Held February 2-6 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., the BICSI 2014 Winter Conference & Exhibition drew more than 4,000 attendees, exhibitors, and visitors. During both the educational sessions and on the exhibit floor, IT professionals focused their attention on the technologies shaping the networks of the future. The two biggest drivers of technology right now are wireless mobility and cloud computing, which refers to services delivered over the Internet. Together, they form a perfect match.
Wi-Fi wireless networks, which have been operating at a few hundred Mbps, will be expanding into Gigabit Ethernet transmission speeds sometime in the future, following the adoption of two new documents. These are the IEEE 802.11ac standard, which promises speeds of up to 1 Gigabits/sec per client — three times the throughput of the previous 802.11n standard — and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TSB-162-A, which recommends how to deploy the wireless access points (WAPs).
The 802.11ac standard uses a number of physical layer enhancements to achieve higher throughput in the 5GHz band: denser amplitude modulation, more antennas for beam forming, wider channels and more spatial streams — up to eight, which increases the data rate for each access point (AP), along with a number of new features, such as multi-user MIMO, which allows up to four distinct clients to receive data simultaneously from a single AP at full channel data rate.
By 2016, wireless and mobile data traffic will exceed wired circuit traffic, thus challenging both private Wi-Fi networks and public-service provider cellular networks. In the next five years, mobile data traffic is expected to grow almost twenty-fold. To support this demand, the density of access points in the wireless LAN will continue to increase, primarily through the use of small cells, taking advantage of the IEEE 802.11ac features.
Small cell is an imprecise term used to describe any RF source smaller than today’s macro base station. Also known as metro cells, they are low-power access points (APs), each supporting about 100 to 200 simultaneous users that bring huge amounts of data capacity closer to users everywhere — indoors, at homes, offices, enterprises, shopping malls, etc., and in outdoors, at busy intersections, stadiums, etc. They are needed in 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, and other technologies (the future should see all of these services integrated in a single box). The use of small cell Wi-Fi base stations will be a game changer for cellphone service providers, allowing them to offload subscriber data from the cellular network to the lower cost Wi-Fi networks.
Thanks to interference management techniques, small cells can be closely spaced to gain adequate coverage, and manufacturers are developing enhancements that take the performance even further. Generally, small cell, with their local processing capability, are self- installing — they can calibrate or configure themselves — and use a variety of software radio (also called cognitive radio) features to sense which frequency to transmit, which power level to use, and what type of directional distribution pattern to set up. This all occurs while encrypting the voice and data, thus ensuring a high level of protection. A network operator can remotely manage these small cells, upgrading the configuration and software as required. Thus, in the future, many different technologies most likely will coexist for both indoor and outdoor applications, forming what are called heterogeneous networks or HetNets.
Accomplishments and awards
During the annual awards banquet on Wednesday evening, BICSI celebrated the accomplishments of several individuals.
The Harry J. Pfister Award for Excellence in the Telecommunications Industry recognizes the lifetime achievement or major accomplishment of an individual in the telecommunications industry. For his work in inventing and innovating critical outside plant products and services, Jerry Allen of MaxCell, Wadsworth, Ohio, received the award.
The Presidential Eagle Award was presented to the founder and current chairman of the board of CommScope, Frank M. Drendel, in recognition of his lifetime of industry accomplishments.
The David K. Blythe/University of Kentucky Award for Outstanding Member of the Year went to Todd Taylor, director of low-voltage/IT design at Enfinity Engineering, for fostering industry and committee growth and development as the chair of the BICSI Standards Committee.
The Larry G. Romig Committee Member of the Year award was presented to Robert Hertling, supervising communications engineer at Parsons for his contributions to the BICSI Technical Information & Methods and Standards Committees as well as his work on numerous BICSI technical publications.
During the conference, 14 installers and technicians competed for the Installer of the Year prize in the seventh annual BICSI Cabling Skills Challenge. Jeremy Vittitow, ITS Installer 2, Copper, of Vision Technologies in Chantilly, Va., took home this year’s title.
In “Designing for 802.11ac - Strategy, Tools and Tips,” Ron Walczak, Walczak Technology Consultants, Inc., Prospect, Pa., forecast the growth in wireless traffic by noting that in 2017, more than 3.5 billion smartphones and other mobile devices will be using wireless networks. The markets benefiting from the newly ratified 802.11ac standard include education, social media, building automation systems (BAS) real time location systems (RTLS), video security and health care facilities.
The previous standard allows an AP to transmit multiple spatial streams at once, but only to a single address. However, 802.11ac applies what is called multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO), which sends multiple frames to different clients at the same time over the same frequency spectrum. Additionally, 802.11ac supports 20, 40 and 80 MHz channels, and it has optional support for 160 MHz channels.
For installing 802.11ac equipment, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TSB162-A document recommends prewiring using a 18.3-m (60-ft) square grid; however, the capacity, throughput, occupancy, and RF survey information should dictate the actual install. Additionally, 802.11ac may require multiple Gigabit Ethernet ports or even 10-Gigabit-per-second ports.
In “The Big Picture on Small Cells,” Jeff Cocking, Goodman Networks, Plano, Texas, described how mobile operators plan to use small cells to meet exponentially increasing mobile data traffic demands. According to forecasts, these small cells — into which Wi-Fi will be integrated — will make up almost 90% of all base stations by 2016.
At the same time, cell phone operators will evolve their homogenous networks into a heterogeneous architecture using a combination of macro cells, micro cells, and small cells that can co-exist with WLAN mesh networks. And because deploying small cells requires special expertise and skills, mobile network operators will be selecting partners that understand this technology. The current mobile network architecture will evolve into a HetNet mobile network architecture, with the design being a tradeoff between cost, functionality, flexibility, existing infrastructure, and scalability.
In “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore — The Strange Physical World of Industrial Ethernet,” Mike Nager, MetzConnect USA, Inc., Tinton Falls, N.J., described the special needs of the manufacturing plant and similar facilities — where physical layer failure accounts for 35% of failures in plant automation environments. Industrial Ethernet offers cost, data volume, and transmission speed improvements over its predecessors, but the network requires connectors offering IP65 or IP67 protection and DIN-rail mounting of devices. In addition, to support future data rates of 1 Gbit/s or even 10 Gbit/s, Cat. 6A/Class EA cabling and connectors with eight wires/contacts and a bandwidth of 500 MHz will be needed.
In “The Ever-Changing Wireless Landscape: How it Will Impact Your Venue,” Tracy Ford, the HetNet Forum at PCIA, Alexandria, Va,; Greg Najjar, Sprint, Overland Park, Kan.; Thierno Diallo, EXFO, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Tony Lefebvere, TE Connectivity, Berwyn, Pa.; and Scott Pereira, iBrave, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, described some of the thinking behind the new systems that service providers and others will use to deliver LTE-Advanced, voice over LTE (VoLTE), new versions of Wi-Fi. and other technologies. Additionally, they have solutions to speed up and simplify the installation and powering requirements for both small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS) access points. A DAS uses many distributed antenna elements to provide complete coverage in a structure. Each of these architectures has unique advantages that depend on the enterprise, wireless carrier, and end-user requirements.
In “The Future of Mobile and the Cloud in our Industry,” Gordon Whitten, Cary Gille and Dixon Greenfield, WOW Insites LLC, Omaha, Neb., looked at the coming convergence of mobile devices and cloud computing, which offers convenient, on-demand network access to a variety of computing resources — servers, storage, and applications such as software as a service (SaaS) that can accessed with minimal effort or service provider interaction. This “mobile ecosystem”/cloud convergence should lead to new services, such as the cloud-storage of cabling test results and construction drawings, bringing the benefits of better data synchronization, reliability, and scalability. The panel predicted that within five years this convergence will be in the hands of technicians, consultants, engineers, and installing contractors serving the IT industry. The panel also observed that now is the time to be creative and to differentiate — because whoever can rule the combination of mobile and cloud technologies can rule the IT world.