PoE Gives You
Power Over the Ethernet VoIP and remote cameras are
only two applications that benefit by converging power and signal
on a single wire.
By: John Shepler
"Power to the Ethernet." It's a rallying
cry for network managers and technicians. Well, at least it's
an enhanced technical standard designed to save money and simplify
installations for network connected devices. That makes it well
worth knowing about.
Power over Ethernet, abbreviated PoE, is
a way to provide electrical power as well as digital signals
on a single Ethernet cable. You know that PCs, servers, routers
and switches all have AC power plugs as well as RJ45 Ethernet
jacks. They still will. There's not THAT much power you can send
on a network cable. But for devices needing only a few watts
to operate, it's a great solution.
Power over networks is not really a new
idea. It has been used by the telephone companies since the days
of "number, please." Before the advent of multi-function
wireless digital spread spectrum speaker phone answering machines,
there was the generic black desk set. It weighed a ton but it
always worked, power or no power. That's because the phone company
maintains a room full of lead acid batteries that powers all
the phones that are off-hook. The same pair of copper wires that
carries the two way voice signal also provides 48 volt power
to the set.
You know how they say "everything
old is new again?" That hundred year old idea of providing
power and signal on one cable is looking pretty good in the digital
age. The impetus is a move to VoIP, where telephones are being
plugged into data networks. But now there's an extra piece. The
sophisticated electronics in the phone sets need power and with
standard Ethernet connections there is none available. You have
to add one of those power bricks to every phone.
PoE takes us back to the days when you
could just plug a phone cord into a wall jack and not worry about
making sure there is AC power nearby. Curiously, the standard
is 48 volts that mimics what the phone company supplies. You
get about 13 watts to use as you wish, although there are devices
called high power midspans that can provide up to 39.5 watts
for more power hungry devices.
VoIP phones are not the only uses for Power
Over Ethernet. Any remote device, such as a security camera,
badge reader, wireless hotspot or access point, remotely located
networking equipment, or other device inconveniently located
can benefit. PoE saves you the trouble of running extra AC or
DC power lines and makes it easy to turn the device on and off
or reset it remotely. Battery backup is conveniently provided
from a single central location just like the telco central office.
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