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Utilizing Outdoor PoE Switches for Long-distance Applications

High temperatures, water splashes, lightning strikes, etc., are the problems faced by all engineers when installing PoE devices outdoors. To power network devices that are installed in a harsh environment, an additional level of caution and protection is required. Normally, the installer will often take advantage of Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology to supply power via the network cable to the powered devices in remote locations to save extra labor costs of installation, but not all PoE switches are designed for outdoor deployments. And like other PoE solutions, these PoE switches only support a maximum distance of 100 meters. So how do we create a highly reliable outdoor network connection at long distances?

In this blog, we will address the challenge of installing IP devices in an outdoor environment and explore different extension methods to leverage the benefits of PoE technology in long-range network setups.

The Best Solution for Deploying Outdoor IP Devices

When deploying IP devices in outdoor scenarios, various issues can arise, from dealing with the large distances between the control center and the powered devices or extreme weathers such as rain, snow and lightning strikes. Further, problems like power supplies, network connectivity need to be solved. Therefore, the outdoor PoE switch is developed to become the ideal solution for such demands. It’s an all-in-one outdoor solution for both power and data delivery to tackle the problem of installing IP network devices in hard-to-reach areas. The outdoor PoE switch often comes with a waterproof enclosure and is available in Din-Rail and wall-mounting options to simplify the installation in any environment. It’s put to the test under the harshest outdoor environments to meet the industrial standards for operation even in applications that require the highest level of reliability like IP surveillance networks.

Outdoor network devices can reap substantial benefits from the outdoor PoE switch.

The outdoor PoE switch eliminates the expensive and time-consuming installations of AC outlets, especially in outdoor environments. It also ensures high reliability by providing a centralized power source, which makes it easier to monitor each connected unit and troubleshoot the problems. Most outdoor PoE switches are equipped with a hardened enclosure of IP65 or a higher level of protection rating to survive extreme weather conditions, shocks and vibration, corrosive elements, etc. Some models are built with surge protection to prevent lightning strikes, unstable power input and electrical surges in changeable outdoor environments. With a rugged design, the outdoor PoE switch provides a safe and stable network connection and an uninterruptible power source to ensure the continuous operation of PoE devices. And all PoE solutions come with a plug-and-play simple design, to allow you to connect and disconnect the device in outdoor environments.

How to Deploy Outdoor PoE Switches at Long Distances

Although PoE solutions save considerable amounts of installation costs and time by sending power and data via the same network cable, they are all restricted by the Ethernet limit. In all PoE switches, we can only deliver power and data within a limit of around 100 meters to the powered device. In this section, we’ll introduce two methods to extend PoE in a more budget-friendly way: 1) using an Outdoor PoE Passthrough Switch; 2) using fiber optic technology.

Overcome the 100-meter Limit with a PoE Passthrough Switch

To overcome the geographical limit of Ethernet, you can take advantage of an outdoor PoE passthrough switch to repeat the PoE signals for another 100 meters to extend the deployment distance of up 200 meters to install IP devices in remote places where there is no power or network present. The PoE passthrough switch can operate as both a powered device (PD) and a power sourcing equipment (PSE), which means that the switch itself can be powered by a PSE while simultaneously providing power to other PDs such as wireless access points and VoIP phones. Since the passthrough switch has the passthrough features built in it, it can be installed in any place with no additional power cabling.

Fastcabling has launched an outdoor PoE passthrough switch (IP67-rated) that is compliant with the IEEE802.3at standard, backward compatible with legacy network devices. It features a 1Gbps PoE passthrough port and 7*10/100/1000 Mbps PoE outputs to secure fast-speed data networking. This outdoor PoE passthrough switch supports a wide operating temperature (-25°C~60 °C) and 6kV surge protection to perform safely and reliably outdoors. It’s also built with a fanless cooling design for deployments in harsh environments. This outdoor PoE passthrough switch normally works with a 95W PoE injector, featuring a total power budget of 95W (30W max. at each port) to help you install power-hungry devices remotely.

Leverage the Benefits of Fiber Optic Cabling in PoE Solutions

Another approach to extend PoE in outdoor environments is to incorporate the fiber optic network into the PoE system. The fiber optic cable allows you to transmit the data up to 80 kilometers at 2/3 the speed of light with an increased network speed and bandwidth. It is lightweight and weatherproof (inherently built with high IP ratings) to be flexibly installed in different scenarios, i.e. under the sea or buried under the ground. The fiber cable is immune to EMI because they don’t conduct electricity over the long cable runs. To deploy fiber optic cables in long-distance PoE applications, you’ll need a fiber media converter, a pair of SFP modules, an outdoor PoE switch with SFP interfaces, most importantly the fiber optic cables.

The fiber media converter is a supplementary network device used to repurpose the existing network infrastructure and create a connection between dissimilar media types, i.e. fiber optic cables and Ethernet cables. The media converters often work with an SFP module for copper-to-fiber conversion. The SFP module is a modular transceiver that plugs into the SFP port on the converter to facilitate the media conversion. The SFP modules are mainly classified based on their speed capabilities. The transmission speed of most SFP modules is 1 Gigabit, but the newer versions such as SPF+ have a higher speed of transmission, from 10 to 25 Gigabit, to support high-speed network communication with compatible media converters.

To use the fiber optic cables in the copper-based network system, you’ll need an outdoor PoE switch that is equipped with SFP interfaces where you can insert the SFP module to convert the optical signals back to the electrical signals. Fastcabling’s outdoor PoE switch with SFP is a powerful network device to utilize fiber optic cabling in long-distance network applications. It is housed in an IP67-rated metal enclosure, has a 1Gbps Ethernet port, a 1Gbps SFP slot, 4*10/100/1000Mbps PoE ports and supports a maximum power output of 32W per port (75W in total). It features 6kv surge protection and a wide operating temperature of -40°C~60 °C, ideal for outdoor use. And this outdoor PoE switch is built with an internal power bank and is able to work with various kinds of external power supplies like AC 100-240V, solar power, etc., to guarantee the continued operation of the outdoor PoE switch and connected devices at greater distances. It’s ideal for installing IP devices in places in lack of existing network facilities, cutting off the money and time building new network infrastructures.

How to connect: Insert one SFP module into the media converter and connect the converter to the router with an Ethernet cable. Plug another SFP module into the SFP lost of the outdoor PoE switch and use the per-terminated cable to connect the switch and the converter to create a fiber connection between them. Since the fiber optic cable doesn’t carry power, you’ve to use an external power source to power up the edge devices at a safe voltage range of 48V DC. For more information, please see the video below:

Things to Consider When Installing PoE for Outdoor Deployment

Surge protection: When deploying network devices outdoors, you should always take some precautions to protect your devices and appliances from power surges, especially in long-range applications. If large enough, a power surge can cause permanent damage to the PDs. So to prolong the service life of your network devices and prevent the need for costly repairs, you’ll need to install the surge protectors at both ends to regulate the flow of electricity. The surge protector makes sure your events function more reliably and protects the connected devices from damages during sudden power surges.

Cable Types: When choosing an appropriate network cable for your outdoor project, you need to remember that it has to withstand the adverse conditions of the outdoor environment. For safe operation, you should choose one that is waterproof, covered with a UV-resistant jacket designed to withstand UV exposure, snow and ice. And it’s highly recommended to use direct burial cables that can be buried under the ground with conduits. For outdoor applications, you should always go for the CMX cables that have a great tolerance for extreme temperatures, water ingress, etc., and they also block the UV light to prevent degradation in long-term use.

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