The first step in any IoT project is cable readiness

23 November 2022 Interconnection

Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) projects can be complex. The last thing that one needs to be worried about is whether the cabling will be able to handle what is thrown at it. Whether working on a smart building, manufacturing plant, asset/fleet tracking system or similar project, the first step to success is making sure the cable plant is ready for both information technologies (IT) and operational technologies (OT).

IoT changes the structured cabling test and assurance landscape

Prior to IIoT and smart building systems, assuring that a cable plant was ready to take on most business tasks was relatively straightforward. Certification tests were performed to ensure the cabling could support 10Base-T, 100Base-T or gigabit speeds for use in client-server data communications. Nowadays, however, businesses are using cable plants for a wider range of data transport use cases like real-time streaming and for supplemental tasks such as Power over Ethernet (PoE). Additionally, new cabling technologies and standards including single pair Ethernet (SPE) are driving the need for different and deeper types of testing to ensure the proper operation of business-critical IoT services.

Understand what’s required from a network and cabling perspective

Some IoT projects such as ultra-high-definition surveillance cameras may require multi-gig Ethernet speeds and POE++ power output options. Thus, the cabling used in this IoT project must meet or exceed a much higher level of speed and throughput standard compared to other projects. If multi-gigabit speeds are part of an IoT or smart building project, understand that the time taken to run assurance tests for higher speeds on a copper cable can vary widely from one test tool to the next. AEM uses a signal to noise ratio (SNR) test to provide accurate results of multi-gigabit capabilities under load (both traffic and PoE), simulating the impact on the link under real-world operating conditions. The second benefit of SNR compared to BERT is that each test takes significantly less time to complete. This is a major saving for cable projects where thousands of multi-gigabit tests must be performed.

Multi-gigabit IoT projects would likely require Category 6A or better cabling to be installed in order to meet the necessary speed requirements of the endpoints. Table 1 can be used as a general guide as to when Cat 5e, Cat 6 and Cat 6A should be used for 2.5 and 5GBASE-T Ethernet. For 10GBASE-T Ethernet, Cat 6A or higher cabling is always recommended.

Multi-gigabit assessment

There are also IoT projects where end devices don’t need much power or speed, but instead require very long cable runs. In this application, standard four-pair Ethernet and PoE standards may be able to exceed requirements from a speed and power perspective, but fail to deliver on distance requirements. The IEEE has recently announced the 802.3cg 10Base-T1 standard that specifically addresses IoT projects that have lower speed and/or power requirements, yet require very long-distance cable runs. 10Base-T1 can provide up to 10 Mbps throughput and 13 W of power while running over distances up to 1000 metres.

What’s even more interesting is that this standard runs over SPE cabling as opposed to the normal four-pair cabling. SPE also provides the benefit of lower cost due to thinner and lighter cable runs.

Fibre-optic cabling may also be a good fit for IoT projects. Fibre boasts several benefits over copper, including far greater speeds without the distance limitations. While fibre is typically more expensive to install compared to copper, know that the longevity of fibre cabling is far greater when compared to twisted-pair alternatives. Upgrades to speed over fibre can be accomplished by changing out the small form-factor pluggable (SFP) module while using the same physical fibre medium.

Certify or qualify new and existing runs

To avoid troubleshooting headaches during an IoT rollout, all existing cable runs must be certified or qualified. This not only includes cabling that connects IoT endpoints and sensors – but all switch uplinks as well. Remember that IoT is known to significantly increase traffic on the network backbone. It’s therefore critical that the physical uplink cabling be tested to be certain there are no defects that could impact performance.

Yet another cable readiness step relates to IoT devices that will be connected via Wi-Fi. With highly dense wireless IoT deployments, bottlenecks can occur between access-layer switches and the Wi-Fi access points (WAPs) they connect to. If the IoT project calls for the rollout of Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E access points to accommodate more density from a wireless perspective, existing cabling will have to be re-tested and potentially re-run. Current enterprise-grade WAPs can reach theoretical speeds up to 9,6 Gbps. The uplink to the WAP should therefore be able to meet or exceed those speeds and POE requirements.

Choosing the right IoT cable test tool

Cable contractors and third-party system integrators will be required to fully certify newly-run cabling for an IoT project. For this scenario, the AEM TestPro provides full cable certification tests that can be used to assure manufacturer warranty on the installed cabling. Fast testing with ANSI pass/fail criteria is a key requirement.

Additional tests include:

• TCL and ELCL for analysing noise immunity.

• DC resistance unbalance tests for testing cable PoE at higher (60+ W) power delivery levels.

• TDR (distance to fault location) for Return Loss, NEXT, and Shield, as well as ACRN, PSACRN, and Impendance.

• SNR-based multi-gigabit link speed testing up to 10GigE.

In-house network administrators, however, will likely be more interested in assuring that existing cabling will be able to operate within the requirements of the IoT devices to be installed. For this testing scenario, AEM’s Network Service Assistant (NSA) is a tool that fills the gap between basic verification test tools and more expensive cable certification tools. All the necessary multi-gig speed, PoE load, wired and wireless network connectivity testing is performed.

Certi-Lite ensures the link under test meets the ANSI/TIA CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A test standard, with a single-ended test.

For more information contact Lambda Test, +27 12 349 1341,,


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