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STRUCTURED CABLING: Happy Days ahead…

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

The structured cabling industry is optimistic. Though the first two quarters

of the fiscal year were sluggish, the third and fourth quarters seem to be

promising. Although the real numbers are yet to come, firsthand talks with the

industry sources reveal that till October 2002, vendors had recorded about 10—12

percent growth, and thereafter they were seeing a 20—30 percent growth. Going

by these trends, it is predicted that the vendors may see about a 15—20

percent growth by this fiscal end. It may be noted that the premises cabling

market was growing by over 30 percent in FY 2000—01, and in the last fiscal,

it reported about 20 percent growth. In revenue terms, the market for 2001—02

was Rs 270 crore.

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Buying

in banking and finance, and government sectors gave push to sales in the

structured cabling market. But the slowdown in the IT sector somewhat negated

that. For most of the vendors, the first and the last quarters of the previous

fiscal were bad, but things started picking up from June and the outcome was

visible in the OND quarter. While vendors confide that the era of 30—40

percent growths is over, they are expecting about 10-15 percent growth in their

internal projections for the year.

Findings of MAIT pertaining to PC sales have also given structured cabling

vendors cause for cheer. MAIT says that in the first half of 2002-03 the PC

market saw units sales close to 1 million, which was expected to touch the 2

million mark by the end of this fiscal. As the structured cabling industry has a

direct co-relation with the PC shipments, cabling vendors are sure of achieving

the 15—20 growth figure.

Banking on Telecom and BPO



The biggest saviors for the structured cabling market have been the telecom

and the BPO sectors, though banking and the government sectors have also

contributed to the deployments. It is being hoped that Reliance’s telecom

plans will act as prime catalysts. It is estimated that there will be about

1,000 Reliance WebWorld outlets, combining an Internet café, entertainment

center, and digital products shop. Orders for these outlets alone are likely to

be quite big.

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Reliance apart, other operators, be it cellular or basic, are augmenting

their infrastructure. Significant investments are being made at the premise

levels too. Basic services started by private operators have pushed the demand

for broadband connectivity, which in turn has created a demand for in-building

cabling to provide the services. So structured cabling vendors feel that this

fiscal could be better than 2001—02. Vendors are seeing a fair amount of

activity in all key verticals like government, software, education, and

manufacturing.

On the technology front, the market is now moving from E-Cat-5 to Cat-6 as

the Cat-6 standard got ratified in June 2002.

Though E-Cat 5 supports gigabit applications using existing technology and

has been stable for a considerable period of time, Cat 6 was being promoted.

This is because despite the enhanced performance of E-Cat 5 cabling, it cannot

support frequencies greater than 100 MHz, whereas Cat 6 cable can support

frequencies up to 250 MHz and can run networks up to 6 Gbps with the current

experimental technology. Further, Cat 6 also has an increased signal-to-noise

ratio of 15.8 dB at 100 MHz, as compared to 3 dB for Cat 5e. In addition, Cat 6

cabling has backward compatibility with Cat 5 and 5e. This was the answer to

have additional bandwidth requirements.

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Copper is winning the horizontal battle, primarily because of the cost of

components for 100 BaseT and backward compatibility to easily support legacy

systems. Most of the organizations have at least some degree of legacy system to

be supported. Though fiber costs will continue to decrease due to economies of

scale, it is important to note that there will still be a substantial price

premium on fiber components such as NIC cards and switches, and potentially much

more infrastructure to replace with a move to fiber. Installation procedures

need to be more stringent as more care must be taken to ensure proper handling

and termination. All these are essential in order to ensure a good return on

investment. Cat 6 copper cables promise enhanced performance of 250 MHz and

copper to desktops, which is still cheaper. At the end of the day, it is highly

unlikely that end-users will require gigabit to desktops. But when they do,

there is fiber.

In line with the standards and beyond the standards, players have been

launching new variants. Take Krone, for example. Its TrueNet Cat-6 cabling

solution has impedance matching of 100 Ohm G3 percent, which is double than the

current Cat 6 standard. For information outlets, it introduced the KM8 Cat 6

jack with cable management features. Another vendor, Molex will be introducing

data patching systems soon and the patch chords. Tyco introduced OM3 fiber for

gigabit Ethernet and the AMPACT system among several other products.

The tough market conditions in the previous fiscal led to severe erosion in

price terms. One threat was from new entrants in the unorganized sector, with

low-priced cabling solutions, mostly sourced from the gray market. Fortunately,

buyers have started realizing that the quality of such products is poor. For

example, a so-called Cat 6 solution available in the market didn’t even pass

the specifications on channel requirements on completion of installation.

Nevertheless, major vendors feel that there has been about 10—12 percent

erosion in prices. And that’s why they are estimating growth in revenue terms

at 10—15 percent, even though quantity-wise the growth would be 15 percent.

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Vendors can take heart from the fact that CIOs/CTOs are now insisting for

solutions that are not just standard-compliant but also offer better

throughputs. Moreover, organizations are also looking at return on investment as

a parameter.

The Performers



Majors like Avaya, Tyco, D-Link, Molex, and Krone have performed well,

mainly by creating a niche for themselves. Both Avaya and Tyco, which account

for close to 60 percent of the market share, continued to dominate the market.

The real picture is still to emerge, but by talking to channels and integrators,

one gets the picture that Avaya and Tyco are neck to neck.

Last fiscal, Avaya had close to 40 percent market share, while Tyco had about

21 percent. The system integrators believe that Tyco is No 1 in south, east, and

central India, while Avaya is strong in north and west. Based on this, some

estimates say that Tyco could well surpass Avaya this fiscal. Meanwhile D-Link,

Krone, Molex, Panduit, and Finolex are also consolidating their bases. It may be

recalled that in the previous fiscal, D-Link’s market share had gone up to

about 17 percent.

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While a clear picture of market shares will emerge only after the fiscal is

over, one significant development has been the growing mindshare of all the

companies mentioned above. One driving factor behind this has been the fact that

most of the vendors have focused a lot on training and channel partners. Take

the case of Tyco. It has over 700 certified professionals so far. And it focused

on conducting workshops in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai, besides other

cities, for existing channels. At present, it has three major distributors–Tech

Pacific, Ingram Micro, and Compuage. This fiscal, it has put a great deal of

emphasis on the B- and C-class cities.

Krone also took the training initiative through its Master Installer/Designer

course, with a comprehensive view of the new Cat-6 recommendations. The course

focused on the design aspect as well as on the creation of quality

infrastructure for those organizations that intended to set up an IT network.

Krone received an overwhelming response for the course, which played an

important role in increasing the installed base of Krone’s products. Molex too

focused on Cat6, training, and new cities.

Apart from adding more number of stockists and focusing on channels, vendors

have also emphasized on being total solutions providers. Be it Panduit, Molex,

Krone or TVS Net, all of them have directly concentrated on projects. It must be

mentioned here that, D-Link made a major mark in the structured cabling space

because of its ability to complement with active devices. Tyco too entered the

scene as a total solution provider by adding active devices to its portfolio.

A major development is that India may become an export base for some of the

big vendors like Tyco, Molex, Krone, and D-Link. Molex has announced that it

would soon be manufacturing a majority of its Cat 6 products in India and

exporting them to other parts of the world. It plans to begin with 2,000—4,000

components and has already made significant investments in tools and die

facilities. It also says that its primary focus will remain on India, as far as

the APAC region is concerned. Tyco too is looking at India as a manufacturing

base, with Europe being the target market. The company will be manufacturing

copper patch chords, fiber optic accessories, followed up by IOs. All these

things show about not only the commitment of the vendors but also of the things

to come.

Ch. Srinivas Rao

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