With the age of mobile devices fully upon us and every office, home and public establishment now offering Internet access, stable connectivity with high performance is vital in order to keep up with demand in 2016. The latest IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi Access Points with data rates exceeding 6Gb/s in the 5 GHz frequency spectrum could be the answer, but the cabling connecting these new generations of access points has to catch up to these advancements. The next revision of cabling standards, the TIA 568-C.2-1 and ISO/IEC 11801 will recommend that two category 6A/class EA cables be run to each access point, supporting up to 20Gb/s of bandwidth.
Power over Ethernet (PoE)
This year, we’re seeing more devices using efficient and cost-effective Power over Ethernet (PoE) to eliminate the need for electrical circuits for powering remote devices such as IP CCTV cameras, wireless access points, digital signage and more. PoE standards are evolving to meet the increased power demands of new types of remotely powered devices. The original IEEE 802.3af (PoE) and 802.3at (PoE+) standards supplied up to 12.95 and 25.5 watts of power respectively using two pairs within the cable. IEEE 802.3bt (PoE++/HPoE) will increase the available power to 51 watts by using all four pairs, allowing larger devices to be remotely powered. The effect on cabling is that higher categories of cabling (Cat 6A/Class EA or better) need to be installed. Not necessarily to support more bandwidth, but their larger conductors allow more power to be sent with less loss to internal resistance.
Decrease the Heat of Data Cables
It seems obvious, but the less heat your cables create the better. In January that might not be as much of a concern, but come summer, it's time to take this seriously. Data transmission performance is greatly affected by cable heating and technicians are advised to opt for shielded cables and cable with larger conductors, particularly when used with 4-pair PoE. The larger 22 AWG conductors found in Cat6A/Class EA cables have reduced DC resistance resulting in less heat generation from the cable. In addition, the number of cables in a bundle should be reduced to prevent overheating. Standards specify cable performance at up to 60°C and temperatures in excess of 60°C can increase signal loss of the cabling. The TIA is preparing to publish a new technical service bulletin (TSB-184) that provides installers with guidelines for cabling design considerations to support high power PoE applications.
New Life into Old Data Cabling
The large installed base of Cat 5E and Cat 6 cabling is limited to a bandwidth of 1Gb/s which may not meet the performance needs of many organizations. The traditional option has been expensive and messy upgrades to remove aging cabling and replace it with the current top-of-the-line solutions. However, there will soon be another option that extends the life of old cabling. The NBASE-T consortium is developing a new Ethernet standard that will be released as IEEE 802.3bz, known as “Multi-Gig”. Networks owners can choose to upgrade their network with Multi-Gig Ethernet switches that will automatically increase the bandwidth the existing cabling system will support. It is expected that Cat 5E cabling will support up to 2.5Gb/s and Cat 6 cabling will support up to 5Gb/s, providing up to 5x more bandwidth by simply upgrading the network equipment; a much quicker, cleaner and less disruptive task than replacing cabling.