WiFi network is dispensable to modern life and work, and some tend to use PoE wireless access points(WAPs) to achieve WiFi coverage and extend the range of the existing weak WiFi. Long range deployments sometimes happen to aim at large properties or facilities with WiFi coverage, which might be a big problem installing WAPs for decent WiFi coverage. Fortunately, fiber optic cabling is an option that helps extend the distance to PoE WAPs. Today, we are going to elaborate on reasons to use fiber optic cabling and how to get the distance extended using fiber.
What is a PoE WAP and Its Functions?
Some beginners might know little about wireless access points or WiFi network setup, let’s get a step back to the basics of wireless access points. To grasp the required knowledge, you’d better figure out what are PoE WAPs and how they work.
WAPs, which stand for wireless access points, are commonly used to build WiFi networks for network devices connecting to the internet. They crease WiFi network over the wired connection with Ethernet cables by linking to the routers or network switch, and WAPs receive and distribute both 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz frequencies WiFi.
With their functions, home or businesses are able to get extended WiFi range or make use of the existing wired Ethernet cabling to gain a WiFi network. WAPs can accommodate much more network devices or clients compared to other WiFi range extension tools. Moreover, WAPs support seamless surfing when roaming spaces are installed with more than one WAP.
And PoE WAPs are wireless access points with PoE capability to streamline the installation complexity. Here we’ll give a brief introduction to PoE technology. If you already know, just jump to the next part.
PoE Technology and Advantages
PoE, aka Power over Ethernet, is a technology that dramatically eases the simplicity of network and power cabling. It enables twisted Ethernet cable to carry power, that being said, power and network can be transmitted simultaneously over a single Ethernet cable. It serves numerous advantages as shown below:
l Easy installation-only network cabling is required in the setup of WAPs, or other network devices, such as IP cameras, and VoIP phones, saving the hassle to run additional power cables for the power supply.
l Flexible Deployment-The placement of WAPs can be more flexible as the nearby power outlet can be eliminated. And in most cases, WAPs mounted on the ceilings were generally hard to deploy or find power outlets.
There are other advantages provided by PoE technology, including safe connection, centralized power, scalability, etc, we can’t illustrate all of them due to limited space. For more information about Power over Ethernet, please refer to our other post here.
The Cabling of PoE Wireless Access Points: What Should Know?
As I already touched upon above, wireless access points connect to the networking devices(routers or network switches) with Ethernet cables, or via the copper-based Ethernet cabling. Ethernet cables are commonly seen, which are used to connect to computers to access LAN or Internet, such as Cat5e, Cat6, or higher categories.
Although taking advantage of PoE, the connection to PoE WAPs is simple, regarding as a plug-and-play work, Ethernet cabling comes with its inherent limitation that only allows for transmitting power and data for up to 100 meters(328ft.) due to power loss and signal degradation. Consequently, long range deployments that are installed far beyond this range, finding solutions to get the distances extended is imperative to meet the need of long distance transmission.
Extend Distances with Fiber Optic Cabling
However, referring to the cabling for PoE WAPs, copper-based Ethernet cabling is not the sole option. An alternative is to use fiber. Fiber optic cabling relies on fiber optic cables to transmit data, which is opted for long range deployment realizing long distance data transmission for over 25 miles easily when employed with the right cables along. In fact, fiber optic cabling has been widely used to satisfy network devices over long cable runs.
More importantly, you are able to reap significant benefits from fiber optic cabling. Several common benefits are listed below, which make fiber optic cabling to be a more enticing cable infrastructure solution for installing PoE WAPs.
• Large Bandwidth-Fiber optic cable is thin as a hair, thus it can take more bandwidth than the same-size of copper cables. High bandwidth means more wireless access points can be supplied, or fast network speed for efficient data transmission.
• Fast Speed-Fiber optic cable transmits data over optical signal with few signal degradation providing an extremely fast network speed about the same as the speed of light. By now, fiber optic cables realize tremendous network speed even at 100 TB.
• High Reliability-Fiber optic cable, made of plastic or glass non-metallic materials, is immune to undesirable interferences like EMI and RFI, giving high reliability by maintaining the integrity of the data transmission. And there will be less potential to experience spark or fire hazards as no electricity throughout the link.
• Superior Security-Fiber optic signal is not that easy to be tapped by external sources, making confidential information or business-critical data safe from interception.
Fiber optic cabling obviously worth a try for solving the Ethernet distance extension issue. You can refer to our post talking about the Reasons to Use Fiber Optic Cable to Install Wireless Access Points.
How to Extend Distances to PoE WAPs with Fiber Optic Cabling?
Having learned the benefits of using fiber optic cabling to reach long distances for PoE WAPs installation. Next, we’ll walk through a number of key basics about fiber optic cabling and go deep into the best practices to extend distances to PoE WAPs over fiber optic cabling.
Learn Fiber-to-PoE Cabling Basics
Using fiber optic cabling to connect and extend distances to PoE WAPs, it is a necessity to grasp how to deal with the issue of fiber-to-PoE cabling, here we mainly discuss the basics in three key facets, including media conversion, required components, and hardware port recognition.
Fiber and copper-based Ethernet are two completely different data transmission media. And most wireless access points still only RJ45 port to accept data/PoE via Ethernet cable, and so do the back-end main network(router/network switch) source. As a result, it is necessary to implement media conversion properly to get the signal converted, otherwise, the connection won’t make sense due to the unmatched communication channels.
To overcome the difficulty to convert Ethernet to fiber, or vice versa, several crucial components are required namely fiber media converters, SFP transceivers, and fiber optic cables. Sometimes, for professional or more convenient installation, people use accessories like fiber termination boxes, fiber cable enclosures, cable caddy, etc.
• Fiber Media Converter
Fiber media converters are most commonly used in signal converters between fiber and Ethernet. As their name implies, they can converter fiber optic signals to an electronic signal or vice versa. With the ever-growing demands for fiber optic cabling, more and more network switches are equipped with fiber optic ports, or SFP slots, which means fiber media converters are built into the switches.
• SFP Transceiver
SFP transceivers are small form factor plug-and-play transceivers that are compact, hot-pluggable signal conversion tools that enable instant fiber connectivity with plug-and-play installation. They typically work with media converters to implement media conversion between fiber optic cabling and copper-based network. SFP transceivers, also known as SFP modules and it is the combination of two terms transmitter and receiver. They are used to send and receive signals to achieve fiber and copper integration for long distance network transmission to PoE WAPs.
• Fiber Optic Cable
Since the media conversion tools generally need to be applied at both ends, fiber optic cable plays a significant role as the bridge for data transmission. Fiber optic cables are inserted into SFP transceivers to function. The fiber optic cable structure is not complex and designed with excellent durability. The core is the innermost layer surrounded by the middle part called the cladding, and finally, the outermost layer is called the coating.
Hardware Ports Recognition
Fiber media converters or network switches with fiber optic ports are generally equipped with two types of port, one is called LAN port or PoE port(with PoE capability), and the other is called SFP slot. As below pic is shown.
Make Clear Requirements
Fiber optic cabling is a no-brain job, so to gain optimal performance and to get the most bang for your buck, having a clear idea of your requirements based on practical needs and conditions can save money and time.
Virtually, as long distance run is the basic need, confirming how far will your PoE WAPs are installed is fundamental, and this might determine which type of fiber optic cable or SFP transceiver to choose from. Besides, you should know what network speed or the bandwidth requirement is according to the business size, the quantity of PoE WAPs as well as your budget. Furthermore, you might need to think about the desire of chasing easy installation, which probably depends on the actual uses for home DIY or business pro setup.
Opt for Optimal Solution Meeting Your Needs
As a variety of fiber optic networking and conversion equipment are available on the market, the solutions for using fiber optic cabling to extend distances to PoE WAPs also come with different options. You are supposed to pick up the best-suited one in line with your unique needs.
Choosing the types of fiber connection absolutely is critical, and sometimes is overwhelming, especially for beginners. Point-to-point(P2P) or point-to-multipoint(P2MP) are feasible options, which serve a symmetrical, private fiber connection for seamless data transmission, allowing businesses to communicate seamlessly between geographically separated locations as if they all work on the same local area network (LAN). To determine which one is suitable only need to evaluate the locations where plan to be connected or install PoE WAPs within the range of your businesses.
Point-to-Point Fiber Connection
Point-to-point fiber connection refers to a dedicated link between two endpoints, featuring private, secure, high bandwidth data transmission in the channel. For applications that require running fiber optic cabling to one or two locations, a point-to-point fiber optic connection definitely is the best choice. Since the fiber optic link only involves two devices, the bandwidth received from the LAN, so to speak, can be entirely supplied to the connected PoE wireless access point.
1. A Pair of Media Converters
Using a pair of fiber media converters is the most cost-efficient and simple approach to building a point-to-point fiber connection between the main LAN or internet and the ready-to-install PoE wireless access point.
One is placed at the back end where a router or a network switch is installed, and the other is placed at the front end close to the PoE WAP. Generally, only the connection between the two fiber media converters is linked with fiber optic cable, and other connections still adopt Ethernet cables.
2. Fiber Network Switch Plus Media Converters
If you already have a network switch that is equipped with fiber optic ports, you reuse it and only buy a corresponding quantity of fiber media converters to connect to each PoE wireless access point respectively. This is perfect to use fiber optic cabling to extend distances to PoE WAPs in different locations.
At first glance, it seems multiple links come out from one device, but media converters are separately connected supplying only one PoE WAP, thus there is no concern about bandwidth distribution or insufficiency.
The fiber network switch is a more effective solution as it saves the hassle to connect multiple fiber media converters to the Ethernet ports of the network switch repeatedly, and offers convenient management and maintenance. Specifically, there are two types of fiber network switches, one is equipped with only one or two fiber optic ports, and the other main supports fiber optic ports. Which type to choose from depends on your practical needs and deployment environment.
Point-to-Multipoint Fiber Connection
Point-to-multipoint fiber connection provides a shared channel for communications among all the participating devices from multiple locations. It is a convenient option for businesses that have more than two locations that need to get connected to the same LAN for installing PoE WAPs and other network devices. On the contrary, the link is not direct two-way communication, the key effect is the received bandwidth will be distributed.
3. A Media Converter and PoE Switch with Fiber Optic Ports
What if there are multiple PoE WAPs, or some other network devices also needed, replace the front-end fiber media converter with a fiber PoE switch is a fair option.
Data is transmitted over fiber optic cable from the back end fiber media converter and received by the fiber optic port of the fiber PoE switch, finally, multiple PoE connections are available to meet multiple devices.
Considering it is a kind of point-to-multipoint connection, it is essential to calculate the required bandwidth and build a fiber optic network with sufficient bandwidth.
4. Two Fiber Switches
Using two fiber switches to fulfill a point-to-multipoint fiber connection is another practice that fit large-sized businesses or high-density fiber optic network systems.
For example, if there is a remote endpoint, which needs to install multiple PoE WAPs on the same LAN, then this method shows its significant use. One fiber network switch is set in the control room where is the main network point, and the other, the fiber PoE switch, is placed in the remote building. Consequently, long distance transmission to all the PoE WAPs can be solved, and even obtain high performance.
What’s more, provided that there are multiple remote endpoints, this solution also can suffice by adding more fiber PoE switches and installing them at each of the other remote locations separately.
Select Best-suited Products
The purchase of required components is not a no-brain job, as a proper selection can save numerous costs and hassle to some extent. Here we will highlight three essential components, and roughly explain major factors or features that should be taken into account in the process of purchasing.
Fiber Optic Cable
As previously illustrated, you should be aware of the cable types consist of single-mode and multimode, as their pricing is gradually similar, single-mode fiber optic cable is always the optimal for most applications due to its advantages in size, transmission distance, performance, etc. Multimode fiber optic cables are more commonly used for data centers with short deployment distances but require demanding bandwidth.
Pulling eye design and some strength members like kevlar gives more convenience and protection in the fiber optic cable installation, thus you are supposed to choose those with these designs. For DIY projects or home uses, pre-terminated fiber optic cable is a good option to streamline the fiber termination work, as the connectors are terminated by the factory in advance, eliminating the need for field termination.
Fiber Media Converter
For the fiber media converter placed at the edge end, remember to focus on fiber media converters with PoE capability only if you desire to take advantage of PoE for supplying the PoE WAPs.
Moreover, the network speed of the fiber media converter is the speed received by the PoE WAP, thus, you’d better choose those support gigabit network speeds to achieve better WiFi performance.
There are industrial grade or outdoor types opted for you get more reliability with reduced maintenance or replacement. Generally, most are equipped with one output port, but you may also find the two-port version for a convenient installation if you have two devices in the same place.
Related Article: Media Conversion: Ethernet to Fiber
Selecting SFP transceivers asked for your special care because there are literally various types of SFP transceivers available on the market. They differ in fiber optic cable type, connector type, transmission distance, data rate, wavelength, and even the structure.
You should decide the fiber optic cable and connector type firstly, single-mode or multimode, SC or LC, because once these are clear, the other factors are determined basically.
BiDi SFP transceiver is the advanced type that uses one fiber optic cable to send and receive signal. SFP+ modules are the so-called SFP transceivers that accommodate up to 10G network speed.
Related Article: How to choose SFP Module
Key Facets to Pay Attention to
l Bandwidth-The fiber devices support different network speeds, such as Fast Ethernet(100Mbps), Gigabit Ethernet(1000Mbps), and 10G Ethernet(10000Mbps). Pick up those can meet the PoE WAPs over long distance runs. Generally, gigabit Ethernet can suffice most PoE WAPs for the time being.
l Deployment Environment-It’s a crucial facet to bear in mind as it largely impacts the performance of the system, otherwise, the stability of the devices or system can’t guarantee. For indoor deployments, commercial grade products can meet the needs, while if install in harsh environments with a high risk of extreme temperature, bad weather, lightning, etc, it is recommended to select the outdoor type or industrial grade products, which are more likely to serve greater resistance to these elements for better reliability.
l PoE Standard-Refer to fiber networking devices with PoE capability, you should pay an eye to the PoE standard. PoE WAPs vary in power consumption and PoE standard compliance, and there are three standards announced by now, namely, IEEE802.3af, IEEE802.3at, and IEEE802.3bt. Below is the chart showing actual output power of each standard, and you need to consider the power loss in line over long distance run.
Implement Correct Installation
The correct installation, needless to say, is of great importance on the whole in the setup process. Now, let’s check out the contents pertaining to some additional considerations before actual deployment, and the step-by-step connection guidelines.
Additional Considerations Before Actual Deployment
• Wireless Access Points Setup: What Should be Noticed?
Incorrect setup to the wireless access points can affect the WiFi performance dramatically to some extent. Below we list some installation tips that might help maintain or improve the WiFi performance.
1. Estimate adequate wireless access points according to the properties or facilities, like coverage, shape, or wall materials.
2. Avoid coverage overlap when employing multiple wireless access points to cover a large area.
3. Mount on the ceiling is possible, and try to detour obstructions like walls to reduce interference.
4. Make the top of the wireless access point face to the coverage area all the time.
• Placement of Fiber Optic Cable: Choosing Underground or Aerial?
With regard to the placement of fiber optic cable, most are confused about whether to choose aerial installation or underground installation. It depends because each one has its own pros and cons.
Aerial cable installation is more cost-effective as aerial cables and ducts are cheap, and you can reuse existing pole infrastructure. You are able to get quick installation without the need to dig in the earth, and it is easier to modify when network upgrades or replacements occur. But aerial installation is fragile, show severe vulnerability to bad weather, and generally, it is more restricted by regulations and guidelines from local governmental authorities.
In underground cable installation, as its name indicates, fiber optic cables are buried underground discreetly, giving far less visual impact, and in this way, the cables are less likely to suffer from reduced damage caused by the above-ground elements, providing higher reliability. And generally, underground installation requires less space than its aerial counterpart. However, it calls for a relatively high initial cost and hassle than aerial installation, and the underground installation is more complex along with an expensive repair.
Simply put, choosing which way is significantly determined by the actual terrain and the surrounding conditions.
• Power Supply Issue: How to Solve?
As stated earlier, fiber optic cabling doesn’t carry electricity, that said, the power supply issue for fiber networking devices(fiber media converters or fiber switches) is supposed to address separately.
Typically, you have two methods to get power:
#1 Local Power-When power outlets can be found on site, use matched AC-DC power adapters, or external power supplies when if a lack of built-in power sources.
#2 Remote Power-When there is no condition to accessing power outlets, or it is critical to have central management on the power system, place the power supplies at the control center and deliver power to remote ends is a reality, the so-called PoE over fiber, when choosing fiber media converters or fiber PoE switches that equipped with a power regulator and accept wide input voltage range. You can refer to this post for further information.
Step by Step Connection Guidelines:
1. Gather all the components and tools and do a quick test for them to see if there are any broken parts.
2. Insert SFP transceivers in the SFP slots of fiber media converters/fiber PoE Switches;
3. Run fiber optic cable to each end fiber networking devices(fiber optic converters/fiber PoE switch) with proper guidelines;
4. Connect both ends of fiber networking devices(fiber optic converters/fiber PoE switch) with fiber optic cable;
5. Connect fiber media converter/fiber PoE Switch to the Router/Network Switch with Ethernet Cable;
6. Connect PoE WAPs to the PoE fiber media converter/fiber PoE switch with Ethernet Cable;
7. Power all the networking devices with power adapters or external power supplies.
8. Configure the PoE WAPs, check the status and verify the performance.
Other Ways to Extend Distances to PoE WAPs
In fact, except for using fiber optic cabling, there are other ways to help extend distances to PoE WAPs, such as PoE extenders, long range PoE switches, wireless network bridges, etc.
PoE extenders are commonly used for Ethernet/PoE extension to meet long range deployments of various network devices, such as IP cameras, VoIP phones, and wireless access points. If the distance is not that remote, and you prefer to stick with Ethernet cabling, PoE extenders are a viable option.
PoE extenders can give another 100 meters when adding one unit, and theoretically, up to 500 meters long distance PoE connection is reachable by daisy chaining 4 units.
With simple plug-and-play installation, PoE extenders receive PoE from the power sourcing equipment(PoE switch or PoE injector), then repeat and boost to the edge connected PoE devices. As PoE extenders take advantage of PoE technology, no need for you to find extra power outlets to get them powered.
Related Article: Benefits of Waterproof PoE Extender
Long Range PoE Switches
Long range PoE switches are special PoE switches that support long range Ethernet/PoE transmission compared to traditional PoE switches that only support a maximum transmission distance of 100 meters for the reason that they adopt special chipsets to break the distance limitation of Ethernet cabling.
With a long range PoE switch, it is able to extend distances to PoE WAPs for up to 800 meters. One worth-including feature is that some long range PoE switches remain 100Mbps network speed after 300 meters long-distance run, and 10Mbps even over 500 meters.
Related Article: 800 Meters Ultra Long Range PoE+ Explained
Wireless Network Bridges
Both Ethernet cabling and fiber optic cabling are wired connections. To get distances of LAN extended to PoE WAPs, using wireless network bridges to build a long distance wireless LAN is a nice solution if you have a free line of sight installation condition. Ethernet transmission is accomplished over a wireless connection, fitting applications that are hard to run cables.
Wireless network bridges work in pair, respectively set at the main network point and the remote endpoint, they can easily reach more than 1 kilometer long distance deployment over simple installation without complex configuration. In general, they support LAN ports, enabling your PoE WAPs or other network devices to work and be managed under the same LAN or internet.
Related Article: Long Range Wireless LAN
Using fiber optic cabling to extend distances to PoE WAPs is a superior solution in most cases if you can overcome the complex and higher cost of installation. For more information about how to build the system or the buyer’s guide to pick up the required products for your unique system, contact us today, specialists in our professional design team are ready to help.