Who’s On Tap
By Sean Kerr
Strategic Solutions Marketing Manager, CommScope

Wireless is the Next Utility for the Workplace

By Sean Kerr

These days, wireless connectivity is a universal expectation. Workers don’t care whether their wireless connection is via the Wi-Fi network or a cellular network — they just want connectivity and performance. Since most enterprises need to provide both types of wireless technologies, their infrastructure must accommodate both.

What is “wireless as the next utility”? It is the seamless availability of wireless connectivity throughout a building, making it as ubiquitous and reliable as other established utilities. But how do you deliver this level of service? Industry organizations and companies like CommScope can help sort through the multiple technology options to find the right solution for your building.

For example, Wi-Fi cabling infrastructure has established guidelines that define a grid network to place outlets for potential Wi-Fi access points (TIA TSB 162-A and ISO/IEC TR 24704). As Wi-Fi standards evolve to higher throughputs, the cabling that connects Wi-Fi access points to switches must support higher backbone speeds, including 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps and, ultimately, 10 Gbps.

Unlike Wi-Fi, in-building wireless (IBW) uses licensed frequency bands, so great care must be taken to ensure the system will support all wireless operators used by the facility’s occupants. IBW systems may also support different wireless technologies and virtually any frequency bands, including vital public safety bands. In some jurisdictions, supporting public safety bands is a prerequisite to obtaining an occupancy license. Recent innovations have yielded IBW solutions that employ ordinary Category 6A cable instead of expensive coaxial cable. This greatly streamlines installations and increases its possible applications, as well as simplifying expansion as needed. Likewise, its headend operates like a conventional IT server and switch. For all these reasons, this evolution is called IT convergence.

While there are multiple ways to deploy a wireless infrastructure in buildings, the global trend is tilting toward an IT-convergent infrastructure that accommodates Wi-Fi and IBW. Here’s some thoughts about how you can ensure peak performance:

  • Cabling choice: Category 6A is recommended for horizontal runs because of its ease of installation and support for 10G backhaul. An OM4 backbone capable of migrating to 40G and 100G is recommended for vertical cable runs to aggregate 10 Gbps horizontal links.
  • Plan Ahead with UCG: A pre-cabled universal connectivity grid (UCG) helps simplify wireless deployment, additions and expansions as needs change. We suggest you first define a grid layout based on TIA-162-A or ISO/IEC24707. Install two Category 6A cables per cell for Wi-Fi, two additional Category 6A cables per cell for IBW, and a spare.
  • Cover all the bases: A modern IBW solution should be technology-agnostic; that is, it should operate with all operators, all networks and all frequencies, including public safety frequencies. This prevents the need to overlay multiple operator-specific networks because of changing needs or circumstances.

About the Author:

Sean Kerr is a Strategic Solutions Marketing Manager for CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. He is responsible for marketing, strategy, linking key trends in the industry into market strategies for telecommunication networks in buildings and venues. Sean has more than 20 years of experience in the telecom industry with CommScope and Corning and has five patents related to fiber optic connectors and terminating devices. He has a Master’s in Business Administration from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of North Texas.

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