Increased power needs for Wi-Fi 6 / 802.11ax: How does this impact PoE access points?

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is limited to 30W, but higher power is required for high-performance Wi-Fi 6 access points. Can businesses with existing cabling upgrade without running new cables?

Increased power needs for Wi-Fi 6 / 802.11ax: How does this impact PoE access points?

With the advent of 802.11ax—released under the marketing name Wi-Fi 6 , as consumers have become increasingly confused by the alphabet soup of wireless standards—enterprises with existing deployments of wireless access points will have a more challenging time upgrading to the new standard, as power requirements of Wi-Fi 6 exceed the 30W available in Power over Ethernet (PoE) standard.

Typically, deployment planning for access points on the physical level is done once—ensuring that Ethernet drops are available (typically, from the ceiling) with sufficient spacing to provide Wi-Fi access throughout the building, avoiding dead zones. The sizable cost of running cabling is a longer-term investment, as these runs are expected to last several generations of Wi-Fi standards. 

To simplify deployment and avoid the proliferation of e-waste, the use of PoE prevents the need for a separate proprietary AC adapter, though the added power requirements of Wi-Fi 6 complicates this strategy.

At HPE Discover 2019, TechRepublic's James Sanders spoke with Aruba's Larry Lunetta about how enterprises can plan around the increased power requirements for Wi-Fi 6 access points. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Larry Lunetta: So it depends on the architecture of each of the access points. As I said, we have a range of access points for Wi-Fi 6. The higher-end, multiple radios, et cetera, does breach the 30W PoE sort of standard. We actually came out with a new switch that implements the BT capabilities of higher power distribution. It really depends. You'll have to choose based on your own infrastructure, et cetera. From a cabling standpoint, for example, CAT5 and CAT6, they have different attributes in terms of distance and things like that. But there's no reason that you have to swap out your wires, as long as you can get the right power to the right access point, from a distance perspective. Also, if you have an access point that requires more than 30W, we can take dual sourcing. So if you can get two drops, you can supply a total of 30 times two, I guess theoretically, power to the access point. So there's a lot of ways that you can accommodate the additional power that's required.

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