.

The company orders booked in the first quarter rose 32 percent from the previous quarter to $174.8 million.

Belden Inc. still in the black

Belden Inc. (St. Louis, MO) a leading USA producer of specialty wire and cable, announced results for the quarter ended March 31, 2002. Total revenue for the quarter was $207.1 million, compared with revenue of $259.5 million in the first quarter a year ago. Net income was $1.2 million, compared with net income of $11.2 million in the first quarter of 2001. Belden generated cash flow from operations of $33.8 million and reduced its debt by $15.9 million during the quarter, bringing the ratio of debt to total capital down to 41.0 percent. Baker Cunningham, Chairman, President, and CEO, commenting on the result said, "Historically, the first quarter is a seasonal low point for Belden. Compared with the fourth quarter, our sales were 2 percent lower, which was consistent with our expectations and signaled stabilization in our markets. Inventories throughout our channels are in line with the current market, so improvement in end-use demand, when it occurs, will pass through to our sales very quickly. Our earnings were slightly better than we had expected, primarily because of our aggressive cost reduction program." Belden shares rose 6.33% following the announcement.

Making plenum cable a premium service offering - Letting your customers know about ways to increase fire safety can position you as a preferred provider.


End-user organizations face a myriad of issues with respect to their cabling systems, and many of them rely on their cabling contractors' expertise and guidance. This article will detail the fire-protection issues within end-user organizations today, and explain to you how you can become and remain a valuable knowledge resource in this area. Significantly, many end users are not aware of the fire safety issues within their buildings, thereby opening the door for your knowledge to make a big difference.

Today, crucial data is stored and managed electronically, usually in a standalone facility or a dedicated room called a data center. Mission-critical facilities, such as data centers, have special cabling requirements. Cabling must perform flawlessly to support high reliability and high-speed data transmission. Data centers may range in size from entire buildings down to single rooms in office or factory buildings. But while their sizes may vary, their functions and importance to end users and owners remain paramount. And, like all other systems in mission-critical facilities, cable selection should also be designed to minimize downtime. Data centers must operate with near-perfect reliability since they handle critical business data.

The terminology we hear as a typical target for availability and uptime is 24/7 and "five 9's." This means a facility must be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 99.999% of the time. That translates to being "down" for a little more than five minutes per year. Data is the lifeblood of businesses and organizations, and without consistent access to data, they cannot operate. Customer information, billing, inventories, employee records, and other information must be readily available.

Downtime is expensive because customer information, inventories, financial records, and other essential data will not be available. Costs for downtime can be many thousands of dollars per minute for some operations. To cite a recent example of costly downtime, many facilities that were not immediately affected by the World Trade Center terrorist attacks sustained collateral damage that took out their data-center operations. In many instances, the short- and long-term cost for this downtime and lost data has not yet been calculated, but it will prove to be staggering.

Insurance implications

Protecting data centers is an important concern for both risk managers and insurance underwriters. If risks are not well managed, costs for insurance will be high, and high-quality insurance may not even be available at any price. It is essential for end-user organizations to minimize exposure to risks. The insurance losses in New York City will prove to be enormous, even threatening some insurance companies' survivability. As a result, the entire face of the insurance industry will continue to undergo significant changes. As reliance on computerized data grows, risks are constantly being reevaluated. Insurance underwriters and safety engineers will be taking a much closer look at client insurability and premiums.

Two major categories of risk for data centers are: loss of data, and damage to equipment and property. Obviously, either can lead to downtime. Information-technology managers guard against data loss with frequent backups, in many instances duplicating data in remote equipment. Many centers have off-site contingency facilities that can be brought online quickly to take over during emergencies, thus limiting downtime. In August 1999, United Airlines experienced a fire in its operations data center in the Chicago area. Had it not been for a remotely located redundant operations center, United would have had to shut down operations for an extended period of time.

Per the 2002 National Electrical Code, abandoned-in-place cable like this must be removed. Let your customers know about this requirement, and work with them to effect such removal.

Operational reliability is enhanced by investments in training for personnel, maintaining software and equipment, and redundant systems and backup power sources. Risk managers and IT managers alike have to jointly monitor their operations closely. Insurance underwriters will take into account all these risk-reducing steps for data center "hot sites."

In a recent conversation, an insurance underwriter told me, "Suppression systems aren't usually installed in concealed areas, such as above false ceilings or below raised floors. But these are the locations where a majority of the cable will be installed." As a result, should a fire begin in or spread to one of these areas, there likely will be limited or no suppression until protected areas with suppression are involved.

At recent expositions for building owners and developers, a widely discussed topic was that of cabling with low fuel load, as well as limited flame spread and smoke generation. The topic is receiving increased attention from risk and loss-control manager association members. In light of the threat of terrorism, company risk managers and risk and loss control managers at insurers are taking new steps to carefully review structures' fire safety and related issues for potential losses.

Something's burning

Fire and the accompanying smoke are generally regarded as the most serious major risk factors for data centers, and both can cause data loss and equipment damage, leading to downtime. Selecting appropriate cable is vital in the control of fire risks. Consider, for example, that the largest amount of combustible material installed in many data centers is the cable itself. If cable with less-than-optimum fire performance is used, risk is significantly increased.

Obviously, a large fire can destroy data-processing equipment and supporting facilities. But many people do not realize that even a small fire can cause big trouble, since smoke is harmful to sensitive electronic equipment. Even a distance from the source, smoke can deposit conductive particles in equipment that will cause current leakage-short circuits-leading to premature failure and possible data loss. Sometimes, failures occur months after the fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has estimated that there are as many as 400 to 600 fires a year in data-center operations. The losses from these fires are tremendous; one insurance executive estimated that losses in equipment, data, and business interruption could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Selecting cable types

In some locations, cables with relatively low fire performance may be installed without regard for risk management. Electrical codes typically require CMP plenum-rated data cables if those cables will be installed in air-handling plenum spaces, above dropped ceilings or below raised floors, without protective metal conduit.

While contractors rely on the TIA/EIA-568B standard for transmission specifications, it is NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code (NEC), which sets minimum requirements for cables' fire-safety performance. These requirements are set forth in the form of acceptable listings for cable. In the case of a typical data center, the minimum mandatory requirement is CM-listed cable, according to Article 645 of the NEC. I contend that a better cable choice is CMP. CMP plenum cable was developed to help control the risks of injury to people and fire damage to property. CMP cables exhibit low flame spread and low smoke generation. Plenum cables are clearly marked to indicate that they are rated for use in building plenums, and are available from many manufacturers. While CM-listed cable offers lower cost to the end user, cabling contractors may want to present CMP cables as a more prudent business-continuity option to data-center owners or network managers. Using CM cables in plenum spaces is a false economy, because this practice increases fire risks.

It is also important to recognize that when the NEC requires minimum fire performance in the form of a CM-listed cable, it may not be an ideal strategy to follow the bare minimum requirement. The fuel load of CM-rated cable is significantly higher than that of CMP-rated cable. Fuel load essentially defines how cables may contribute to a fire, should one occur.

Used as both a wire insulant and cable jacket in CMP-rated cables, fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) is closer to steel, glass, and concrete in combustibility than it is to flame-retardant or standard polyolefins, which are also used as insulants in some cable types.

Considering the massive amount of cable in data centers and the high cost of downtime, end users may choose to have better-than-minimum performance in the area where they need the most protection. And, as a cabling contractor, you should make sure they are aware of the other options. What is in it for you? What benefits accrue to those contractors who are on top of their game when it comes to knowing code minimums and better-performing technologies that are available to reduce risk?

It is all about bringing the right solution to your customer in a consultative approach that increases your value. Providing value-perhaps more value than your competition-positions your company as preferred when it comes to future projects and repeat move/add/change business. Repeat business often is the reward for developing a genuinely satisfied customer who trusts your judgments, knowledge, and skill.You become your client's knowledge resource by keeping the client informed of the best available technology. Advising your client and fully explaining cabling options builds confidence that you are an informed professional firm. This will strengthen your company and differentiate you from your competition.

Additional opportunities

New and potentially profitable business benefits also exist for contractors. The 2002 NEC mandates that accessible abandoned cables "shall not remain." This opens more revenue opportunities because contractors can be paid for both the installation of the new cable and removal of the old. A physical inventory and documentation of abandoned and active cables is often required, adding to the revenue opportunity. You probably are not going to remove all the cables at once; therefore, you can develop and sell a migration plan to the client. Part of that plan can be to provide "swing space" within the data center, which would include new racks, panels, and connectors. Also, many times the right or appropriate solution (such as using CMP cable when CM is the minimum requirement) means a premium solution. Helping customers understand the range of cable fire-performance options available to them, and explaining the benefits of higher-performing cable, can mean higher margins for you.

In the past, data centers and computer rooms often were static in nature. Once the equipment was in, it rarely moved. That's not the case anymore. These rooms are churning as quickly as some of the office areas. New types of servers, server farms, consolidations, computer-vendor-supplied cabinets, KVM switches, and other equipment all lead to more cabling opportunities for the contractor.

We are fortunate to be part of a dynamic industry, full of business and technical challenges. Lifelong learning comes with the territory, but what also comes is the opportunity to help customers better understand risks and fire-safety needs to better protect life and property. The bottom line is that adding more value to your customer makes you more valuable.

C. William Minnis, RCDD, is principal of InfoNet Technologies, a consulting, design, and market-development firm specializing in communications-system infrastructure and structured cabling systems.

This article is from Cabling Contactor Magazine, From the publishers of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, a new magazine focused on the rapidly changing business of communications contracting. Published quarterly in October, January, April, and July.


ICC 2002 (IEEE Int Conference on communications)
April 28 - May 2
New York, NY

RCDD, OSP & LAN classes/exam
May 2 - 6
Las Vegas, NV

Networld & Interop
May 5-10
Las Vegas, NV

BICSI Spring Conference
May 6 - 9
Las Vegas, NV

AIA 2002 National Convention & Expo
May 9 - 11
Charlotte, NC

Academy of Learning - Fibre Optics Training Course
May 13 - 17
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Communications Solutions 2002
May 14 - 16
Boston, MA

NFPA World Safety Conference & Exposition
May 19 - 23
Minneapolis, MN


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