Office & Enterprise

The advent of Single-Pair Ethernet in intelligent buildings

Todd Harpel, RCDD Jul 7, 2020

In the past 25 years Ethernet has become the most common network technology used for information transport of all kinds. Recently, however, Ethernet has begun to support data exchange in systems that were previously the domain of a variety of other network technologies and proprietary communication protocols. Driven by the desire to connect every type of device in every type of environment, Ethernet is fast becoming the universal transport system across industries and applications. And the cabling infrastructure that supports this expansion is changing too.

Structured cabling systems and performance

25 years ago, the cabling standardisation bodies agreed on a common enterprise network topology consisting of a 4-pair copper cabling system based on the RJ45 jack. Over the years cabling standards and Ethernet speeds largely progressed hand-in-hand to accommodate the increased bandwidth needs for data centres and new enterprise applications.

But times are changing. The standardisation bodies IEEE, ISO and TIA are focusing less on pushing for higher and higher speeds. Instead, they are increasingly looking at specific requirements for new applications and environments.

Single-Pair Ethernet standardised

Several new Ethernet standards operating over a single copper pair have recently been developed for industrial and automotive applications. The most recent is IEEE Standard 802.3cg - 10 Mb/s Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) which supports point to point links up to 1000 meters, and multidrop links for up to 8 nodes over 25 m.  To support this technology ISO/IEC and TIA have begun the development of new SPE cable and connector specifications. Completion of these cabling standards is expected by the end of 2020.

ISO/IEC and TIA have also identified the great potential this technology presents for use in intelligent building networks. Many of the controls, sensors, systems, and devices used in an office building — often referred to as the building’s Operational Technology (OT) — that operate over BACnet or other proprietary fieldbus networks will soon have the ability to be connected through the use of an SPE network.

Single-Pair Ethernet in Enterprise

With network convergence in business and commercial buildings on the rise, the interest in SPE comes as no surprise. Some IP end devices such as smart lighting sensors or security control systems require very little bandwidth.

Deployment of SPE cabling is expected to be an overlay network, rather than a replacement for the traditional 4-pair LAN infrastructure. This is expected to speed up the development of many different SPE devices, enhancing the intelligence of building systems. 

About the author

Todd Harpel, RCDD

Todd Harpel has extensive experience in communications infrastructure design and specification. He holds a M.S. in Telecommunications from the University of Colorado and has designed and implemented communications infrastructure for a variety of clients nationwide. During his career he managed marketing, product management, technical support and training departments for several structured cabling industry manufacturers. Todd is the current chairman for the CCCA Communications Committee and is the Director of Standardization for Berk-Tek LLC, a Nexans company, a leading manufacturer of copper and optical fiber communications cable products.

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