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Installation Guide for Outdoor Access Points

Outdoor access points are a great way to extend your wireless network to a farther distance. You can save a lot on installing new infrastructures and running new cables. For outdoor deployments, an access point that is fully against dust and water ingress is needed. To survive the harsh environment outdoors, the access points must support an IP rating of IP65 or more, or irreversible damages might arouse due to water penetration. And considering that not all devices are developed equally to handle the extreme temperatures well, make sure the access point you choose can operate under a vast temperature range.

Installing the outdoor access points isn’t really that hard, but still, there are a few things you must take into consideration. Like the indoor access points, you’ve to map out the position of every access point and figure out how far each of them can reach. A carefully designed network plan is essential to make sure every access point can operate at its full throughput. This article will explore the insights and options that help you install your access points outside, but before we start, let’s have a look at the challenges you may encounter in outdoor deployments.

Top 3 Problems When Deploying Access Points Outdoors

Installing outdoor access points is not that challenging, but it’s not without its difficulties. Here, we’ve summarized the most common problems in outdoor access point installation.

1)no power source available: One of the biggest challenges in outdoor deployments is the power supply. When considering installing an outdoor access point, it’s easy to overlook that even the wireless access point will also require a constant and reliable power source for it to function effectively and to ensure the ongoing functionality of your network. But the fact is that power sources won’t necessarily be present on the job site, especially when you want to extend your wireless network to hard-to-reach areas (places with no power supply, and even no Internet access). It’s unfortunately not possible that your access point can operate without a steady power connection, but installing new electrical infrastructures generally costs more (it’ll cost you at least $185 to install a new AC outlet). Deploying a battery-powered access point seems to be the ‘only’ option for the no power issue, but the AP will suddenly shut down when it runs out of power.

2) Unexpected light strikes: Lightning is a serious concern when deploying network devices outdoors. Although only in very few cases will the outdoor access points get directly hit by lightning, the power surges induced from a nearby lightning strike will also damage the devices. Even though lightning surges are not common and are largely environmentally impacted, the increased network downtime will cause you to lose important data, and in severe cases, it’ll also give rise to fire accidents. Even the access points that are installed in sheltered spaces won’t be completely safe since electromagnetic waves induced from the lightning can still travel to the data lines and damage the connected devices.

3) Repeated Water Ingress: Water ingress is another problem when deploying access points outside. Rain can be extremely harmful to your network system when moisture gets into the connection between the access point and Ethernet cable through the conductor. But the problem is many access points are not designed to survive such inclement weather, so additional protection is highly required to make sure the AP works properly. An improperly installed access point, however, can lead to unexpected network failures, which is extremely devastating for mission-critical applications. Moreover, the moisture will also deteriorate the cable and device over time.

Ultimate Guide for Outdoor AP Planning and Installation

Now that you’ve understood the challenges you have to deal with in outdoor deployments, it’s time to move on to the next step.

1) Estimate the Required Coverage Areas and Bandwidth Needs

The foremost and most important thing to consider in your network design is to identify the required coverage areas and the bandwidth needs for outdoor deployments. At the very beginning, you’ve to decide where you need to cover because not all access points are made equally. Some can cover a larger area of up to 2000 square feet while others can only cover a limited area of merely 300 square feet, so it’s crucial that you choose one unit that matches your coverage needs. Moreover, when building a wireless network, it is essential to detect and accurately calculate how much bandwidth you need to maintain a functional network since each type of deployment location has its own bandwidth limits, which means there’s a constraint in every network that determines how much data can flow through at a time. Bandwidth needs could vary from one network to another. Some devices require more bandwidth than others, so to make sure each device can function properly, greater bandwidth is required. So before you deploy the access point directly onto your network, you must figure out how many devices will be connected.

2) Identify the Mounting Locations for Outdoor APs

The mounting options and locations somehow have a great impact on what the final design will be and determine whether it could meet the required coverage areas. There are basically four options in outdoor AP installation: wall mounting, pole mounting, corner mounting and roof mounting. Wall mounting is one of the most common and fastest methods to install the access points to the outside wall, but multiple holes need to be drilled to let the Ethernet cables pass through and to secure the mounting brackets of the APs. But it should be aware that walls can be a physical obstacle to the wireless signal which will sufficiently attenuate the RF and compromise the transmission. So when mounting the access points on a vertical surface, you should position the antennas in different directions (make the AP emulate a 180° antenna pattern) to mitigate the interference and avoid using an access point with internal antennas. Pole mounting is a good option when installing the APs away from the buildings, which is more common in a wireless mesh system where no cables need to be pulled to each location. It’s ideal for providing a 360° overall coverage for your premises, but if the access point is mounted too close to the pole, the RF will be severely attenuated. If you have an omnidirectional AP, mounting it at a corner effectively allows for a 270° coverage to cover two sides of the wall. To mount the AP on an outside corner, you’ll need a galvanized corner bracket. But a corner-mounted AP will project the signals in more directions, cover more space and pick up more interference. Roof mounting is a viable option if you want to project the RF to another building to secure a clear line of sight between two constructions. In most cases, non-penetrating roof mounts are used to install the APs on the roof surface without damaging the roof structure. Therefore, depending on what type of APs you choose and how much coverage you want, you can should the best possible mounting options accordingly.

3) Choose the Best Practices for Your Outdoor APs

Here, we’ve prepared 3 solutions to help you install the outdoor APs in the quickest way.

#Solution 1: Using the Wireless Mesh System

A mesh system is a great option for people who want to cure multiple Wi-Fi dead zones in and outside their home and create a larger Wi-Fi throughout your house and even into your garden. Wireless coverage can also be extended by adding additional wireless APs, which makes future network expansion ultra user-friendly even in outdoor deployments. And since the signals can be transmitted wirelessly from the mesh router to the satellite nodes, you won’t bother to wire long runs of data lines over greater distances.

Components You’ll Need:

1) a modem and a mesh router

2) wireless access points

3) some Ethernet cables (optional)

4) power adapters or PoE injectors

Mesh System: Mesh Router & Wireless APs

The mesh system is an integrated network system that consists of the main router that directly connects to your modem and two or three mesh nodes that act as satellites to bring seamless connectivity to every corner. The mesh router is the backbone of the mesh system to transfer packets to and from the mesh nodes (clients) and establish communication between these clients. Unlike the traditional WiFi routers, they all belong to a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, so you can easily access one of these wireless stations wherever you are. It provides a wider coverage with less cost than the wired network. The mesh WiFi system is designed for places that suffer weak or incomplete WiFi coverage to repeat and boost up the signals during the transmission.

Installation Process

First, you’ve to find a good spot for your access points since solid obstructions like walls and doors can impede the WiFi signals, so the more obstructions you have between your access points and router, the weaker the signal will be. A clear line of sight between the router and access points is essential to ensure optimal coverage and minimize interference levels. And remember whether you’re using a wired or wireless access point, you’d better locate it near a power source so you won’t bother to install a new AC outlet, but if the device only supports a PoE connection, then you can power it by a PoE injector where power and data can be sent to the AP simultaneously through the same network cable. The installation process of each mesh system may differ, but they all follow the general procedures: 1) connect the mesh router to the modem with an Ethernet cable and power both of them; 2) download the app on your phone and log into your account; 3) enter the serial number of the mesh router; 4) add the wireless APs to your network one at a time; 5) After the connection is complete, go to each location to test if each wireless AP is successfully connected. If your APs also support a wired LAN, you can connect them together to form a ‘wired Ethernet backhaul’.

Recommended Product: 30W Outdoor Industrial Waterproof PoE Injector

This PoE injector is compliant with the IEEE802.3af/at, featuring a maximum power supply of up to 30W to help you set up power-hungry devices like high-performance wireless access points in hard-to-reach areas. It supports a wide input voltage range of DC 24~56V, and the inner regulator will boost up the power to the regulated DC 54V, which reduces the chances of voltage drop in long-distance applications. This PoE injector comes with a rugged metal enclosure (IP67 waterproof) to protect the device from malfunctioning on rainy or snowy days. It also features a vast operating temperature range from –40°C to 75°C to survive the extreme temperatures in a changeable outdoor environment.

#Solution 2: Taking Advantage of Outdoor PoE

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a cost-effective way to transmit power and data via a single Ethernet cable to the powered device (PD) at a maximum distance of 100 meters. It provides a more reliable power supply from a centralized point rather than a collection of distributed power outlets. Due to its inherent advantage, less cabling is needed for network deployment and therefore eliminates additional electrical wiring and cuts down the installation costs. PoE is widely used in hard-to-reach places, like parking lots, ceilings, etc.

Components You’ll Need:

1) a router or a network switch

2) an outdoor PoE switch (or the 2-Port Waterproof PoE Extender)

3) wired access points

4) Ethernet cables (optional)

Outdoor PoE Switch

The outdoor PoE switch is a network switch that is specially designed for use in outdoor or harsh environments (normally IP65 or above). It’s an all-in-one outdoor solution to transmit both power and data to the PDs installed outdoors to eliminate the need for installing new AC outlets in remote places. It’s manufactured and tested to the industrial standards to work in applications that require the highest level of reliability like surveillance camera systems. It provides a safe and stable network connection and an uninterruptible power source to ensure the continuous operation of PoE devices. And Fastcabling also developed a PoE Passthrough Switch that allows the switch itself and the connected PoE devices to receive PoE power over the existing network cable from an upstream PoE switch. It can be installed in any imaginable location without the constraints of a power outlet (within the range of 100 meters).

Recommended Product: Outdoor Waterproof PoE Pass Through Switch

This outdoor PoE passthrough switch (IP67-rated) can operate as both a powered device (PD) and a power sourcing equipment (PSE) to receive the power from another PoE switch and deliver the power to the PDs. It is compliant with the IEEE802.3at standard, and backward compatible with legacy Type 1 and Type 2. It features a single PoE input and 7 PoE outputs with a total power budget of 95W (30W max. at each PoE port). This 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.

Installation Process

PoE is basically plug-and-play, with no complicated software configuration involved. Follow the instructions here to complete the connection: 1) Use an Ethernet cable to connect one of the LAN ports on the router to the uplink port on a high-power PoE switch; 2) Plug the PoE switch into a nearby power outlet; 3) take another Ethernet cable to connect one of the PoE ports on the switch to the ‘PoE passthrough’ port on the outdoor PoE passthrough switch; 4) connect the passthrough switch with the outdoor APs.

Other Recommendations

1) Choose CMX cables for outdoor installations

The CMX cable is a type of Ethernet cable that has an outdoor-rated Polyethylene jacket. The double layers of jackets help strengthen the tensile of the outdoor cable and give it the ability to be buried or trenched directly under the ground. The CMX cable shows great tolerance for extreme temperatures, water ingress, etc., and it can also prevent degradation due to UV light. Even though the double-layered CMX cable doesn’t have water blocking tape and gel filling, it can deliver optimal signal transmission performance in outdoor deployments.

2) Use the 2-port waterproof PoE extender for small-scale network applications

If you only need to install 1 or 2 access points outdoors, we highly recommend you to use the 2-port waterproof PoE extender to extend your wireless network remotely at a distance of up to 200 meters in an outdoor environment. Since this device is equipped with 2 PoE output ports (30W & 60W respectively), you can set up two outdoor access points at a time. But in outdoor deployments there’s always a chance of water ingress, so you should fasten the metal glands of the extender on both sides tightly with a 27mm wrench to avoid water damage.

#Solution 3: Deploying Fiber Optic Cables over Long Distances

One of the biggest advantages of using fiber optic cables is that you can easily extend your network miles away to overcome the geographic limit of PoE technology (up to 60-80km without severe attenuation). The fiber optic cables can support a high-speed data transmission rate of up to 10Gbps. And they’re totally immune to lightning strikes and power surges since the fiber cables are mainly made of plastic or glass where only data can pass through. And they are also immune to crosstalk, EMI interference, network congestion, and bad weather.

Components You’ll Need:

1) a router and a fiber switch

2) media converters and SFP modules

4) fiber optic cables and Ethernet cables

5) wired access points

6) power cables (or a solar power panel)

Fiber Optic System

To manage multiple access points at a time, you’ll need a fiber optic switch to realize data management from a centralized point. The fiber optic switch can eliminate congestion to the minimum in the signal transmission. And it is often used with SFP modules and fiber media converters since the number of PoE devices that support an optical SFP interface is quite limited and most access points can only accept the digital/electrical signals. The fiber media converters are often used to bridge the connection between dissimilar devices (mostly fiber-to-copper) by converting the optical signals into electrical signals and vice versa. And the fiber media converter usually works with the SFP module for media conversion. The SFP module is a small modular transceiver that plugs into the SFP port on a fiber switch or media converter to complete seamless conversion between optical and electrical signals. Unlike the Ethernet cables that often come with a pre-installed connector, the fiber optic cables are not necessarily pre-terminated, so you’d better choose the pre-terminated fiber cables to speed up the installation process on the job site and to deliver a better network performance outdoors.

Installation Process

Like the PoE technology, the fiber optic network is also very easy to manage: 1) use a short Ethernet cable to connect the router and the fiber switch; power the fiber switch with the AC power; 3) Insert one SFP module into the SFP slot on the fiber switch and plug another into the fiber media converter; 4) take a pre-terminated fiber optic cable to connect the two SFP modules; 5) use another Ethernet cable to connect the media converter and the outdoor AP.

How to Power the Outdoor APs?

Since the fiber optic cables can only transmit data over the long cable runs, to install the outdoor APs in places where there’s no power source available, you can either run another power cable to the installation site or power the APs with the solar power.

Method 1: Sending Power in Parallel

The traditional method to deliver power in a fiber-based network system is to run a power cable in parallel with a fiber optic cable to transmit power and data simultaneously to the access point when the distance is no more than 2km. But it should be aware that the fiber and power cable cannot be laid in the same conduit since high voltage electrical cables can and will induce currents in conventional fiber cable sheaths which can cause them to break down prematurely. It’s always better to run a separate communications conduit instead. It is an ideal solution for applications in far-of-reach areas without existing electrical infrastructures.

Method 2: Using the Solar Power System

The solar power system is a to power outdoor APs in remote places like parking lots and ranches, but it undoubtedly costs more. The basic components you need to set up a solar power system are a solar panel, a solar charge controller, a rechargeable battery and some proper power cables. You should place the solar panel in a location where it will not be in shade for shading of even a small part of the panel can result in low power generation. And you’ll need to install a solar charge controller to control the amount of charge coming in and out of the battery and make sure the battery you use has a large storage capacity. The setup is pretty straightforward when you’re using our 10A Solar Charge Controller. First, set up the panel on the roof and use a power cord to connect the solar panel to the controller. Use another power cord to connect the battery to the controller. Finally, connect the edge device to the controller, and then the whole system is completed.

4) Install the PoE Surge Protectors for Lightning Protection

The best way to protect your network system from power surges is to use a surge protector to regulate abnormal electrical currents and mitigate over-voltages. It can promptly recognize abnormal rises in surges and redirect the extra currents to the grounding wire to protect your outdoor devices. Now, follow the instructions below to complete the setup:

1. Installing the surge protectors

To set up a hazard-free communication and power line, you’re supposed to install the surge protectors on both ends of one complete cable run. Here, we highly recommend you consider trying Fastcabling’s Waterproof Outdoor PoE Surge Protector to secure a safe and reliable network set up outside. Protected in an IP68-rated rugged metal housing, this PoE surge protector is direct-burial, featuring 16kV high surge protection and a wide working temperature of -40℃to 85℃. Compliant with IEEE 802.3af/at standard, this surge protector can work collaboratively with standard PoE devices. It supports both wall and pole-mounting options, which offers greater flexibility for outdoor applications.

2. Setting up the grounding

Grounding the surge protector is extremely important, otherwise, the surge protector will not work. The grounding system aims to distribute and discharge the captured currents and surges to the ground. To ground your surge protector, a grounding wire is needed. Normally, the thick the wire, the better the performance will be (a 10 or 12-gauge copper wire will be enough). Attach the grounding wire to the ground connector of the surge protectors, use a set of pliers to crimp the wire on the connector firmly, and attach the other end of the wire to a grounding point. When installing the grounding wire, avoid creating any sharp bends.

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