Cabling Infrastructure for Wireless Access Points

Wireless Access Points (WAPs) have become a common installation in the Enterprise space. How do you know what cabling infrastructure is right to get optimum performance from your WAP? The answer is simple: new permanent installations call for Category 6A.

In short, the real question is not if you should install Category 6A, but when will you install Category 6A – today or tomorrow? The decision is really a financial one – you can spend slightly less today on a Category 6 infrastructure, and pay for a Category 6A installation in the future. Or, you can spend a little more today and install Category 6A.

Cabling a Wireless Access Point

When looking at cabling an access point, three observations can be made:

  • Wireless data rates are increasing faster than wired Ethernet data rates
  • Density requirements typically increase as wireless bandwidth increases
  • The new Power over Ethernet 802.3bt PoE++ standard will be able to power a wireless access point with a single Category 6A cable

What this means is that WAPs will need as much bandwidth as they can get, and they will need it sooner than you think. Because Category 6A handles the highest data rate (10GBASE-T) and has the best PoE++ performance, it becomes the infrastructure of choice for cabling an access point.

Focus of 2.5 and 5GBASE-T is Existing Cabling Infrastructure

What about the new 2.5 and 5GBASE-T standards being developed? If you’re not familiar, these intermediate speeds between 1000BASE-T and 10GBASE-T are designed to run on existing Category 5e and Category 6 cabling infrastructures. The concerns for now are:

  • There may be length limitations (maximum channel length is less than 100 meters)
  • Mitigation techniques may be needed to get it to work (for example, un-bundling cables)
  • The 2.5 and 5GBASE-T link will require monitoring to ensure it is operating at the desired speed; the link speed will auto-negotiate and could be only 1000BASE-T
  • Category 5e and 6 will not run 10GBASE-T, so this is not true future proofing

In short, these standards are designed for brownfield installations to utilize an existing cabling infrastructure. Category 6A is recommended for greenfield installations.

Panduit Recommends at Least Two Category 6A Cables per WAP

Panduit recommends running at least two Category 6A cables to each wireless access point. These cables are capable of providing both power and data to the access points.

Two cables will provide redundancy and the capability to allow for future expansion. Remember – increased WAP data rates will require higher density, which in turn will require more cables to be run. Having the cable already in the ceiling makes increasing the density fast and easy.

Panduit has a full line of Category 6A products to support 10GBASE-T applications. Please visit our website or contact your local Panduit sales representative to learn how we can support your WAP installation.

One thought on “Cabling Infrastructure for Wireless Access Points

  1. Just read your article about PoE++. Does the length of the cable bundle affect the temperature rise…(say for 100 cables). Many installations do not bundle in the pathway outside of the TR.

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