Structured Cabling

With the increase of
networks, there has been growth in the sales of structured cabling in the last one-two
years. Also the awareness about the benefits that structured cabling systems gives over
the earlier mix-and-match type of cabling has boosted sales.

Last fiscal, the total revenue of
structured cabling market was to the tune of Rs 125 crore. And this is expected to grow to
about Rs 160 crore in the current fiscal. A lot of networking activities in the two
customer segments—campus networks and Software Technology Parks
(STPs)—contributed to the industry’s 35 percent growth in the last fiscal
compared to the annual revenue of Rs 95 crore in 1996-97. Region-wise, the South showed
real character by being a region of major growth last year. The concentration of software
companies in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai saw good performance from this
region in terms of project implementation. In terms of structured cabling revenue
generation, the South has caught up with other regions with 27 percent as compared to the
North’s 28 percent and the West’s 35 percent.

Channels In Structured Cabling
The role of channels in the structured cabling industry is very
important and can be crucial to a vendor’s success or failure. There are different
types of channels. Distributors like Microsell and Advantec concentrate on filling in the
requirements of their parent integrators or other regional resellers/integrators. Then
there are the network integrators and systems integrators who lay, assemble, and integrate
the cabling system with the active devices and applications. Some of the big integrators
who are channels of prominent vendors of structured cabling systems are C-DAC, CMC,
Datacraft RPG, Digital, HCL, Microland, Proactive, Ramco, and Tata Infotech.

The Players

Lucent Technologies, which came into India
early, has established itself in the Indian market. Though there is growing competition,
it is still the clear leader in the structured cabling market here. Lucent’s success
is attributed to its good network of distributors, resellers, and systems integrators. The
mindshare that comes alongwith its association with the historical Bell Labs and success
as a telecommunications equipment provider has also helped it to forge strong relationship
with the big industrial names like the Tatas, Wipro, and HCL. There are many major systems
integrators which have been very loyal to it. Last year, despite the prevailing bad year
over the break-up with Advantec, it was able to reproduce its steady performance.
Microland’s distribution wing, Microsell had a major hand in its performance.

However, the monopoly over this market is
slowly slipping away from Lucent’s hands. The number of competitors have more than
trebled in the last three years. These companies have adopted either the strategy of
pricing competitively or attracting the market leader’s channels. AMP is one such
company which has slowly built its image as an alternative to Lucent. AMP has been very
aggressive in both the price game as well as the channel game. Its early focus was to
build a good name by concentrating on the premium market, often selling to only big
multinationals, and then play in the volume market later. As of now, the customer base as
well as its distribution network is growing fast. AMP is emerging as the main competitor
to Lucent.

The others in the competition are either
too niche or too regional. BICC Brand-Rex has a good range of products, but its presence
is more in the Western region. For IBM, structured cabling is not a focus area. Krone,
which can leverage its public network cabling expertise, is getting aggressive only now.
Nordx/CDT is a popular brand in the South. While Molex/MOD-TAP is just starting to ramp up
its presence and image. Also interesting to see will be the result of the entry of telecom
cable manufacturers like Optel, Finolex, and Sterlite into premises networking. The field
is increasingly getting crowded, as a number of new vendors like Birla 3M, DeltaFull,
Duratube, Lapp-India, Panduit, and RAD/RIT have entered the fray.

The Future

Structured cabling has permeatd to
different segments of customers. If earlier, it was the multinational and the large
corporates who realized the need of having a structured cabling system in place, now the
EDP managers and CIOs of even medium to small enterprises are more aware of its benefits.
Already the structured cabling market is divided into three major categories by the number
of network nodes—the high-end (more than 250 nodes), medium-end (50-250 nodes), and
the low-end (up to 50 nodes).

The software companies segment is becoming
the major target segment for most vendors as this segment is very fast in taking to new
technologies and networking. Educational and scientific institutional campuses aided by
government grants of funds are also fast building their networks. They have pushed the
demand for fibre cabling. Structured cabling has come of age in its reach. Now it is
slowly making its way into hotels, hospitals, and so on. It is believed that soon with the
growth of Internet, cabling would reach personal homes.

For its spread, structured cabling systems
have to become cheaper. Indian customers are very price-conscious. And the importance of
this factor is bound to increase with the demand going out of the niche segments into more
general ones and as networking reaches the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). The SME
market is a fast growing one and is a potential market for networking and structured
cabling systems.

The high-end market will remain to be a
lucrative segment. Here the value that one is able to provide either through customization
in integration or the product itself will matter the most. Things like provision of
warranties and standards will be important. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is the factor
which will matter to the CIOs and EDP managers of these organizations.

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