What’s a WAP?
What’s a WAP?
WAP, did you say? I have wireless access points in my building that connect me to the Internet. “Wouldn’t think of not having Waps to allow me to use all the Apps I need…”
Everywhere around you, more and more people are using their cell phones, tablets and personal computers, connected to a wireless network. It’s placing significant requirements for higher bandwidth, and lower latency in moving the huge amounts of data required for video conferencing, video streaming, and BYOD mobility information. More and more connection ports are being installed in the ceiling, on the walls or under raised floors to save space. But, at the same time, there’s a reduction in the number of copper ports being installed to the desktop because of the mobility offered by encrypted, high-bandwidth wireless connectivity. That’s why it’s important to remember that proper network management can have a significant positive impact on IoT device performance and channel integrity.
Wireless Access Points, or “WAPs”, are the overhead wireless devices that bring the Internet services, you have come to expect, to your cell phone, or other mobile device, through a wireless microwave RF network and even the spectrum of light itself. WAPs needs at least CAT5E (the standards recommend CAT6A) hard wired copper connections, and It’s up for grabs on wireless fiber and Li-FI connections. In addition, copper links sometimes require remote Power over Ethernet (PoE) delivered from the power sourcing equipment PSEs to remotely powered WAPs.1
Different types of RF WAPs, with different configurations, such as multi-band and multi-antenna designs, have assorted bandwidths and power requirements to deliver more effective WI-Fi coverage. Generally, there is at least one dipole antenna required for a WAP to communicate effectively. The antennas should not be housed inside, or blocked by, a metallic enclosure or other metallic elements that can act to shield the antenna. Because different construction materials can affect WAP performance, it’s important to plan ahead for suitable locations to install your WAPs.
When wireless communications occurs, it’s done through a WAP’s fully-encrypted RF link, in order to protect the user’s data and confidentiality.
RF WAPs transmit in the Gigahertz Microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum shown:
If you are curious about cell phone RF radiation, and its effects on adults and children, see the following referenced YouTube video3
Some recognized names, such as Cisco, Dell and HP, manufacture different types of WAPs. The different manufacturers generally have specific advantages or disadvantages depending on the features and the applications they are required to support.
WAPs have developed standards, such as Wi-Fi standard 5G and 802.11. Existing standards apply to products already available on the market. Emerging standards, plan to allow for much higher bandwidths. 5G and up and coming standards for wireless, promise to significantly reduce connectivity latency and improve data transfer for the many IoT devices expected at the “edge” of the network.
“802.11ac Wave 2 is the current state of the art with 802.11ax the standard for future wireless LANS”. That’s what Jon Gold, Senior Editor from Network World indicated. 4 5G technology is an evolving standard for wireless that takes into account 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) which can handle up to 106 Devices/cm2. Now, that’s what I call density!
The TSB-162-A states that the cabling for wireless access points should be installed and performance tested per existing ANSI/TIA 568-C.2 standards.5 Listed below are some of the more common wireless speeds and the frequency spectrums used for them. For a more in-depth summary of wireless 802.11 standards, see the two references at the end of this CTD.6,7
Technologies and new standards developments for wireless keep coming down the pike like:
- Improvements in signal processing technology: (I.E MU-MIMO versus SU-MIMO)
- Medical use: “BICSI 004 Supplemental Information- Guide to Medical Grade Wireless Utility”
Coverage area and topology planning
Coverage area planning is best done with an actual visit to the building site to make a site survey to determine where the wireless devices and other components need to be placed.
To help in the planning process, create a WAP planning checklist or WAP worksheet to assist in the wireless deployment and for future network upgrades.
Cable selection is an important consideration, especially since many remote devices today, such as WAPs, are being powered through copper cables that have Power-Over-Ethernet, or PoE capability. Most WAPs today have PoE capability, however, make sure to consider the minimum electrical power that is needed to supply to the WAP (in watts) and the maximum distances to the farthest WAPs, from both its power and communications sources. Remember to also plan accordingly in the distance layouts for all the connectivity, as it’s a TIA requirement for a maximum of 100 meters for the communication link. Additional cable designs allow the link lengths to be extended for such applications as remote video cameras and sensors that require higher powers than WAPs. These cables are generally special composite fiber/copper cable designs such as Superior’s PowerWise fiber singlemode fiber optic cables:
CAT6A (10Gig) four-pair copper cabling, such as PowerWise™ 10G cables from Superior Essex®, is recommended for WAPS to provide high data throughput and more PoE power for RF transmission and coverage. Installers might also want to consider pulling two CAT6A cables for redundancy and future growth.
How much current do WAPs draw? They could draw up to 30 watts depending on the model and application (See the chart below):
Creating flexibility for Moves, Adds and Changes (MACs)
Depending on the application, and the requirements for WAP coverage, zone box mounting can be used to house WAPS if they are made of a non-conductive material that does not block the RF antennas, or the antennas are mounted outside the enclosure. Also make sure to consider that the materials used to fabricate the enclosures (including the WAP itself), cabling and connectors need to meet plenum fire safety requirements, if the WAPs are to be in the ceiling.
Security is an important consideration when installing and setting up WAPs. This is true for both the physical security of the WAP devices, such as the need for locks on the enclosures and the methods for mounting the WAPs to the walls or ceilings, to the data security of the WAP, such as its encryption and remote configuration and accessibility capabilities.
To “WAP” it all up:
Proper planning up-front and network design is important to produce the desired coverage and performance of a wireless network, and so is the selection and installation of the wireless access devices themselves. Until next time and our next CTD….
References and further readings
1 Legrand “Connecting the Dots with Gregg Lafontaine: PoE, Topics That Impact Connectivity and cabling - "Spark Gap" - Part 2”, July 1, 2016
2 “The 5G-powered enterprise will be less constrained by its physical location thanks to vastly improved service delivery capabilities that improve employee and customer engagement” by: Alok Shah, Vice President, Strategy, Business Development, and Marketing, Samsung Networks, Network World, April 19, 2017
3 "The truth about mobile phone and wireless radiation"--Dr Devra Davis
4 “Wi-Fi in 2018: What will the future look like?", By Jon Gold, Senior Writer, Network World
5 “Wired for Wireless with Twisted Pair Cabling”, Bree Murphy, RCDD, Applications Engineer, Oberon, Inc.
6 “What is 802.11? Wi-Fi standards and speeds explained: Ever-improving Wi-Fi standards make for denser, faster WI-FI networks”, By Keith Shaw, Network World, Nov 27, 2017
7 “Wireless Standards 802.11a, 802.11b/g/n, and 802.11ac -The 802.11 family explained”