Making the IP Transmission Transition

While it’s typically components like cameras, readers and control panels that get the most attention when designing a security system, the transmission media everything will ride on is a critical consideration. This is especially true with the migration onto IP networks. Gain insights for working with both copper- and fiber-based infrastructure.

Winning new projects is a key ingredient required for any business to succeed and grow. In the end, the company that best meets the needs of its customers and can deliver them at a favorable price will succeed.

Choosing the right transmission media for a project is an area where costs can escalate and not having a thorough understanding of what options are available can jeopardize the installation budget and lead to added costs. It is also an area where a little advance thought and planning can eliminate potential expansion challenges in the future.

Many of the projects occurring today consist of building renovation and security system upgrades. This article is designed to review a few competitive advantages available when designing the transmission portion of any project. Currently, a majority of the projects involve the transition to an Ethernet-based security system. Here we will look at solutions that can be used to your advantage once we know “what’s behind the wall.”

Scenario 1: Copper Media Used

As conventional analog surveillance and access control/intrusion systems transition to IP-based systems, a common misconception is that existing coaxial cables and unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wiring have to be removed or abandoned. This is due to the belief that they are incapable of supporting Ethernet data and that optical fiber or network copper cables must be installed. A major cost contributor to any IP-based system is installing new transmission media. But there is a way to gain an advantage.

Ethernet over VDSL devices are on the market that allow 10/100Mbps Ethernet data to be transmitted over existing 75-ohm coax or UTP cables. After replacing the existing analog camera or access control device at the remote location to a similar IP-based device, the integrator installs the Ethernet over copper product on the coax or UTP and another Ethernet over copper product at the other end of the cable at the head-end. Ethernet signals can then be transmitted using the coax cable or UTP as the medium.

Ethernet modems can provide a distinct distance advantage over standard network cables. These Ethernet-over-copper devices can facilitate distances up to 3,000 meters over UTP or 500 meters over 75-ohm coaxial cable. In facility expansion design scenarios, the use of such cost-effective products can help Ethernet over copper become a viable option given the cost for installing new media for the Ethernet network.

There are also devices available for when it is desired to use power over Ethernet (PoE) in an application where coax is being used as the Ethernet transmission medium. They provide both Ethernet data and operating power for a PoE IP camera and some models are capable of transporting from the head-end through the coax for distances of up to 230 meters. This type of product can eliminate the cost of the medium and the labor to install it, as well as the expense to install or deploy power at the field location.

The perfect application for this type of product is where an existing analog camera is being used in a field location and an upgrade to IP is required. In this situation, power for both the IP camera and line device is supplied over the coax supplied from the head-end. Thus the Ethernet signal can be transmitted over the same coax from the field location to the head-end.

One of the many benefits of Ethernet is interoperability between media material types. It is very common to find systems that utilize both copper and optical transmission media. Network hardware such as switches and media converters can use small form-factor pluggable (SFP) optical interfaces in their deployment that allow the switch to transport Ethernet over different media. It is a very safe assumption that many of the projects you will be involved with will integrate copper and optical fiber as the media.

Scenario 2: Fiber Optics Installed

When designing for the renovation of a facility that will rely on Ethernet as the signal transmission basis for the security system, utilizing installed fiber can be a cost-effective option. Bandwidth can become a serious issue as facilities turn to IP cameras for their video requirements. Although parameters for these cameras can be adjusted to conserve bandwidth, the use of optical fiber as the transmission media offers a compelling combination of performance, flexibility and overall value.

With fiber-optic transmission, Ethernet over single-mode or multimode optical fiber can yield substantial benefits such as extended distance, EFI/RFI immunity and the capacity to support high bandwidth.

If fiber-optic cable has been installed in the existing facility and it is currently supporting an analog CCTV system, the transition to an IP-based security system is easily accomplished. It is possible to utilize the existing fiber as the transmission media; all that is required is sourcing the correct Ethernet product and switching out the equipment on either end of the fiber.

Changing the hardware from a fiber-optic video and data modem to a media converter can be as straightforward as plug-and-play. Assisting in this transition from analog to Ethernet are an assortment of media converters, unmanaged switches and managed switches that can make the move to IP-based security almost seamless. Ethernet networks inherently require programming to operate efficiently. Partnering with a supplier that offers system design assistance is a great help in the initial design.

Should expansion of an existing facility ever be required, installing fiber-optic cables can prove quite cost effective. Under these circumstances, the cost of the media, be it fiber or copper cable, is very close in price. However, by using fiber-optic transmission the integrator can virtually “future-proof” the network. Due to the exceptional bandwidth offered by single-mode fiber, future bandwidth usage obstacles can be overcome.

Optical fiber has the distance advantage over common Cat-5, -5e, -6 and -7 cables. Network cables are limited to 100 meters. Multimode fiber can extend distances up to 2 kilometers and single mode up to 120 kilometers, depending on the media converter or optic being used in the managed/unmanaged switch.

Best-Case Scenario: Client Is No. 1

Ethernet-based security systems provide a valuable solution for today’s increasing security demands. Recognizing the needs of the customer is key to providing an effective solution. Looking at the current requirements and planning for future capacity leads to a satisfied customer.

By choosing the correct signal transmission infrastructure, successful integration companies can deliver a significant performance and price benefit that delivers an advantage in winning the project, and driving it to completion. It pays to look behind the wall.

Frank Haight is Vice President of Marketing for Danbury, Conn.-based Communication Networks (ComNet).

Read the sidebar “The 4 Parameters of Specifying Fiber.”


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