There’s no one size fits all when it comes to network installation cost–it can range from $300 or less to $3000 or more. Every project has different parameters, and the overall cost will be affected by:
- Feet of cable length
- Number of data ports
- Site parameters and condition
- Volume of hardware
- Market cost of hardware
- Manpower cost
- Existing network infrastructure
The best way to get an accurate picture of how much a network installation will cost is to work with a professional installer that conducts on-site walk-throughs with their clients. This is much more accurate and reliable than over-the-phone estimates.
Let’s take a deeper look at what drives the price of network installation, and how working with a reputable installer rather than buying and installing yourself can actually save you money.
Network installation equipment costs
The floorplan and construction of the building where the network installation takes place has a big impact on cost.
Depending on the specific building, your installation may need special tools and equipment to get the cable where it needs to go.
Additionally, building codes for certain types of commercial buildings specify the kind of cables that may or may not be used in it. For example, plenum areas–places where there is forced air circulation for heating and cooling, such as drop ceilings–need plenum cable, which has fire-resistant plastic coating and releases fewer toxins if it burns. Plenum cables are more expensive than ordinary cables, and can push up the overall cost.
Non-plenum areas, such as under floors, don’t need this specialized plenum cable, but parts of floors may themselves need to be lifted or removed in order to lay the cable.
And in buildings where the walls are solid wood instead of a hollow space encased by drywall will require some level of excavation in order to make space for the cables and position data jacks and wall plates.
Cost of cables
The fundamental factor in network installation cost is the length of and type of cable used.
The number and foot-length of cable runs determines how much secondary hardware is needed–things like data ports, jacks, patch plates and panels, and management racks–as well as how much manpower and even what extra equipment is necessary to install it.
Each of the different types of wiring used to install a network have different capacities and price points:
Fiber optic cable
- Most expensive
- Highest data capacity and lowest interference
- More fragile than Cat-type cables
- May need special tools to install
- Great for companies with large networks or lots of interconnected equipment
Cat 7 cable
- Most expensive of the Cat-type cables
- High performance with low crosstalk
- Speeds up to 10 GB
- Suitable for longer runs
Cat 6 cable
- Relatively low price point
- Data speeds up to 10 GB, but only for a distance under 90 meters
- Longer runs subject to crosstalk
- Good for smaller, less data-intensive offices
Cat 5e cable
- Cheapest cable type
- Slow data speeds
- Not reliable over distance or time
- Currently being phased out by the industry
Ethernet network hardware
The next greatest cost category in network installation is hardware. These secondary pieces of equipment are what integrate the cables into the building, and what make it possible for devices such as computers, printers, phones, or machinery to be linked up and become part of one network.
For every cable run, you’ll need appropriate hardware like data plugs and wall plates on each end of the cable.
To keep the cables organized and properly positioned, you’ll need cable cabinets, cable ties, and patch panels.
The length of your cable runs and location of your data ports will dictate the overall cost of this category. The more cables you have and the more ports your project needs, the higher the cost. So it’s important to be intentional and strategic about where ports are positioned and how cables are placed, in order to get the most cost-efficient and high-performing network possible.
Why hire a professional network installer?
With all this in mind–cost of cables and hardware plus costs incurred by the physical setting–how can working with a network installation company save you money?
They have a plan going in
A big part of network installation is the planning process. Thoughtful and detailed planning of the network layout beforehand will make the installation process go as smoothly, quickly, and cost-effectively as possible.
Experience and knowledgeability
When it comes to potentially-high-cost projects like network installation, the fewer mistakes or false starts that are made, the better. Delays, misplaced cables, or inadequate planning all contribute to higher costs and more disruption. A professional network installer has the experience to know what to do and what not to do in network installation.
Access to wholesale prices.
As members of the industry, installers have access to network hardware companies that specialize in wholesale, such as Graybar. These cost benefits will be passed on to you.
Professionally-designed networks have long term payoffs.
A good installation company will create a strong, stable, reliable network for your business that is also easy to maintain and scale. Record-keeping, diagramming, and cable organization all contribute to the ongoing value of any given network. Plus, if something does go haywire with your network, you’ll be able to call in that same company to troubleshoot and perform repairs.
How to get an accurate network installation estimate
Over-the-phone, sight-unseen network installation estimates are never reliable, and flat rates are never actually flat. Every installation is different, and so the cost will be different every time.
To get a truly accurate cost estimate for your project, hire a company that conducts on-site walkthroughs and assessments before they offer a quote.
This may seem like a cumbersome extra step, but an estimate that is based on a walk-through will be 90-95% percent accurate to the final cost. This estimate will include material and labor costs, as well as any special considerations unique to your project.
Plus, the installation technician will be able to help you identify and discover the particular specifications of your building and your project, so that you’ll end up with a better idea of what shape the project will take, potential obstacles it may encounter, and a reasonable timeline for completion.
These on-site assessments take the guesswork out of the estimate process and give you a concrete number to work with.
Getting a network installation cost estimate
Have a looming network installation project?
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