Magic Cable Box Debunked

By: John Grocke, Published on Aug 23, 2013

In a recent security magazine 'article', ICE claims a superior cable box that will "save integrators time and money". Is this marketing hype or is there something to this claim? In this note, we examine the key features of boxed cabling vs spools, providing recommendations on the best options and tradeoffs for cable dispensing.

Box Cabling Overview

Boxed cable is handy for quickly installing shorter single runs of cabling. The rectangular box won't roll around in the back of a van like a spool, is fairly lightweight at ~30lbs. full and can be carried with hand hole slots. Also, boxed cable is easier to stack and store in a van or warehouse than spools of cable.

Here's a look at a box of generic CAT6 cable.


The ICE cable box

ICE claims that their dispensing box will save time and money due to a 20 times larger "big mouth payout" opening, a proprietary cable winding system, ascending/descending footage markers and heavy-duty water resistant cardboard packaging.  

As compared to generic "no name" cabling, at first glance there appears to be merit to that claim. 

Brand Name Cable Manufacturer Offerings

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

However, many name brand manufacturers have their own unique dispensing boxes with internal spools, wide mouth openings, and methods of bundling boxes together so that multiple cables can be pulled simultaneously. Some cable manufacturers have gone as far as patenting their dispensing boxes.

There are many cable manufacturers, but some bigger names include:

  • Belden
  • West Penn
  • Honeywell 
  • Commscope/Uniprise
  • Windy City Wire

Box Cable Limitations

Boxed cable has its drawbacks. Unless the box contains an internal reel or spool, it will occasionally kink or knot in the box regardless of how the cable is wound, but a larger opening does help with pulling the cable from the box.

With boxed cable, it is nearly impossible to immediately tell how much cable is left in the box without picking it up or looking at the markings on the cable. Many times, an installer in a hurry arrives on a job site to find their box of cable that they thought was full to be nearly empty and has to make a run back to the shop or to a supplier for more cable, which costs time and money.

Just about every manufacturer includes a footage marking on the cable, some include ascending and descending footages to specifically show how much has been used and how much remains in the box. Others also include descriptions of the cable and additional letters and numbers where an installer can use a Sharpie to easily mark the cable numbers.

Is ICE Cable worth it?

For comparison, we contacted a distributor and found that the price for ICE cable is ~$140 for a box of non-plenum CAT6 cable. Another major brand with a similar wide mouth opening sells for ~$110-120 dealer price from a national alarm supply houses. 

Note: When it comes to cable prices, it is important to note that copper is a commodity causing prices to fluctuate sometimes greatly, distributor's discounts to integrators can vary, and bulk purchases can usually obtain additional discounts. Cable costs also differ substantially depending on the rating of the cable: non-plenum, plenum or riser. 

Using Spools Instead of Boxes

For larger projects where multiple cables are being pulled at simultaneously, the spool is still the most popular delivery method. Rolling wire spool carts make managing the cabling easier and can range from simple single-spool carts to large rolling carts carrying many spools.  This is especially handy when pulling non-composite access control cabling where the card reader, exit device, door switch and locking device all require separate individual cables.


For simple camera installations, many installers prefer single spools as opposed to the boxed cable and put them on a compact folding cart or simply take an A-frame ladder and stick a short pice of rigid conduit through the spool and support it from the ladder rungs for pulling cable.

Although spools and carts are bulkier, harder to handle and store, cable flows from the spool freely without kinking or knotting and installers can quickly see much cable is left at a glance. Most manufacturers offer their cabling in either boxes or spools.

Hybrid Approach

Some wire manufacturers such as Windy City Wire have taken a hybrid approach of boxes and spools, taking advantage of the benefits of both methods. Their system uses equal depth boxes which all contain internal free-spinning reels and the boxes are ganged together on custom rolling carts designed for their boxes. 


Choosing what brand of boxed cable or spools to use many times comes down to cost, size of the project, number of cables to be pulled, and the installer's personal preference. There might be some labor savings, but in most cases it is not a significant difference. We have examined several different methods, but essentially they are just differences in packaging. It's hard for a wire manufacturer to claim that their cable is better then their competitor's, so they focus on touting the coloring, labeling or packaging. It's essentially the same as comparing mayonnaise from a jar versus squeeze bottle, what really matters is on the inside. The focus should be given to choosing the proper cable for the job rather than the package it comes from.

Comments (4) : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Top Ways Security Integrators Improve Their Careers on Sep 03, 2019
With DIY products expanding and the future of integration debated, how do integrators stay sharp so they are not left behind? 180+ integrators...
Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Aug 28, 2019
Register now for the Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance...
Security Integrators Outlook On Remaining Integrators In 2025 on Aug 22, 2019
The industry has changed substantially in the last decade, with the rise of IP cameras and the race to the bottom. Indeed, more changes may be...
Biometrics Usage Statistics 2019 on Aug 13, 2019
Biometrics are commonly used in phones, but how frequently are they used for access? 150+ integrators told us how often they use biometrics,...
US Government Ban of Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei Takes Effect Now on Aug 13, 2019
The 'prohibition on use or procurement' of Dahua, Hikvision and Huawei products and 'essential components' take effect today, August 13, 2019, one...
Proactive CCTV "Only Affordable Video Archiving Solution" Profile on Aug 12, 2019
Proactive CCTV is claiming to offer "the only affordable video archiving solution on the market", reducing the storage typically required for H.265...
Responsibility Split Selecting Locks - Statistics on Jul 22, 2019
A heated access debate surrounds who should pick and install the locks. While responsible for selecting the control systems, integrators often...
Mobile Access Usage Statistics 2019 on Jul 18, 2019
The ability to use mobile phones as access credentials is one of the biggest trends in a market that historically has been slow in adopting new...
Poor OSDP Usage Statistics 2019 on Jul 09, 2019
OSDP certainly offers advantages over decades-old Wiegand (see our OSDP Access Control Guide) but new IPVM statistics show that usage of OSDP, even...
Maglocks Usage Statistics 2019 on Jul 01, 2019
Maglocks divide access control specifiers perhaps more than any other component. Many are concerned about life safety codes, but others cite...

Most Recent Industry Reports

ONVIF Suspends Huawei on Sep 20, 2019
Huawei has been 'suspended', and effectively expelled, from ONVIF so long as US sanctions remain on the mega Chinese manufacturer. Inside this...
Open Access Controller Guide (Axis, HID, Isonas, Mercury) on Sep 19, 2019
In the access control market, there are many software platforms, but only a few companies that make non-proprietary door controllers. Recently,...
Axis Perimeter Defender Improves, Yet Worse Than Dahua and Wyze on Sep 19, 2019
While Axis Perimeter Defender analytics improved from our 2018 testing, the market has improved much faster, with much less expensive offerings...
Directory of 68 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
Uniview Prime Series 4K Camera Tested on Sep 18, 2019
Is the new Uniview 'Prime' better than the more expensive existing Uniview 'Pro'? In August, IPVM tested Uniview 4K 'Pro' but members advocated...
US Army Base To Buy Banned Honeywell Surveillance on Sep 17, 2019
The U.S. Army's Fort Gordon, home to their Cyber Center of Excellence, has issued a solicitation to purchase Honeywell products that are US...
Vivotek "Neural Network-Powered Detection Engine" Analytics Tested on Sep 17, 2019
Vivotek has released "a neural network-powered detection engine", named Smart Motion Detection, claiming that "swaying vegetation, vehicles passing...
Schmode is Back, Aims To Turn Boulder AI Into Giant on Sep 16, 2019
One of the most influential and controversial executives in the past decade is back. Bryan Schmode ascended and drove the hypergrowth of Avigilon...
Manufacturers Unhappy With Weak ASIS GSX 2019 And 2020 Shift on Sep 16, 2019
Manufacturers were generally unhappy with ASIS GSX, both for weak 2019 booth traffic and a scheduling shift for the 2020 show, according to a new...