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How Power over Ethernet Benefits Your VoIP System

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shutterstock_65026144Power over Ethernet (PoE) is, at its most basic level, a system that enables users to transmit electrical power through Ethernet cabling. Power over Ethernet is the preferred way for connecting devices such as VoIP, as it offers a number of benefits for private and business use. PoE provides flexibility, lowers costs, and reduces maintenance requirements.

How PoE works

Power-over-Ethernet technology means users can power their devices – such as VoIP phone sets – through the same cable that connects their phone to the local area network and the Internet. PoE works by allowing the electricity to be carried along the same conductors used to transmit data, but the electricity can also be carried along dedicated conductors in the same cable.

Note that PoE works with traditional Ethernet cabling such as CAT5, CAT5E or CAT6. However, VoIP handsets must be PoE enabled or certified. Older VoIP handsets will usually not be compatible with PoE, but most new generation VoIP phones should be. While Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports also support the powering of devices in one line, PoE is superior to USB in that it allows for longer cable lengths.

Benefits of PoE

Power over Ethernet eliminates the need to have a dedicated power point, power pack, and power line for each phone or device. For VoIP systems, however, this technology offers an additional benefit.

The fact that power can be transmitted through the Ethernet cable allows individuals or organisations to connect their VoIP phones to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which is achieved by placing the PoE switch on the UPS. In the event that there is a disruption to the power supply to the premises, the phone system has access to a power supply, and calls can be made or received despite interruptions to power.

The key advantages of PoE include:

  • Time and cost efficiency – PoE eliminates the need to have power cabling installed, as installation can be carried out by a person with little technical knowledge.
  • Reliability – Access to uninterrupted power supply improves reliability of devices, especially in emergency situations such as blackouts.
  • Flexibility – Devices are not tethered to power outlets, so devices can be easily shifted to where they are most needed.
  • Safety – PoE has been designed as a safe technology, and it incorporates functions and features that deter overloading and under-powering.
  • Scalability – PoE makes it easier to add more devices to support growing number of users, as it eliminates the need for separate power cabling.
  • Maintenance and installation – Having fewer cords or wires to manage makes it easier to install and maintain equipment.

Applications of PoE

While PoE is most widely used in VoIP systems, it can be used to power any type of device. The most common applications include:

  • VoIP – VoIP phones were the first devices to have PoE application. With PoE, VoIP phones can operate on a single Ethernet connection to the socket or to the LAN. Uninterrupted power is one of the key reasons why PoE has received such wide application in VoIP.
  • WLAN – Wireless networks benefit from PoE as PoE enlarges the range of WLAN access points. Access points no longer need to be tethered to an electrical socket, allowing space-challenged organisations to make the most of their free space.
  • Security cameras – PoE is widely used to power networked surveillance cameras, and comes with the added benefits of making it easier to deploy and reposition cameras. Cameras can be powered as long as they are close enough to the data network, and do not need to be situated near an electrical socket.
  • RFID – Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is used by many organisations for inventory management. PoE has made it easier for organisations to deploy RFID. As for security cameras, RFID readers can be installed in spaces that are within reach of the data network but not close to an electrical outlet. This can have a significant impact on the range of spaces that can be fitted with RFID readers, making it easier for organisations to install RFID readers where they like.

Upgrading to PoE

There are a few ways users can upgrade to PoE. First, there are PoE switches, which are network switches with inbuilt PoE. The switch automatically detects the device and checks to see whether it is PoE-enabled. If so, the device will automatically be sent power through the connection.

A second option is to use a PoE injector. PoE injectors (or midspans) can be used to connect the network switch and the device to be powered. The injector works like a PoE switch to enable power supply when the device is connected.

The third option is to use a PoE splitter. PoE splitters are connected to the network connection. They work by converting the PoE power to ensure that the power matches the voltage required for the device.

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