Network cabling companies are being forced to increase the cost of cable dramatically, as the price of raw copper rises upwards.

Copper prices have tripled over the past four years, rising more than 59 percent between January and May of 2006 alone, according to the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Siemon's VP of global marketing, Bob Carlson, said enterprises face difficult network infrastructure decisions as a result of these increases.

"It is a well-established best-practice to install a future-proof cabling plant capable of supporting the next generation of application speeds," he said.

"The total cost of ownership on 10Gbit/-capable cabling is far better than lower performing options. While these full-lifecycle savings hold true even with increasing copper prices, the up-front costs can act as a deterrent."

Enterprises are under pressure to balance long-term costs with current expenditures.

Rising copper prices have led some companies to explore fibre-to-the-desk alternatives, he said.

Carlson said although fibre can provide a future-proof option, it is not capable of supporting the growing demand for Power over Ethernet applications, and the cost of fibre electronics remains prohibitively high for horizontal applications.

"Fully-shielded (S/FTP) category 7/class F copper cabling, such as Siemon's TERA, is capable of supporting application speeds well beyond 10Gbit/s," he said.

"This future-proof performance provides an extended cabling lifecycle, driving the total cost of ownership (TCO) well below that of category 5e, category 6 and even category 6A UTP."

While long-term savings and performance capabilities beyond 10Gbit/s are driving global adoption of the TERA system, he said its cable-sharing ability in support of lower speed applications can provide up-front savings by reducing cable counts.

However, Gartner this week released a report calling upon enterprises to question the value of Gigabit Ethernet.

Enterprise IT and network professionals will toss away more than US$10 billion on Gigabit Ethernet LAN gear over the next two years that would be better spent on technologies designed to support increasingly distributed workforces, according to Gartner.

"The majority of network designers continue to be caught in traditional design practices," said Mark Fabbi, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, speaking at the company's Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco last week.

"They continue to spend money on bigger and faster core networking technologies at their headquarters and large locations that don't actually serve the user population."He argued that most corporate applications - even videoconferencing and VoIP - do not require more than a few hundred kilobits per second of bandwidth.

"Astute network managers will focus their attention on the upper layers of the stack, and look to security, data control, application optimisation and mobility services as key features that will benefit the organisation far more than installing Gigabit Ethernet for all desktops," Fabbi said.