Infrastructure (High-Performance Solutions)
Wiring Strategies for Wireless Success
More than ever before, colleges and universities
are turning to technology to improve the
quality and effectiveness of classroom experiences
and the operational efficiency of their facilities. From digital
learning initiatives such as 1:1 device programs and bring-your-own-device (BYOD), to physical projects like security and
building system sensors, many technologies are going wireless.
And, the Internet of Things (IoT) promises even more options
and opportunities in the near future.
With the focus on wireless, it’s easy to forget that a wired
infrastructure is the foundation that makes wireless possible. Ever
increasing wireless demands and wireless access speeds require
that IT and facilities managers pay attention to the cabling infrastructure
behind the WAPs.
Wireless Triple Threat
What’s driving the need for wireless on campus? Three primary
factors are at play: student demand, technology in the classroom
and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Student Demand: Students are accustomed to always having
wireless at their fingertips. In fact, some students entering college
today may not even remember a time when they didn’t have wireless
access at home. Wireless access today is an expectation; not
a “nice to have.” For those living in on-campus housing, it is even
more critical, as students are connecting as many as seven or eight
wireless devices in their rooms.
Technology as a Learning Tool: Technology is a crucial part
of the learning process. Streaming videos, online discussion platforms,
video conferencing, distance learning, research… the list of
technology-driven tools is lengthy, and growing all the time.
The Internet of Things: The IoT is adding new mobilityenabled
technologies at a rapid pace. Building sensors that detect
occupancy and deliver real-time adjustments to things like
lighting and ventilation provide improved efficiencies and lower
Wireless is not Wireless
The benefits of wireless technology in education are wellestablished,
but the cabling infrastructure that sits behind the
wireless networks must be robust and designed to optimize the performance
of both the cabling and the access points for years to come.
Cabling infrastructure is designed to be replaced on a 15- to
20-year cycle. In comparison, networking equipment likely
will be replaced about every three to five years (and is a far
larger investment). The bad news is that WAP speeds have been
increasing far faster than copper cabling speeds, with data rates
only expected to climb.
The best way to ensure that your cabling infrastructure
will meet your wireless needs is to install Category 6A cabling.
Category 6A offers the highest data rates, at 10GBASE-T, with the
best thermal performance, which is critical when powering access
points with Power over Ethernet.
An alternative to Category 6A is NBASE-T, which provides
additional bandwidth using existing Category 5e and Category 6
infrastructure. The technology isn’t fail-proof, but with attention
to bundling size and channel length, it can provide sufficient bandwidth
until the infrastructure can be upgraded to Category 6A.
With the wireless demand continuing to escalate, the demand for
high-performance solutions continues to grow as well. A modernized
cabling infrastructure strategy built around Category 6A is
fundamental to meeting new classroom needs and operational goals.
Answer the demands with the latest cabling innovations
and architectures. Deploying the appropriate options for your
campus will contribute to efficiencies, reduced costs and student
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.