IT Management

The value of Ethernet for merging data and power cables

28Ethernet, which started out 43 years ago as an IT Local Area Network (LAN) protocol, has recently emerged as a leading standard for supporting power, HVAC, lighting, industrial control, and utility substation operational technology connectivity. In fact, this Ethernet boom is expected to connect 14 billion devices worldwide by the end of 2022.

Ethernet connectivity and the evolution of industry standards are driving stakeholders within office buildings, hospitals, and factories, to converge data and power over the same wire.  Power over Ethernet (PoE) is the technology framework that is allowing users to benefit from dual purpose wiring through additional cost savings, access to more connected devices, and improved energy efficiency management.

PoE capacities are rising fast. Traditional PoE delivered 15 watts of DC power, and recent PoE Plus implementations are delivering 30 watts of power capacity. PoE standard deployments look to reach 60 watts of capacity in the not too distant future. This additional power capacity widens the scope of devices and applications that can leverage PoE.

Deployment requires adherence to standards

However, when deploying the dual-purpose PoE network, there are some precautions to consider. Transitioning from traditional cabling infrastructure to a PoE implementation requires proper planning and an understanding of how power affects standard Ethernet components such as RJ45 connectors.

Structured cabling systems should be sized to support the higher voltage and current requirements of PoE Plus. If not, the cabling infrastructure can create an electrical arc between the plug contact of the patch cord and the RJ45 connector contact during disconnection.

RJ45 connectors are one of the principal standardized components of structured cabling systems and support Ethernet services across all building types. RJ45 connectors, regardless of vendor, are governed by the same ISO/IEC 11801:2011 Ed.2.2 standard.

This standard validates a minimal number of connection/disconnection occurrences and ensures that the cable medium has the proper construction to carry data. However, this standard does not address RJ45 connector behavior when subjected to the additional power of PoE Plus.

Dual use cables were not accounted for in the current standard. Therefore, potential risks, such as network performance inconsistencies, can occur when connecting and disconnecting network components. Damaged connector contacts can result from adding PoE Plus loads. In order to address this exposure, the IEC 60512-99-001 standard came into being. Adherence to this standard eliminates this risk and increases the overall reliability of the network.

The provisions within IEC 60512-99-001 account for the proper testing of RJ45 connectors. Tests are conducted that simulate both real-life PoE Plus capacity loads and the aging process (using a corrosive gas). If the connectors pass the tests, they are deemed compliant (meaning that their transmission performance is not impacted by the use of PoE Plus, that is, no corrosion appears on the surface of the contact used for transmission).

RJ45 connector manufacturers, like Schneider Electric, have made the decision to be compliant with the IEC 60512-99-001 standard. Schneider Electric contracts an external laboratory to certify its connectors. This helps to validate that the test results are objective. This independent third party measures the resistance of contacts before and after the tests. If the resistance is the same before and after the testing, then the connector passes the test and is deemed suitable for PoE Plus use. As a result, end users avoid the cost of having to independently certify their installations.

For more information, please visit our entire suite of network connectivity solutions  and download our free paper, “How IEC 60512-99-001 Compliance Ensures Power over Ethernet Plus (POE+) Network Reliability.”


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