What's driving the future of Power over Ethernet?
Since its debut in 2003, power over Ethernet (PoE) has steadily and slowly earned its place in the ITC network. The first PoE solutions combined data and power in a single cable to provide up to 12.4 watts per device. Bolstered by advancing power-handling technologies and industry standards, today’s PoE++ systems can now deliver up to 90 W, enough to operate the newest and most power-hungry network devices.
As more active sensors, devices and controllers are deployed, both in in-building and outdoors, PoE’s importance is set to expand as well. At the same time, a majority of powered devices are being deployed at the edge of the network, which is rapidly expanding.
But PoE’s ability to power more devices is just one chapter in a larger narrative. Step back and you’ll see that the ITC network has now become a critical power delivery system for the entire building. As such, PoE impacts the building’s operations—simplifying access and management of centralized UPS/battery backups and protecting the health and safety of employees.
This is the PoE story writ large, and it represents the next frontier of this evolving technology. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the trends and developments shaping the future of PoE, and those who design and depend on it.
IoT takes PoE to the edge
As connected devices continue to multiply across the cyber landscape, traditional compute/storage models cannot handle the sheer volume of data created. PoE, however, is well adapted to support a high-density, widely distributed network. Whether in buildings, across campuses or throughout smart cities, the time and cost benefits of combining power and data in one cable run are attractive and can support more sustainable outcomes. As the link distances increase, look for mid-span applications—which inject power between the switch and endpoint instead of at the switch—to pick up as well.
The long-term power of Category 6A
Regardless of how far out the devices need to be located, network designers will need a logical structured cabling strategy to support tomorrow’s sprawling IoT/IIoT landscape. As a technology that incorporates Category 6A Ethernet, PoE++ is a pretty ideal solution. Cat 6A is already recommended for the horizontal cabling that branches out to specific networks on each floor within the building structure. With the ability to support 10G backhaul, extended reach (338 feet) and power handling up to 100 W, Cat 6A-enabled PoE++ is a good match for higher-powered devices that are located farther from the switch.
With most of the indoor PoE deployed in the ceiling, network managers have better accessibility—making it easier to onboard new devices. With a well-designed structured cabling design, they can also reduce the power usage per port by shortening the PoE cable runs.
One other thing PoE has going for it is its nearly global compatibility with different regional power standards, plug types and devices. The technology can be used with any 110- or 220-volt (U.S.-based) system, as well as the 230 V environments supported in other countries. The same is true of the ac frequencies; PoE supports 50 and 60 hertz. The added ability to work with various wireless technologies—Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE, Zigbee, etc.—gives network managers a unifying strategy for connecting, powering and supporting their network systems.
The continued greening of IT
Thanks to data-driven insights over the past decade, society is tightening the reins on power consumption. This awareness gave rise to Energy Efficient Ethernet (IEEE 802.3az). Also known as Green Ethernet, the technology leverages enhancements to the twisted-pair and backplane of Ethernet computer networking to reduce power consumption during periods of low data activity. It can enable networks to reduce their power draw up to 50 percent or more while retaining full compatibility with existing equipment.
The best is yet to come
PoE technology has come a long way since 2003. According to a new report from Guidehouse Insights, the PoE market is anticipated to grow from $113.8 million in 2021 to $614.9 million by the end of 2030 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.6 percent. Based on the trends that are fuelling its development and uptake in the market, CommScope suggests that PoE’s best years are still ahead.
Since its introduction in 2003, CommScope has invested in developing the infrastructure strategies and solutions that enable our customers to leverage the full potential of PoE. Along the way, we’ve accumulated a deep working knowledge of the technology and where it’s going. For a deeper dive into the subject, we recommend taking a look at our new PoE Fact File.
Wherever your network is headed, chances are — CommScope is already there.
 802.3az: The Greening of Power over Ethernet (PoE); Planet Technology USA, blog; November 10,2020
 Market Data: Power over Ethernet for Digital Buildings; Guidehouse Insights; 3Q 2021
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