Goodbye SSID, Hello Wi-Fi Passpoint

June 8, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Say goodbye to needing that unrecognizable, seemingly endless, 32-digit SSID number needed to sign-in to a Wi-Fi network – and say hello to Wi-Fi Passpoint. Launched in 2012, Wi-Fi Passpoint, also known as Hotspot 2.0, streamlines the process of conencting mobile devices to Wi-Fi hotspots by eliminating the need for users to search for and authenticate a network or enter credentials each time they connect. Passpoint automates the process under secure conditions for a seamless way to connect to Wi-Fi neworks.

 

Developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Passpoint is an ugrade to W-Fi service at no charge to the user. Just like a network of cell phone towers passes your phone’s signal from one tower to the other when you’re driving down the highway, Passpoint allows your mobile device’s signal to jump from one Wi-Fi hotspot to the next. Normally, you would have to sign in to each hotspot to connect, but with Passpoint, after you’ve signed in once, your credentials are passed along to each hotspot supported by the network. These networks can stretch throughout an entire town or even between towns.

 

Thus far, Passpoint has largely been marketed to wireless providers to increase Wi-Fi uptake. As rollout continues, this new technology will allow people to remain completely connected via a Wi-Fi provider instead of using wireless plan data. Plus, recent improvements make it even easier for the user with a registration process that is  more efficient and secure.  Most newer smartphones and tablets support Passpoint technology, it just needs to be turned on, which may require changing the device’s settings.

 

Cable Shielding Deciphered

June 1, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

It’s no surprise that shielded cables are a hot topic, they can improve performance and are available in Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a and Cat7 versions. In past blog posts, we’ve talked about the advantages of shielded cables and how they protect from EMI/RFI and alien crosstalk (AXT). We’ve dug deeper to explore the different types of shielded cables and their benefits. We’ve even shown how to make your own shielded cable. Now, we’re going to take a closer look at the acronyms used to designate the different types of cable shielding and how to decipher them.

 

Cable shielding, also called screening, can be made of a metallic braid, or metallic or polyester foil. The shielding is either wrapped around all 4 pairs of twisted pair cable, just the individual conductor pairs, or both the entire cable and individual pairs.  In a shielded code, the letters before the slash designates the shielding on the entire cable; the code after the slash signifies shielding for the individual pairs.  For example:

 

Here is a glossary of terms to help you decode cable shielding:

 

 

FTP – Foiled Twisted Pair : An additional layer of protection is created with shielding/screening wrapped around the individual twisted wires. 

 

STP – Shielded Twisted Pair : Braided shielding wrapped around the individual twisted wires adds a layer of protection.

 

F/UTP – Foiled/Unshielded Twisted Pair : An overall foil shield encases the 4 pairs of unshielded twisted pair. Commonly used in 10GBaseT applications.


S/UTP – Shielded/Unshielded Twisted Pair :  An overall braid shield is wrapped around all 4 pairs of unshielded twisted pair.


SFTP – Shielded and Foiled Twisted Pair : Foil shielding around the individual twisted wires and an overall shield that is sometimes a flexible braided shield. This provides the highest level of protection from interference.

 

SF/UTP – Shielded and Foiled/Unshielded Twisted Pair : Both an overall braid screen and foil shield with unshielded twisted pairs. Occasionally referred to as an STP cable, these cables are very effective at protecting EMI/RFI from entering or exiting the cable.


S/FTP – Shielded Foiled/Twisted Pair : An overall braid shield with foil-shielded twisted pairs. The shield underneath the jacket is a braid and each individual pair is surrounded by its own foil shield. The purpose of the additional foil on individual pairs is to limit the amount of crosstalk between them.


F/FTP – Foiled/Foiled Twisted Pair : An overall foil shield with foil screened twisted pairs. Like F/UTP, this cable is commonly used in 10GBaseT applications.


U/FTP – Unshielded/Foiled Twisted Pair : No overall shielding or braid with foil-shielded twisted pairs. This cable is also frequently used in 10GBaseT applications.

 

U/UTP (UTP) – Unshielded/Unshielded Twisted Pair : Pairs of wires twisted together that are not shielded at all. These cables are often referred to as UTP andare one of the most basic methods used to help prevent electromagnetic interference. 

 

All About MU-MIMO

May 25, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Multi-user multiple-input multiple-output (MU-MIMO) is the next evolution of MIMO and is revolutionizing that way Wi-Fi routers operate. MU-MIMO allows routers to simultaneously send data to multiple devices. This is much more efficient than single-user multiple-input multiple-output (SU-MIMO) that many routers utilize. MU-MIMO allows all of your devices to simultaneously send and receive data from the router for multiple devices at the same time.

 

If you’re not excited about MU-MIMO yet, here are 5 reasons why you should be:

 

  1. 1.       MU-MIMO eliminates slow Wi-Fi speeds by making your router a super multi-tasker. Instead of sending little bits of information one at a time to each device, the router can now simultaneously transmit data to multiple wireless devices.

 

  1. 2.       MU-MIMO is great for video streaming and other high-bandwidth uses because it delivers a more dependable, faster Wi-Fi connection, there is a noticeable improvement in these data-demanding tasks.

 

  1. 3.       Not only do Wi-Fi networks get faster with MU-MIMO, they gain greater capacity. This means that home networks can service more Wi-Fi devices and public networks with many users will perform better.

 

  1. 4.       Even non-MIMO devices will experience improved performance. To fully utilize MU-MIMO’s benefits, devices must support the technology. But with MU-MIMO devices working faster, the router is free to communicate with other SU-MIMO devices.

 

  1. 5.       MU-MIMO costs less and is easier to implement than SU-MIMO. MU-MIMO doesn’t require multiple antennas or as much signal processing as SU-MIMO. It also uses a simpler standardized beamforming method that makes it easier for manufacturers to support.

 

As with everything, MU-MIMO does have some downfalls. For optimal performance, both the router and device must support MU-MIMO using 802.11ac on the 5GHz frequency. No more than four devices should be connected at one time, for full, optimal performance, and those devices should be stationary and not roaming. MU-MIMO also only improves the connection in one direction, from router to device, or the downlink, not the other way around. Still, MU-MIMO is slated to be a very impactful technology and potentially revolutionize the world of wireless networking. 

 

Fiber Connector Types and How They Work

May 18, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

There is no shortage of options available when it comes to fiber optic cables. We’ve discussed the different fiber terms, what they mean and how to read them. Now, we’ll take a closer look at fiber connector types.

 

There are numerous fiber optic connectors on the market today. The most common connector types are LC, SC, and ST styles.

 

ST – This connector type is still widely deployed in fiber networks. These connectors employ a bayonet style mount and cylindrical 2.5 mm ferrule that’s usually made of ceramic, but sometimes is constructed of metal or plastic. ST connectors are spring-loaded, so they must be properly seated/aligned to avoid high-loss.

 

SC - These snap-in connectors feature a 2.5 mm ferrule that keeps them secure in the port. The snap-in design latches with a simple push-pull motion. These connectors are available in simplex and duplex configurations.

 

FC – These connectors also use a 2.5 mm ferrule. They screw-in to connect firmly, though the key must be properly aligned in the slot before tightening. FC connectors were the most popular connector type for many years, but have largely been replaced by SC and LC connectors.

 

MT-RJ – These duplex connectors house both fibers in one polymer ferrule. They use pins for alignment and are offered in male and female versions. This connector type is not very widely used.

 

LC – These connectors use a standard ceramic ferrule. What sets theses connectors apart from other styles is that they are small form factor connectors that use a 1.25 mm ferrule and are half the size of SC connectors. LC connectors have been the most widely used interfaces in networking equipment over the past 10/15 years due to their small size.

 

All of these connectors are available in both Single mode and Multimode versions. ST, SC and FC connectors use the same 2.5 mm ferrule size, so they can me mixed and matched when connected using hybrid mating adapters as shown here:

 

ST > FC

SC > FC

SC > ST

 

There are three optional polish types that can be applied to fiber connectors: physical contact (PC), ultra-physical contact (UPC) or angled physical contact (APC). Each polish type provides a different level of back reflection, which is a measurement, in decibels, of the light reflected off the end of a fiber connector, and can be critical in some applications.

 

Click here to watch our video on fiber optic connector types.

 

For an in depth look at fiber connector colors, check out this blog post.

 

White-Space Wi-Fi 802.11af

May 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM

 

Waste not, want not, seems to be a growing way of life for many people these days, and that theme will soon apply to the Wi-Fi spectrum as well. The IEEE standard 802.11af, also known as white-space Wi-Fi or White-Fi, will utilize the unused space in the TV spectrum, the TV white-space, to support Wi-Fi networks.

 

How is this possible?

 

Broadcast television coverage is organized to leave a certain amount of space between coverage areas to avoid interference. This results in a significant amount of space where channels are unused. 802.11af allows Wi-Fi applications that require less power to utilize the white-space between coverage areas without causing interference.

 

Why do we need White Space Wi-Fi?

 

The need for more spectrum is greater than ever. 802.11af fulfills this need by allowing wireless networks to take advantage of the white-space in the frequency spectrum. 802.11af provides support for operation in unused TV channels in the VHF and UHF bands, which adds white-space services to 802.11 WLAN devices and builds upon the 802.11ac offerings.

 

What are the benefits?

 

In addition to providing more spectrum for Wi-Fi use, 802.11af allows for long-range and low-power operation because it uses frequencies below 1 GHz. This means it will work more like a traditional Wi-Fi network to increase bandwidth over a long-range wireless local-area network (WLAN).

 

The lowest band used by current Wi-Fi systems is 2.4 GHz. 802.11af operates in the 6, 7 and 8 MHz channels, which makes it backward compatible with existing international TV band allocations.

 

Operation can be arranged for 1-4 channels, either contiguously or in two non-contiguous blocks, allowing devices to collect enough spectrum to achieve high data rates. Plus, there is a possibility that additional unused frequencies can be accessed to add even more capabilities.

 

Here is a chart showing the 802.11af frequencies and corresponding TV white-space channels:

 

 

 

White-space Wi-Fi 802.11af is not going to be the perfect solution for all applications. But it is going take processing technology to another level by providing access to more spectrum to meet today’s ever-growing Wi-Fi needs.

 

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