With copper prices soaring and showing little sign of stabilizing, network cabling companies have been forced to adjust cable prices accordingly. 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.Siemon\u2019s\u00a0vice president\u00a0of 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 10Gb\/sec-capable cabling is far better than lower performing options. While these full-life cycle 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 fiber-to-the-desk alternatives, he said.Carlson said although fiber can provide a future-proof option, it is not capable of supporting the growing demand for Power over Ethernet applications, and the cost of fiber electronics remains prohibitively high for horizontal applications. "Fully shielded (S\/FTP) category 7\/class F copper cabling, such as Siemon\u2019s TERA, is capable of supporting application speeds well beyond 10Gb\/sec," he said."This future-proof performance provides an extended cabling life cycle, driving the total cost of ownership well below that of category 5e, category 6 and even category 6A UTP."While long-term savings and performance capabilities beyond 10Gb\/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\u2019s 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\u2019t actually serve the user population." He argued that most corporate applications\u2014even videoconferencing and voice-over-IP\u2014do 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 optimization and mobility services as key features that will benefit the organization far more than installing Gigabit Ethernet for all desktops," Fabbi said.-Sandra Rossi, Computerworld Today (Australia)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.