Green cabling. What does it mean, how much does it cost and is it just a marketing ploy? We put these questions to the UAEs cabling specialists and got some very diverse answers
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Green cabling. What does it mean, how much does it cost and is it just a marketing ploy? We put these questions to the UAEs cabling specialists and got some very diverse answers.
Green cabling is a contentious issue, with some companies suggesting that it refers to a product that is low smoke, zero halogen (LSZH), while others insist that ‘green cabling’ does not just refer to the end product, but rather the entire lifecycle of the product from the raw materials to its biodegradability and how long it can be used. No two companies have the exact same answer.
Cabling specialists CommScope, which focuses on copper and fibre cables for mobile phone operators, structured cabling for corporate enterprise, and data centre design and deployment for enterprise and telecom operators, views green cabling holistically.
“When we talk about green cabling, we look at it in terms of the manufacturing process, as well as the type of network design. I think ask 100 people and you will get 100 different definitions as to what green cabling is all about, some people will think it is wireless, some people will think it is about the polymers, we take a wider view and look from the raw material, manufacturing, processing and then the smart design to minimise the network,” states Ciaran Forde, vice president, Enterprise, Middle East & Africa, CommScope. CommScope is a global company with presence in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Enterprise connectivity specialist D-Link states that ‘green cabling’ has a narrower focus than CommScope suggests, defining it as cabling that does not contain harmful materials such as PVC, phthalates, lead, or halogen (LSZH).
“Common PVC cables catching fire will lead them to produce black smoke, which causes toxins to be released in the air and also minimises visibility. Halogens are another class of harmful substances often used in cables. Products containing halogens emit very noxious gases, when burned. Cables made with PVC-alternatives have better properties than PVC in the event of a fire; they generate less smoke, and have fire-resistant qualities. Products made with zero halogens are up to five times less toxic than those produced with halogens,” says Sakkeer Hussain K, sales and marketing manager for the Middle East and Africa region, D-Link.
Cabling company R&M, which began in 1964 in Switzerland, and is now based in several regions in the Middle East, including UAE, Qatar, Jordan, and Egypt, also specialises in copper and fibre cabling for enterprises.
R&M executive vice president for Middle East and Africa, Jean-Pierre Labry says that simply defining ‘green cabling’ as LSZH is far too narrow.
“I think defining cabling as green because they do not have harmful plastics is too simple of an approach. As a company we have obligations and this is what we are trying to do by building facilities which help the green approach and we also focus on the product, design and system view.”
According to Labry, companies need to take into consideration the environmental impact of material as a product, including such things as the packing and shipping processes in the ‘green cabling’ equation. For example R&M are trying to utilise more green transportation for their cabling products.
“Obviously all our products are in line with environmental regulations. In terms of design we try to be efficient and we think about disposal of our product, we are very careful about the selection of our suppliers, so we try to make sure our suppliers have a green approach and this is part of our global supply chains,” he states.
Both R&M and CommScope also try to limit their environmental impact by implementing measures such as pre-terminated cabling to avoid waste. Preterminated cabling is where customers can order the exact length of cable they need. The company also tries to ensure the maximum lifecycle of its products.
“We have some solutions that guaranteed for 25 years, so this is one of the characteristics that you have to look into. If you go into a data centre, the cabling part is really a very small percentage – about 6-7% of the investment. When you look at active equipment, such as routers, software – the lifecycle is three to four years, after that you need to change it because it is not fast enough, but the cable itself will stay for 25 years, so it is very important that the solution they take in the beginning is the right one,” says Labry.
Global cabling and cabling solutions expert Nexans, present in the UAE, provides another definition of ‘green cabling’.
“In our interpretation ‘green cabling’ refers to cables that allow for energy savings, such as high grade copper cabling that supports Energy Efficient Ethernet [EEE] in such a way it allows for maximum energy savings. It also refers to environmental monitoring. Since 2007, Nexans has set up procedures and tools to produce and inform its customers about the regulation requirements, such as REACH [Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of chemical] and RohS [Restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electric and electronic equipment],” explains Tarek Helmy, Regional Director Gulf & Middle East, Nexans Cabling Solutions.
All smoke no fire?
There is also much debate raging around whether LSZH is actually valid as a definition of ‘green cabling’, because LSZH only really applies in a burnt scenario, i.e. when the cable is on fire.
Some companies argue that the environmental impact from the building or data centre burning down is likely to be much higher than the environmental impact of the cabling burning.
“Some people, have taken existing technologies such as plastics like PVC-type polymer and said that is more nasty than polyethylene and they might say ‘Oh this system does not have halogens’, which are nasty toxic compounds, so you will hear the term low smoke, no halogen. People then think that this is more environmentally friendly. It was never designed with a green credential, people may be retrospectively assigning a credential that it does not necessarily have,” states Forde.