Could Cabling For 802.11ac Revolutionize The Low Voltage Industry?

Caution- at first read, the following may seem a bit nutty. I’m OK with that. Let it sink in…

As I wrap another interview with a major wireless vendor, once again I hear that 11ac access points will require two Gigabit uplinks bonded as an Ether Channel to handle all of that high-rate data traffic goodness that comes with the pending WLAN standard. Let’s pause for a minute- think about the wiring now in place for your APs. Most of us have a single Gigabit (or Fast Ethernet) run to each of our APs. Which means 11ac is going to MINIMALLY force us to add another wiring run per location, or redesign the whole pricey cable thing from scratch (maybe not so big of a deal in small, modern spaces- but an absolute nightmare in large environments, historic buildings, etc.).

Bottom line- UTP (that’s 4-pair network wiring for the uninitiated) will be added for 11ac. Yes, you will be runnin’ some wire, Jack. Here’s where I want you to wander into the Land of Imagination with me.

Why just run two wires to each AP? Why not run three? If you’re running wire anyways, what the heck? I’ll bet you’re wondering what that third wire is for, huh? It’s for emergency LED lighting. Or small Crystal Eye-style CCTV cameras. Or paging/muzak speakers. Or heat detectors. Or femtocells. Or a bunch of other distributed devices that are already part of the Low Voltage landscape- except in my vision, they are now somehow integrated into the access points that are all over the place. So when you device-out a new space, you have a common cable plant and decidedly less pathway and location complexity.

How does this get done, like from the component build perspective? I don’t know- I’m not that kind of engineer, So it’s easy for me to simply envision it and let someone else say the words that poo poo the notion. In my mind, I take my new 11ac AP out of the box, I attach one of a dozen different low-voltage device modules, connect three wires,and I hang it. Back in the closet, two wires go to my Ethernet switch, and one patches off to an emergency lighting system. Or the third wire also patches into the switch on another VLAN for CCTV. Or for the fire system. Or whatever.

Yes, WLAN makers would have to get cozy with folks in other industries pretty darn quick to come up with this sort of model as 11ac rolls out and we all start planning for the new wiring runs needed for it. Heck, I’ll even give ’em until Wave 2 to get it done.

If I’m paying through the nose for new access points AND new wiring, why not get something truly practical, innovative, and cool out of it? Architects/space designers would love it- they tend to hate all of the devices that are mandatory on the walls and ceilings of business environments.

OK, maybe it is a bit nutty. At the same time… maybe there’s something to this idea.

One thought on “Could Cabling For 802.11ac Revolutionize The Low Voltage Industry?

  1. Dale Buckey

    Good thinking. It’s a great idea! Coming from the construction industry, I have always had an extra pipe or wire added to any long distance connection. Question- would only one extra wire be enough to power a femtocell unit, or would you dismiss the AP and use that power to run the femtocell?


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