Today’s Alphabet Soup: the NEC, PoE and LP

We are getting lots of questions about the recently revised 2017 National Electric Code and its impact on Power over Ethernet. We have answers … and for the most part, it is good news! Here are some of the most common questions we’re getting around the NEC and PoE.

First off, let’s define this alphabet soup we’re talking about.

NEC = National Electric Code. Specifically, we’re addressing the recently revised 2017 National Electric Code.

PoE = Power over Ethernet. For the most part, we are addressing next-generation PoE, or the pending IEEE 802.3bt standard, which will introduce PoE running over all four pairs of an Ethernet cable. This is commonly referred to as PoE++ or 4PPoE. The 802.3bt standard further breaks PoE++ into two types based on power at the source: Type 3 (up to 60W) and Type 4 (up to 99W). (Note: The IEEE 802.3bt standard is expected to be ratified in early 2018.)

LP = Limited Power, a new UL listing for copper cables.

Does the NEC impact all PoE installations?

No. Most installations will not be affected by the new rules. The 2017 NEC addresses only those systems with power levels above 60W, which is the pending Type 4 PoE++. Existing installations of PoE and PoE+, and the pending Type 3 PoE++ are not affected by the 2017 changes to the NEC.

Am I required to use LP cables now?

Again, no. The NEC itself says LP is not required to run Power over Ethernet. However, if you use LP listed cables, it can simplify the installation and inspection of the project.

How can an LP listing make installation simpler?

It’s all about bundling and inspection. With a Type 4 installation, you have two choices: use LP cables or not.

If you use LP listed cables, you don’t have to worry about bundle sizes or inspections.

If you don’t use LP cables, you must follow the NEC’s ampacity table to determine bundle sizes. The installation then is subject to inspection to ensure compliance with the ampacity table bundle sizes. You can find the ampacity table in our recently published technology brief, Impact of 2017 National Electric Code on Power over Ethernet Cabling.

How will inspections happen?

This is where it gets fuzzy. Today, the NEC is adopted primarily at the state level, although in some states, it is adopted and enforced by local jurisdictions. And, state adoption and enforcement varies. While most states today are following the 2014 NEC, some are still following 2011, and a handful still follow 2008. It is unclear how inspections will occur.

What parts of the cabling system need the LP listing?

Permanently installed cable is the only component that requires an LP listing. It does not apply to patch cords.

Do I need to be concerned about fire hazards with higher rated PoE?

No. As long as the installation follows standards for installation, including proper bundling sizes, Power over Ethernet doesn’t pose a life safety threat.


To wrap it all up, the highlights to leave with:

  1. The only affected systems are those running Type 4 PoE++
  2. LP is not required, even for Type 4 PoE++
  3. If you don’t use LP cables for Type 4, the installation will have bundle limits and will be subject to inspection
  4. Life Safety is NOT an issue with Power over Ethernet
  5. Panduit can help! Our most common Cat 6 and Cat 6A cables carry an LP rating, including our MaTriX offering, which handles Power over Ethernet better than any other cable on the market.

What is Driving the Growth of Power over Ethernet?

Since its introduction in 2002, Power over Ethernet has gradually gained momentum in the market. Today, PoE has not only gained market acceptance, but is being pushed to even higher power levels, as a next generation of PoE technology is on the horizon. A new PoE standard, IEEE 802.3bt – or PoE++ — is expected to be ratified in Q1 2018, and will triple the power delivery capabilities from today’s standard.

The increased power delivery means the technology can be used to power a new generation of powered devices. However, while it will be possible to run a desktop computer or television using PoE, those applications take a backseat to several more common applications that are driving the acceptance of Power over Ethernet in the Enterprise space. According to BSRIA forecast projections from September 2015, PoE to the desktop has been and will continue to be the biggest driver. In 2014, PoE powered one or more devices on an estimated 80% of all desktops. That number is expected to increase to 92% by 2020.

PoE applications

While the highest PoE usage is to the desktop, two applications are driving the uptake in PoE usage: wireless access points and security cameras. Today, about 55% of all wireless access points are powered using Power over Ethernet. That usage is projected to surge to 80% by 2020, and as more WAPs are deployed, that will, in turn, increase the amount of power that is delivered by PoE. Also driving PoE usage are security cameras. Today, about 35% of all security cameras are powered with PoE. BSRIA predicts that will grow to 50% within the next five years.

Wireless access points and security cameras are not only driving the usage of PoE, they are also the devices that are largely driving the need for the higher power levels that will become a reality with PoE++. Cameras are becoming more sophisticated, with pan, tilt and zoom features that require more wattage to properly operate. And, wireless access points are also power-hungry as they continue to evolve to keep up with wifi demands.

The Good News

So, what does this increased reliance on Power over Ethernet mean for your structured cabling installation? For the most part, it is good news! Today’s cabling can support the new power levels. There are factors that need to be addressed … like temperature rise, but they are easily addressable using the standard copper cabling infrastructure that is on the market today. Our Technology Brief: Power over Ethernet with Panduit Copper Cabling spells out some of the common issues that need to be addressed when deploying PoE, or watch our on-demand webcast: Delivering Tomorrow’s Power over Ethernet with Today’s Cabling and Connectivity.