Warranties: Pro or con?

At a recent ceremony in downtown Boston, a major cable and component vendor presented the management information systems manager of a state agency with a certificate that guaranteed his network would perform to specification for 15 years. This is an example of one of the hottest trends in cable installation--the 15-year warranty.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

Senior Associate Editor

At a recent ceremony in downtown Boston, a major cable and component vendor presented the management information systems manager of a state agency with a certificate that guaranteed his network would perform to specification for 15 years. This is an example of one of the hottest trends in cable installation--the 15-year warranty.

Obviously, the vendor in this example had tested its system and was prepared to stand behind its warranty. The end user appeared to be well-satisfied, because he had a promise that the network would perform for as long as he was likely to work for the agency. The installation contractor was also happy because its credibility was enhanced by association with a major vendor, and the company had another tool to use in selling jobs to potential customers.

So, if everyone is happy, what is the problem? There is not necessarily a problem. In fact, Cabling Installation & Maintenance heartily supports the extended warranty as one more way in which vendors and installers are increasing their credibility with end users. However, the 15-year warranty raises some questions, as well.

One of the most important questions is: What is in the fine print? Some warranties, for instance, are invalidated when uncertified technicians (such as the company network manager) make moves, adds and changes.

A second question is: Who will honor the warranty? Will the installation contractor or the vendor be around in 15 years?

Vendors of fiber-optic products have complained that the 15-year warranty is just one more way that copper-wire and copper-component vendors have found to divert attention from the fact that copper-based networks will be outmoded in far fewer years than the 15 years of promised service. A warranty is useless, they argue, if the bandwidth needs of multimedia make a copper network obsolete in five years. And what about the unresolved interference issues with copper cable?

To reprise, then: A warranty is a good thing, but let`s not allow it to divert us from the issues at hand. A warranty will not deliver more bandwidth than that for which a system is rated, nor will it compensate for unresolved technical problems.

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