a frequent business traveler, I typically spend just as many hours working from
hotel rooms around the world as I do from my office in Dallas, Texas. And even
though I have a heavily vested interest in the cabling infrastructure market
due to my position at CommScope, when I am working from a hotel room my best
option for connectivity is typically provided over a Wi-Fi connection. The
challenging part of my expectation is that my requirements for robust
connectivity do not change based on my location. I am regularly logged in over
the corporate VPN to email, CRM and a variety of other network applications,
all while trying to participate in a video meeting over the very same
CLICK TO TWEET: CommScope's Trey Somers explains that the hospitality industry should consider Cat6 A and multi-gigabit switches to support Wi-Fi 6 technology for improved connectivity.
Similarly, much of my family and parenting time when
traveling is handled in the same fashion. Having three teen/tween kids who
prefer to interact over FaceTime, the model typically works okay assuming that my
connectivity is solid. To complete my total and complete dependence on robust internet
connectivity when I’m on the road, my downtime typically involves streaming my
favorite Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu shows on my iPad...once again over
I guess you can say that there is nothing particularly
unique about this model or the volume of content that I consume daily. I’m just
one of thousands of road warriors whose expectations and requirements for
reliable bandwidth increase each and every day.
Because of my profession, I am also a road warrior who fully understands and
appreciates that many of the hotels I stay in have invested heavily to install next
generation wireless access points (APs) to accommodate this ever-growing trend
of data consumption. In theory, these access points should enable guests and
staff to enjoy a fast and reliable connection throughout the hotel in guest
rooms, business centers, restaurants, gyms and lobbies. In fact, this feature
is no longer “nice to have” but rather a hard requirement to keep rooms
occupied with business travelers. I also realize that simply installing new APs
is not always enough to ensure a fast and reliable connection.
This is because the backend infrastructure needed to support the latest
generation of Wi-Fi APs must also be upgraded to handle bandwidth-hungry guest
devices such as AR/VR applications, 4K video streaming, wearables, tablets,
laptops and personal assistants such as Alexa and Siri. In addition to
supporting guest devices, backend infrastructure delivers critical connectivity
for evolving hotel operational technology (OT) like smart room IoT devices, CCTVs,
asset tracking, panic buttons, climate control systems, smart locks and POS
devices. Let’s explore this in more detail below.
Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 (802.11 AC) access points can support download speeds of up to 800
Mb/s and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 AX) of up to 1.6 Gb/s. To ensure an optimal performance
of those APs, the experience for guests and future growth, both versions should
be run over Category 6A cables. However, all too often this part of the
backbone is either completely ignored or installed in the cheapest way
possible. Consequently, these backbones will
often times perform far below the recommendations set by ISO/IEC and ANSI/TIA
for Category 6A to fully support Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 and above. The unfortunate truth
is that not enough people think about the real-world infrastructure ‘plumbing’
that is needed to support the massive flow of data and applications running
This brings me to my second point. The latest generation of Wi-Fi 5 Wave 2 and Wi-Fi
6 APs can also benefit from multi-gigabit switches that support the 802.3bt Power over Ethernet (PoE)
standard to its full 90 watts. Although most of these
APs operate at 30 watts, some require more power to drive the 4, 8 or 12
wireless radios to full power – and provide power for devices connected via
their USB ports. Put simply, more than 30 watts is needed to take full
advantage of certain Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 access points.
In many cases, 40-45 watts is enough for optimal AP performance. Additional
devices powered by PoE can also benefit from more than 30 watts include HD/4K
video displays, point-tilt-zoom cameras, POS systems and smart LED lighting.
Those same connections should be installed with Category 6a infrastructure.
Beyond Access Points
Looking beyond access points, there are several devices that can take advantage
of more than 60 watts of PoE at the switch. Much like Wi-Fi 6 APs operating
with only 30 watts, many devices are designed to operate with less than optimal
power – but only deliver their full capabilities when maximum power is
available. One such example is smart LED lighting. Another is a wide range of
IoT devices for office and building automation. We expect this trend to continue
in the future for next-generation IoT sensors, access points, and video, as
well as AR/VR infrastructure.
In conclusion, simply deploying new Wi-Fi 6 access points isn’t enough for
hotels to ensure an optimal guest experience.
Data consumption and PoE device proliferation will only continue to grow. To fully
support the newest generations of APs, Category 6A cabling infrastructure and
multi-gigabit switches that support the 802.3bt PoE standard to its full 90
watts should be installed as well.