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Black Box Explains...MIMO wireless.

Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output (MIMO) is a part of the new IEEE 802.11n wireless standard. It’s a technique that uses multiple signals to increase the speed, reliability, and coverage of wireless networks. It... more/see it nowtransmits multiple datastreams simultaneously, increasing wireless capacity to up to 100 or even 250 Mbps.

This wireless transmission method takes advantage of a radio transmission characteristic called multipath, which means that radio waves bouncing off surfaces such as walls and ceilings will arrive at the antenna at fractionally different times. This characteristic has long been considered to be a nuisance that impairs wireless transmission, but MIMO technology actually exploits it to enhance wireless performance.

MIMO sends a high-speed data stream across multiple antennas by breaking it into several lower-speed streams and sending them simultaneously. Each signal travels multiple routes for redundancy.

To pick up these multipath signals, MIMO uses multiple antennas and compares signals many times a second to select the best one. A MIMO receiver makes sense of these signals by using a mathematical algorithm to reconstruct the signals. Because it has multiple signals to choose from, MIMO achieves higher speeds at greater ranges than conventional wireless hardware does. collapse

Black Box Explains... Video extenders with built-in skew compensation.

To ensure the best video resolution, it’s important to match your video extension device with a compatible grade of cable. Some multimedia extenders are not designed to transmit video across... more/see it nowcable that’s higher than CAT5. In fact, with these extenders, the higher-grade cable may actually degrade video.

The problem is with the cable twists of CAT5e and CAT6 cables. To reduce signaling crosstalk, these higher-grade cables have tighter twists—and more of them—than CAT5 cable does. For this reason, the wire distance that an electrical signal has to travel is different for each pair. This doesn’t normally cause a problem with data, but if you’re sending higher-resolution analog video signals across long cables, you may see color separation caused by the video signals arriving at different times.

To avoid this, you could use only the lower-grade cable with the extenders. But what if you already have CAT5e or higher cable installed in your building, or you simply want the latest and greatest copper wiring? Order an extender receiver that features built-in skew compensation so it can work properly with higher cable grades at longer distances. collapse

Black Box Explains... Single-Mode Fiber Optic Cable

Multimode fiber cable has multiple modes of propagation—that is, several wavelengths of light are normally used in the fiber core. In contrast, single-mode fiber cable has only one mode of... more/see it nowpropagation: a single wavelength of light in the fiber core. This means there’s no interference or overlap between the different wavelengths of light to garble your data over long distances like there is with multimode cable.

What does this get you? Distance–up to 50 times more distance than multimode fiber cable. You can also get higher bandwidth. You can use a pair of single-mode fiber strands full-duplex for up to twice the throughput of multimode fiber cable. The actual speed and distance you get will vary with the devices used with the single-mode fiber. collapse

Black Box Explains...Coax connectors.

The BNC (Bayonet-Neill-Concelman) connector is the most commonly used coax connector. This large ”bayonet“ connector features a slotted outer conductor and an inner plastic dielectric, and it offers easy connection... more/see it nowand disconnection. After insertion, the plug is turned, tightening the pins in the socket. It is widely used in video and Radio Frequency (RF) applications up to 2.4 GHz. It is also common in 10BASE2 Ethernet networks, on cable interconnections, network cards, and test equipment.

The TNC connector is a threaded version of the BNC connector. It works in frequencies up to 12 GHz. It‘s commonly used in cellular telephone RF/antenna applications.

The N connector is a larger, threaded connector that was designed in the 1940s for military systems operating at less than 5 GHz. In the 1960s, improvements raised performance to 12 GHz. The connector features an internal gasket and is hand tightened. It is common on 2.4-GHz antennas.

The UHF connector looks like a coarse-threaded, big center-conductor version of the N connector. It was developed in the 1930s. It is suitable for use up to 200–300 MHz and generally offers nonconstant impedance.

The F connector is most often used in cable and satellite TV and antenna applications; and it performs well at high frequencies. The connector has a 3/8–32 coupling thread. Some F connectors are also available in a screw-on style.

The SMA (Subminiature A) connector is one of the most common RF/microwave connectors. This small, threaded connector is used on small cables that won’t be connected and disconnected often. It’s designed for use to 12.4 GHz, but works well at 18, and sometimes even up to 24 GHz. This connector is often used in avionics, radar, and microwave communications.

The SMC (Subminiature C) connector is a small, screw-on version of the SMA. It uses a 10–32 threaded interface and can be used in frequencies up to 10 GHz. This connector is used primarily in microwave environments.

The SMB (Subminiature B) connector is a small version of the SMC connector. It was developed in the 1960s and features a snap-on coupling for fast connections. It features a self-centering outer spring and overlapping dielectric. It is rated from 2–4 GHZ, but can possibly work up to 10 GHz.

The MCX (Micro Coax) connector is a coax RF connector developed in the 1980s. It has a snap-on interface and uses the same inner contact and insulator as the SMB connector but is 30% smaller. It can be used in broadband applications up to 6 GHz. collapse

Black Box Explains...Designing your wireless network.

Setting up wireless devices that belong to the 802.11 family is relatively simple, but you do have to pay attention to a few simple factors.

Ad-hoc or infrastructure... more/see it nowmode?

The 802.11 wireless standards support two basic configurations: ad-hoc mode and infrastructure mode.

In ad-hoc mode, wireless user devices such as laptop computers and PDAs communicate directly with each other in a peer-to-peer manner without the benefit of access points.

Ad-hoc mode is generally used to form very small spontaneous networks. For instance, with ad-hoc mode, laptop users in a meeting can quickly establish a small network to share files.

Infrastructure mode uses wireless access points to enable wireless devices to communicate with each other and with your wired network. Most networks use infrastructure mode.

The basic components of infrastructure mode networks include:

  • The radios embedded or installed within the wireless devices themselves. Many notebook computers and other Wi-Fi-compliant mobile devices, such as PDAs, come with the transmitters built in. But for others, you need to install a card-type device to enable wireless communications. Desktop PCs may also need an ISA or a PCI bus adapter to enable the cards to work.
  • The access point, which acts as a base station that relays signals between the 802.11 devices.
One or many access points?

Access points are standalone hardware devices that provide a central point of communication for your wireless users. How many you need in your application depends on the number of users and the amount of bandwidth required by each user. Bandwidth is shared, so if your network has many users who routinely send data-heavy multimedia files, additional access points may be required to accommodate the demand.

A small-office network with fewer than 15 users may need just 1 access point. Larger networks require multiple points. If the hardware supports it, you can overlap coverage areas to allow users to roam between cells without any break in network coverage. A user’s wireless device picks up a signal beacon from the strongest access point to maintain seamless coverage.

How many access points to use also depends on your operating environment and the required range. Radio propagation can be affected by walls and electrical interference that can cause signal reflection and fading. If you’re linking mobile users indoors-where walls and other obstructions impede the radiated signal-the typical maximum range is 150 feet. Outdoors, you can get greater WLAN range-up to 2000 feet (depending on your antenna type) where there’s a clear line of sight!

For optimal speed and range, install your wireless access point several feet above the floor or ground and away from metal equipment or large appliances that may emit interference.

Battle of the bands.

In addition to sharing bandwidth, users also share a band. Most IEEE 802.11 or 802.11b devices function in the 2.4-2.4835-GHz band. But these frequencies are often congested, so you may want to use devices that take advantage of the IEEE 802.11a 5.725-5.825-GHz band.

No matter what frequency you use, you’ll want to isolate your users from outsiders using the same frequency. To do this, assign your users a network identifier, such as an Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID), as well as distinct channels.

Web and wired network links.

The access point links your wireless network to your wired network, enabling your wireless users to access shared data resources and devices across your LAN enterprise. Some access points even feature capabilities for routing traffic in one or both directions between a wired and wireless network.

For Internet access, connect a broadband router with an access point to an Internet connection over a broadband service such as DSL, cable modem, or satellite.

For connecting network printers, you can dedicate a computer to act as a print server or add a wireless print server device; this enables those on your wireless network to share printers.

When to use external antennas.

If you plan to install access points, you can boost your signal considerably by adding external antennas. Various mounting configurations and high- and low-gain options are available.

You can also use add-on antennas to connect nodes where the topology doesn’t allow for a clear signal between access points. Or use them to link multiple LANs located far apart.

Additional external antennas are also useful to help overcome the effects of multipath propagation in which a signal takes different paths and confuses the receiver. It’s also helpful to deploy antennas that propagate the signal in a way that fits the environment. For instance, for a long, narrow corridor, use an antenna that focuses the RF pattern in one direction instead of one that radiates the signal in all directions.

Plan ahead with a site survey.

A site survey done ahead of time to plot where the signal is the strongest can help you identify problem areas and avoid dead spots where coverage isn’t up to par or is unreliable. For this, building blueprints are helpful in revealing potential obstructions that you might not see in your physical site walkthrough.

To field test for a clear signal path, attach an antenna to an access point or laptop acting as the transmitter at one end. Attach another antenna to a wireless device acting as a receiver at the other end. Then check for interference using RF test equipment (such as a wireless spectrum analyzer) and determine whether vertical or horizontal polarization will work best.

Need help doing this? Call us. We even offer a Site Survey Kit that has a variety of antennas included. Great for installers, the kit enables you to test a variety of antennas in the field before placing a larger antenna order.


Black Box Explains... Why go wireless?

• It’s great for communicating in harsh climates or in areas where it’s expensive to run cable. Wireless solutions are well suited for use in military applications, farming, refineries, mining,... more/see it nowconstruction, and field research.
• Because sometimes you just can’t run wire, like in historic buildings or hazmat areas.
• When it’s physically or legally impossible to support conventional hard-wired RS-232 communications, wireless networking may be your only answer.
• It gives you quick, temporary connections at trade shows, and fast reconfigurations—even troubleshooting or remote field testing.
• It provides reliable disaster relief when all else fails! Count on wireless networks to maintain mission-critical links when disaster strikes.
• It’s more affordable, more reliable, and faster than ever before.
• Best of all, no FCC licensing required! collapse

Black Box Explains…VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a recently developed, cost-saving alternative to traditional telephone service that enables voice data to be transported over IP networks, like the Internet, instead of... more/see it nowthe public switched telephone network (PSTN) or a cellular network.

VoIP, which operates strictly over IP networks, can connect to other VoIP nodes or traditional phone lines. The IP network used may be the Internet or a private network.

In either instance, the actual data-transport portion of this network can still be made up of the full gamut of network services: high-speed leased lines, Frame Relay, ATM, DSL, copper, fiber, wireless, satellite, and microwave signals. VoIP simply digitizes voice data and adds it to other information traveling along the same network.

With this flexible technology, a phone call can be placed between two PCs, between a PC and a standard telephone, between a PC and an IP phone, between an IP phone and a standard telephone, or between two IP phones. It will take a long time for the PSTN to support this technology seamlessly, but this seems to be the direction in which phone systems are headed.

Benefits of VoIP
Because VoIP is inexpensive, has a worldwide reach, and operates on a few simple principles, it’s exploded in popularity in recent years—especially among both small and large businesses that incur significant long-distance telephone expenses.

Without question, the primary benefit of a VoIP system is decreasing or eliminating long-distance telephone charges. Organizations with a high volume of long-distance voice traffic stand to save quite a lot of money by implementing a VoIP system. However, this factor alone may not warrant a full commitment to VoIP for some companies.

Setup fees for VoIP are usually quite low so your organization can generally start saving money after only a month or two of service. And with the wide variety of VoIP products and services on the market, it’s easier than ever to set up a VoIP phone system over your network.

VoIP can be set up in a way that enables you to use phone numbers in exactly the same way as you did before VoIP. Most of the services you get with traditional phone service—Voice Mail, Call Waiting, and Call Routing, for instance—are also available with VoIP.

VoIP doesn’t interfere with other network services either, so you can surf the Web while making a VoIP call.

VoIP doesn’t tie you to one phone or to a single location. Anywhere you find high-speed reliable Internet access, you can use VoIP. Your phone number stays the same wherever you are—office, home, hotel, or even traveling overseas.

Although the ITU standards for VoIP have evolved significantly in the last few years, VoIP is still suffering from a lack of generally accepted interoperability standards.

H.323, a standard for real-time audio, video, and data communications across IP-based networks (including the Internet), is almost universally accepted as the primary standard for VoIP call setup and signaling. It’s actually a collection of standards that works together for sending multimedia and data over networks that don’t provide guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS).

The H.323 standard includes:
- Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) specifies end-to-end network transport functions for applications transmitting real-time data such as video. RTP provides services like payload type identification, sequence numbering, time stamping, and delivery monitoring to real-time applications. Plus, it works with RTCP.
- Real-time Transport Control Protocol (RTCP) works with RTP to provide a feedback mechanism, providing QoS status and control information to the streaming server.
- Registration, Admission, Status (RAS) is a gateway protocol that manages functions such as signaling, registration, admissions, bandwidth changes, status, and disengage procedures.
- Q.931 manages call setup and termination.
- H.245 negotiates channel usage and capabilities.
- H.235 provides security and authentication.

As VoIP product manufacturers began conducting interoperability tests for more complex operations, they recognized that they needed a simpler and more adaptable standard for call handling and signaling protocol.

To this end, the IETF developed the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP is built with less computer code than H.323 is, so it’s less cumbersome. Because SIP is similar in nature to HTML—it uses ASCII text for configuration—users can adapt it more easily for specific VoIP systems. In contrast, modifying H.323 for VoIP applications requires a knowledgeable computer programmer.

Both H.323 and SIP are considered “thick clients,” where intelligence is maintained in the end devices such as IP telephones. In this respect, H.323 has a head start, although most VoIP systems today support both H.323 and SIP.

Despite the fact that VoIP standards are still developing, providers are already flooding the market with products and services while forming partnerships and matching expertise to strengthen their position in this new market. The biggest of these players and alliances—the ones who have the size and experience to grasp technical issues and quickly build infrastructures over which to offer VoIP services—are able to keep up with (and often influence) the continual changes in this market and keep rolling out new services.

A VoIP system depends on devices that connect your traditional phone or phone system to an IP network. Components that you’ll see in a VoIP system include:
- End-user devices
- Gateways or gatekeepers
- IP Networks

End-user devices are usually VoIP telephones or PCs running VoIP software. End-user devices have their own IP address and make a direct connection to the IP network.

A gateway is a device that converts circuit-switched analog voice calls from a traditional PBX into VoIP packets and transmits them over an IP network either to another gateway or directly to an end-user device.

A gateway can have additional features such as voice compression, echo cancellation, and packet prioritization.

Because VoIP-enabled end-user devices can communicate directly with each other over an IP network, a gateway is not a required component of a VoIP system as long as the VoIP devices are connected directly to the IP network.

An IPBX is a PBX with a built-in gateway. IPBX systems are equipped for hundreds of telephone ports, with WAN support for trunk connections to the PSTN, and with high-speed IP WAN links. In addition to VoIP features, these systems usually include other features typical of traditional PBX systems such as music on hold, auto-attendant, and call management. Often, they include Ethernet ports to support VoIP telephones.

VoIP can be set up with or without a connection to standard PSTN phone service. You can, of course, place calls over the Internet directly from your PC or IP phone to another VoIP-enabled device. But what makes VoIP so versatile is that, through the use of a gateway service, it can also be used to call the numbers of phones connected to standard land-line or cellular phone services. They can also receive calls from standard telephones.

Not all fun and free calls
There are still things to consider when you’re deciding whether or not to invest in VoIP.

Regulation vagaries
Much of the government regulation of VoIP is still being worked out. The U.S. government hasn’t decided whether VoIP is going to be regulated as phone service or whether to tax it. VoIP isn’t available worldwide because some governments fear the loss of tax revenue or control.

Although older VoIP equipment may still have some compatibility issues, current VoIP products from different vendors generally work together.

For all the popular talk about VoIP being free, it isn’t truly free. Any VoIP system has costs associated with its implementation—equipment, high-speed Internet access, and gateway service. So, although it’s inexpensive, it’s a long way from being free. For organizations with a high volume of long-distance calls, especially to international locations, VoIP almost always pays for itself quickly. However, private users or organizations with a low volume of long-distance calls primarily within the U.S., may find that a standard service is actually more economical in the short- to mid-term.

VoIP depends on having a fast, reliable network to operate. A fast network connection with guaranteed bandwidth is not a problem in a corporate intranet where you have complete control over the network. However, if you’re using the Internet for VoIP, you’re using a public network that may be subject to slowdowns that cause drop-outs and distortion. You may find that your high-speed Internet connection is faster than the actual Internet and that the quality of your connection is generally unacceptable or is unacceptable at times when Internet usage is high.

There are four common network issues that can cause problems with a VoIP system:
- Latency is a delay in data transmission. With VoIP, this usually results in people speaking over one another because neither can tell when the other is finished talking.
- Loss. Losing a small percentage of voice transmission doesn’t affect VoIP, but too much (more than 1%) compromises the quality of the call.
- Jitter—is common to congested networks with bursty traffic. Jitter can be managed to some degree with software buffers.
- Sequence errors—or changes in the order of packets when they’re recompiled at the receiving station, degrades sound quality.

Emergency services
If you subscribe to a VoIP gateway service that enables you to use your VoIP phone like a regular phone, be aware that you may not be able to call 911 for emergencies. If 911 service is important to you because you don’t have an alternative way to call 911, shop for a VoIP provider who does provide this service.

Consider, too, that VoIP needs both working Internet access and power to work. If you lose your Internet service, your phone goes, too. And, unlike regular phone service that can keep basic telephones working when the power goes out, VoIP needs power—if you lose power, you lose your phone.

Moving forward
Before VoIP technology becomes truly universal, the current worldwide PSTN will have to migrate to a packet-based IP equivalent. Industry inertia alone dictates this will not occur instantly. The current worldwide PSTN system has grown to what it is over a period of 125 years. Given the sheer complexity of the existing PSTN, the migration to an IP packet network will probably occur during several decades.

As migration from the PSTN to IP-based networks proceeds, businesses and home users will gradually discover reasons of their own to implement VoIP. It won’t happen right away, but we predict that VoIP will become a big part of telecommunications in the not-so-distant future.

Although it’s not quite as convenient as conventional phone service, VoIP can offer serious savings—particularly if you now regularly pay for multiple overseas phone calls. Keep in mind though, VoIP isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But with a little planning, VoIP could spell savings for you! collapse

Black Box Explains...16850 UART.

The 16850 Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART) features a 128-byte First In First Out (FIFO) buffer. When implemented with the appropriate onboard drivers and receivers, it enables your onboard serial ports... more/see it nowto achieve sustained data rates of up to 460.8 kbps.

The 16850 UART includes automatic handshaking (RTS/CTS) and automatic RS-485 line control. It also features external clocking for isochronous applications, a performance enhancement not offered by earlier UARTs. collapse

Black Box Explains...Connectors.

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Black Box Explains…Sizing a UPS

The power delivered by a UPS is usually expressed both in volt-amps (VA) and watts. There’s often confusion about what the difference is between these figures and how to use... more/see it nowthem to select a UPS.

VA is power voltage multiplied by amps. For instance, a device that draws 5 amps of 120-volt power has a VA of 600. Watts is a measure of the actual power used by the device. VA and watts may be the same. The formula for watts is often expressed as:

Watts = Volts x Amps

This formula would lead you to believe that a measurement of VA is equal to watts, and it’s true for DC power. AC power, however, can get complicated. Some AC devices have a VA that’s higher than watts. VA is the power a device seems to be consuming, while watts is the power it actually uses.

This requires an adjustment called a power factor, which is the ratio of watts to VA.

AC Watts = Volts x Amps x Power Factor


Watts/VA = Power Factor

Simple AC devices, such as light bulbs, typically have a power factor of 100% (which may also be expressed as 1), meaning that watts are equal to VA like they are with DC devices. Computers have had a much lower power factor, traditionally in the 60–70% range. This meant that only part of the power going into the computer was being used to do useful work.

Today, however, because of Energy Star requirements, virtually all computing devices are power factor corrected and have a power factor of more than 90%.

Which brings us around to how to use this information to select a UPS. The capacity of a UPS is defined as both VA and watts. Both should be above the power requirements of the connected equipment.

Because of the computers that had a low power factor, UPSs typically had a VA that was much higher than watts, for instance, 500 VA/300 watts. In this case, if you use the UPS with a power factor corrected device that requires 450 VA/400 watts, the UPS won’t provide enough wattage to support the device.

Although UPSs intended for enterprise use now normally have a high power factor, consumer-grade UPSs still typically have a lower power factor—sometimes even under 60%. When using these UPSs, size them by watts, not VA, to ensure that they can support connected equipment.

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