Power over Ethernet -- Ready to Power On?

By Beth Cohen

May 19, 2003

Imagine what you could do if your existing Ethernet network cabling could be combined with electrical power to fully support wireless access points, VoIP phone systems, security cameras, and a variety of other appliances. With an official IEEE standard for Power over Ethernet (PoE) expected to debut next month, now is a good time to evaluate the advantages that PoE can bring to your organization.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • You're planning to install the latest Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system to minimize cabling build-out costs when your company moves into new offices next month. Just imagine if you didn't need to be concerned about losing your telecommunications system every time there's a power outage.

  • The company staff has been clamoring for a wireless access point in the picnic area behind the building so they can work on their laptops through lunch, but the cost of running electrical power to the outside is prohibitive.

  • Management has been asking for security cameras and business access systems throughout the facility, but you would rather avoid yet another electrician's bill.

Have you ever imagined what you could do if the network cabling you already have in place (or that you're going to have to install anyway) could also support electrical power? Think of the possibilities for simplifying your infrastructure support.

You no longer need to imagine such a scenario, because with the forthcoming new IEEE standard 802.3af, also known as Power over Ethernet (PoE), your dreams of power over network wiring are now a gigantic step closer to reality. Power over Ethernet promises to enable these applications and many more by providing up to 12.95 watts of power (at 48 volts) over the same Category 5 cable that already delivers your standard 10/100/1000Mb Ethernet service.

You're probably thinking this all sounds so great that there must be a catch somewhere, when in fact this technology is real and is rapidly becoming more widely available. With the new standard's official approval expected in the next few months, let's explore the technological frontier and find out what PoE is all about and how it can make your life easier.

Page 2: What is Power over Ethernet?

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