The Time is Right for Category 6A in the Building
Research released reports predicting that 10GBASE-T ports will see a 10-fold
increase by 2017. We’ve all seen similar things before, but to this point we
haven’t seen these predictions always come to fruition. So what might make
things different this time?
Until now, the real value proposition for 10GBASE-T has been
in the data center where bandwidth requirements can create the need for a Category 6A cabling
infrastructure. The building, however, has been a different story. For the most
part, Category 6 has been sufficient to meet the needs of cabling to the desk
as well as other building connectivity. Category 6A as a future-proofing
solution has been a good strategy for some, but others have been leery to move
this way until applications require it. If applications are what we’ve been
waiting on, we’ve finally reached the tipping point for 6A in the building.
The first application may seem a bit counter-intuitive to
talk about in the context of a cabling provider, but indoor wireless networking—including
Wi-Fi—is something to keep
your eye on. Wireless technology continues to improve and the devices
connecting to a typical Wi-Fi network have grown exponentially over the past
few years. The expectation is this trend will continue moving forward and our
customers need to be in a position to support this. It is important to note
that, even with advances in technology, Wi-Fi is not expected to replace wired technologies. The two are expected to be complementary
technologies moving forward for the foreseeable future.
What does this matter from a cabling perspective? With the
release of 802.11ac, we have achieved the first Wi-Fi technology that can
exceed 1Gb bandwidths. As the market matures and access point vendors add 10G physical
layers to their offerings, customers with Category 6 or 5e cable in the ceiling
may not be in a position to support everything 802.11ac has to offer. And
that’s just taking 802.11ac into account. The next generation of Wi-Fi technology
is already in the pipeline.
Also in wireless, indoor wireless infrastructure
specifically for cellular coverage in enterprise buildings is another
application that will help feed the need for Cat 6A. Next generation indoor
systems, such as CommScope’s recently announced ION-E unified wireless
infrastructure platform currently available only for select customer trials in
Europe will utilize Cat 6A structured cabling in providing multi-technology,
multi-frequency, multi-operator coverage.
Another technology that is taking off in the building is Power over Ethernet
(PoE). The number of devices powered by PoE continues to grow, whereas it used
to be confined mostly to phones and security cameras. PoE has expanded to
include LCD screens, access points, and even some desktop computers. LED
lighting is another application that can utilize a low voltage infrastructure
and this is underscored by our offerings from Redwood.
To satisfy the need for more and more devices, the PoE standards are being
updated to provide more power. The latest standard under development is the
4-pair PoE standard, 802.3bt. This standard will allow all four pairs to be
used for power delivery instead of just two. Contributions to IEEE 802.3bt show
Category 6A cables having a lower temperature increase compared to Category 5e
and Category 6. This better performance will provide users with additional
flexibility including larger bundle sizes, closed installation conditions and
higher ambient temperature.
In addition to Wi-Fi and PoE technologies, some vertical
specific cabling standards also recommend Category 6A. The TIA-1179
standard provides recommendations around cabling for healthcare facilities.
This standard recommends Category 6A for all green-field installations and even
goes as far as recommending the number of physical drops per work area. Likewise,
another standard set for release in the coming weeks is the TIA-4496 standard
specifying cabling for educational facilities, which will also recommend Category
6A cabling. Whether it is an application such as Wi-Fi or PoE, or a targeted
vertical such as healthcare or education, Category 6A is moving beyond its
original data center application and into the building.
For both Wi-Fi and PoE applications, CommScope recently
released white papers providing an overview of the technologies and our
recommendations around cabling to support them. You can download both papers by
clicking on the links in the top right-hand section under “Related Sources” of
the CommScope Enterprise
About the Author
Jason Reasor is a Senior Product Line Manager at CommScope, focusing on Enterprise Copper Solutions. Previously, Jason was a Product Manager with responsibility for strategic healthcare solutions. Prior to joining CommScope, Jason spent 12 years with Hewlett-Packard and Tango Networks in various Product Management, Sales Engineering, R&D Management and R&D Development positions. Jason holds a BS in Computer Engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from The University of Texas at Dallas.