Enhancing Networks: There’s Nothing Wireless About Wireless
In today's fast-paced digital world, a reliable and high-performing wireless network has become an essential requirement for commercial buildings. With wireless technology being utilized for a wide range of applications, from monitoring systems to offloading cellular network traffic onto Wi-Fi, businesses are realizing the importance of deploying robust wireless infrastructure. However, behind every wireless access point is a robust wired infrastructure that delivers an improved and future-proofed wireless experience.
Improving Wi-Fi Network Performance with a Wired Network
Integrating a structured cabling network with wireless infrastructure can significantly enhance Wi-Fi network performance. Many environments are conducive to having devices on both wired and wireless networks. In these environments, mobile phones, tablets, and laptops access the wireless network in conference rooms and common areas, but laptops connect to a wired docking station while at a workstation or desk, and connected devices such as cameras or sensors are hard-wired, as well.
This practice of off-loading traffic from the wireless network onto a wired network provides up to a 40 percent boost in the performance of the wireless network, which equals faster data transmission speeds and reduced congestion.
The combination of wired and wireless connections ensures a seamless and reliable network for employees and customers, minimizing downtime and frustration.
Future-Proofing the Wi-Fi Network
As data rates increase and the number of connected devices grows, any steps that help to extend the life of the Wi-Fi network are beneficial. The practice of off-loading some users from Wi-Fi to a wired network frees up capacity for adding devices and users. This approach allows for scalability and accommodates the growing wireless demand, extending the life and performance of the network.
Cost-Effectiveness of Power over Ethernet (PoE)
Another value inherent in wired networks is the opportunity to use Power over Ethernet (PoE) instead of traditional AC power. A single cable running PoE can deliver data and power to a connected device, making PoE convenient, cost-effective, and simple.
When comparing the cost of connecting a device via wireless or via a wired connection with PoE, the total installation cost of all cables must be considered. For example, if one wireless access point provides data wirelessly to 10 computers, those 10 computers would need 10 electrical cables run to them for power. However, if those 10 computers had a wired connection with PoE, the only cables would be 10 network cables, providing power and data. (As a bonus, the data connection is likely running at a higher bandwidth and is more reliable than wireless.) Hence, a wireless connection may actually require more cables than a wired connection when factoring in all types of cables.
Minimizing Reliance on Battery-Powered Devices
Another benefit of PoE is the elimination of batteries. For any given sensor network that relies on battery-powered sensors, a rough approximation is that over time, 30% of the sensors not considered mission critical will be down at any given time unless an extensive maintenance program in place. The main reason for this is the magnitude and difficulty of replacing batteries as they fail. This is best understood through the following example:
Assume a one million square foot facility has specified 10 wireless sensors per 1,000 square feet, equaling 10,000 wireless sensors in the facility. These sensors are assumed to have a five-year battery life and the sensors will be rolled out uniformly over five years (i.e., 2,000 sensors per year). After five years, about 2,000 batteries will start failing per year. Considering there are about 200 working days per year, 10 batteries will need to be replaced per day to keep up with the failing sensors.
If it takes 20-30 minutes to locate and replace each battery, this adds up to 200-300 minutes per day or about the same as half a full-time employee just to replace and maintain sensor batteries.
Conversely – those same sensors can be powered via PoE, improving functionality, and decreasing maintenance costs – and all 10,000 sensors should be up and running.
In the era of digital transformation, businesses must prioritize the deployment of fast and reliable wireless networks. By embracing Wi-Fi 6 and higher (IEEE 802.11ax) and combining wired and wireless connections, organizations can deliver an optimal user experience while future-proofing their network infrastructure.