As the global population continues to increase and individuals migrate and settle in urbanized areas, information technology (IT) networks are under immense pressure to handle a massive influx of data, support a plethora of connected devices, and facilitate automation—all while striving to minimize their environmental footprint. Compounding this challenge is the scarcity of skilled technicians who possess the expertise to install and manage the expanding and converging building networks.
The market research firm IoT Analytics predicts that the number of active Internet of Things (IoT) devices will grow from 9.9 billion in 2019 to 21.5 billion in 2025. While non-IoT device connections will also continue to increase, IoT devices will be about two-thirds of the connections by 2025.
A significant portion of these connections will be situated within buildings, where they will play a crucial role in supporting various functions, including building automation systems and artificial intelligence (AI)–driven manufacturing processes. As a result, their presence will exert profound effects on numerous operational aspects, such as energy consumption, worker productivity, operational efficiency, process optimization, and the urgent matter of addressing the climate crisis.
Amid this dynamic landscape, chief technology officers (CTOs) and building network managers find themselves compelled to explore alternative solutions beyond the conventional LAN/IP architectures. They now seek innovative edge-based infrastructure designs that can seamlessly accommodate the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connectivity, which have become hallmarks of today’s hyperconnected buildings.
Let’s look at the limitations of today’s LAN/IP cabling infrastructure and how CommScope’s Constellation, an innovative and advanced wireless network solution, will meet the growing connectivity demands in today’s digital age.
Challenges with Today’s Traditional Networks
While we’ve gotten used to having a telecommunications room on every floor, connecting our traditional Ethernet networks, there are limitations and constraints that prevent building managers and IT groups from adopting next-generation technologies.
Ethernet: Stable, But Limited
In the realm of networking, traditional LAN/IP cabling architecture, also known as Ethernet, has a maximum segment length of 100 meters. This limitation arises due to signal degradation and attenuation experienced by copper-based Ethernet cables over distance. However, network planners have several options to overcome this constraint. By employing networking devices like switches or repeaters, signals can be regenerated and amplified to extend network reach. Alternatively, advancements in technology offer solutions such as fiber optic cables that transmit data over longer distances with minimal signal loss. Additionally, Ethernet over Powerline and wireless networking present viable alternatives to surpass the 100-meter limitation, enabling flexible and scalable network deployments. Understanding and utilizing these approaches empowers network administrators to design and deploy networks that ensure seamless connectivity and optimal performance.
Traditional LAN/IP Cabling Architecture is Bandwidth-Limited
Traditional LAN/IP cabling infrastructure, while reliable, has certain limitations that should be considered. The maximum distance of 100 meters for copper-based Ethernet cables restricts network reach and requires additional measures for extended coverage. Bandwidth constraints may hinder the support of high-demand applications, such as video conferencing.
The lack of flexibility and scalability in modifying or expanding the infrastructure can be challenging and costly. Susceptibility to interference, maintenance complexities, and compatibility issues with emerging technologies further add to the limitations. To overcome these constraints, organizations can explore alternative solutions, like fiber optics, wireless networking solutions, or newer Ethernet standards, enabling them to build more adaptable and future-proof network environments.
Low Power Limitations Create Their Own Challenges
Low power in traditional LAN/IP cabling architecture poses a challenge. Ethernet cables commonly used in this setup typically carry limited power, which can present obstacles in certain applications. Imagine a scenario where power-hungry devices demand more juice directly from the cabling system. Here’s where the limitation surfaces. Although Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology comes to the rescue by providing some power to compatible devices like IP phones or wireless access points, it falls short when it comes to higher power requirements. This means that additional power sources or alternative delivery methods must step in, injecting complexity into the network setup. As a result, the deployment and scalability of power-dependent devices may encounter roadblocks, demanding meticulous planning and consideration of power needs in network designs.
Telecom Rooms: Centralized Connectivity, but at a Cost
We’ve become used to having a dedicated telecommunications room or space at each floor level of a building. These rooms serve as central hubs for network connectivity, housing essential networking equipment and cabling infrastructure.
While having a TR on every floor provides several advantages, it is important to acknowledge the associated limitations. Having one on each floor brings forth certain challenges that must be taken into account:
- Limited space in buildings can make the allocation of dedicated areas for TRs problematic, potentially impacting the overall floor space and design.
- There are also costs associated with setting up and maintaining multiple TRs, as they require networking equipment, cabling, power supply, and ongoing maintenance.
- The management of a network infrastructure with numerous TRs introduces complexities in terms of coordination, documentation, and monitoring.
- Each TR necessitates provisioning, cabling, and individual equipment setup, leading to increased deployment and maintenance efforts.
- As buildings expand or adopt new technologies, scalability challenges may arise, requiring careful management as the number of TRs grows.
- Ensuring reliable inter-floor connectivity becomes vital to enable seamless communication between rooms, calling for meticulous planning and implementation of vertical cabling infrastructure.
Evaluating these limitations in relation to project requirements can guide the selection of alternative network design approaches.
Class 4 Power: More Power with Less Copper
Exciting possibilities arise with the introduction of Class 4 Power, enabling the efficient powering of a greater number of network devices and facilitating the optimization of edge access architectures.
The Class 4 Power Code sets forth guidelines and regulations governing the safe and efficient use of Class 4 power transmission technology. This code outlines the specific requirements and standards for installing and utilizing Class 4 power systems. It addresses aspects such as power transmission capacity, wiring specifications, safety measures, and installation procedures. By following the Class 4 Power Code, individuals and organizations can ensure compliance with industry standards, promote safety, and maximize the benefits of Class 4 power technology in various applications.
Class 4 Power stands out by efficiently transmitting more power (up to 450 volts) while using less copper (and less risk of shock and fire ) compared to conventional powering technologies. Furthermore, the new code eliminates the need for electrical circuit installation and conduit, resulting in substantial reductions in materials and labor required for projects. Our primary goal is to empower our partners and customers to leverage the advantages of Class 4 design and installation applications.
CommScope Constellation: A New Class of Advanced Wireless Solutions
NCS selected CommScope’s Constellation product for its ability to meet the growing connectivity demands of today’s digital age. Constellation is a cloud-based, multi-access platform that enables network operators to manage and optimize their wireless networks efficiently.
The Constellation platform provides comprehensive tools and features that empower network operators to deliver enhanced performance, scalability, and flexibility. It leverages cutting-edge technologies such as virtualization, network function virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN) to create a dynamic and intelligent network environment.
With Constellation, network operators can automate network functions, streamline operations, and reduce costs. The platform offers centralized management and control, allowing operators to quickly deploy, monitor, and configure their network infrastructure from a single interface. It also enables provisioning services on-demand, optimizing network resources, and ensuring efficient utilization.
The solution supports several wireless technologies, including 4G LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi, and small cells. It provides seamless connectivity and handoff across different access points, ensuring a smooth user experience and uninterrupted connectivity as users move within the network coverage area.
Furthermore, Constellation offers advanced analytics and insights, allowing operators to gain valuable intelligence about network performance, user behavior, and capacity planning. This data-driven approach enables network operators to make informed decisions, optimize network resources, and proactively address network issues.
Here’s How to Learn More
While this article talked about the limitations and exciting new possibilities of the CommScope Constellation solution, forward-looking wireless network solutions are complex and require specialized expertise.
The NCS team has been trained to empower operators to build and manage highly efficient, scalable, and intelligent wireless networks. Contact our team to learn more about how NCS can help you plan for the future of your infrastructure.