Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why power over Ethernet makes sense

Imagine a world where every country would have its own Ethernet connector. In this world mean that every switch would have a version for each country, possibly its own pin assignment, maybe even different speeds for the data. Vendors would have to produce for each country, keep inventory for each country and possibly also get certified with the Ethernet watch for each country. There are some people who see positive things with this, but at the end of the day it would mean that mediocre companies could lock competition out and I just can’t spot anything positive in this.

This world is a reality in the world of power plugs. There are plug for the USA, for Australia, for the UK, for Germany, for Switzerland, for France, and possibly even more countries in the world and they are all incompatible. Isn’t that crazy? I guess the standards were done at times when politicians thought that locking down their country would be a good thing.

There are other areas today where the industry purposefully introduced such country specific localization. Remember the last time you bought a DVD on your trip to far-away-country and wanted to play it back at home. Didn’t work! The DVD companies don’t like it when you purchase your DVD in China and play in back in Germany. This happened even without politicians I believe. It was just a way to maximize the turnover with countries where people are willing to pay more and countries where people on average are willing to pay only less.

What does that all have to do with the m9? There are two things here as well.

The first is the power plug. The m9 also has to deal with the problem that different regions have different power plugs. So far we have three regions: USA, Australia and the rest of the world. For USA, the m9 comes with the two-bar power plug that we all know. Australia comes with the old UK-style power plug (also known from your last trip to Hong Kong) and some special certifications if you want to sell the device in Australia (like the lower ring tone). The rest of the world comes with a number of plugs that you can use in your specific country. snom also uses this to differentiate the price (like everyone in this industry does). So next time when you buy an m9 in the USA, don’t be surprised if it does not fit into the power plug in Europe.

The second thing is the frequency. USA could not allocate the same spectrum like most of the other countries. I am not sure if that was really a technical problem, or the USA wanted to make sure that there would be a different price level possible in the USA area. Anyway, that’s why there are two versions of the m9 handset today. snom had no choice, just follow the industry.

What happened in the cell phone industry might also soon happen in the VoIP world. Like practically all cell phones today use USB for charging the device, vendors will stop sullying power supplies and instead point to Power over Ethernet. This will make the global supply easier; actually it will enforce more global competition, it will be more difficult to lock devices to a specific region, and at the end of the day customers will benefit from a global standard with a huge volume behind it.

PoE can not only be used for powering DECT base stations, it can actually be used for a lot more devices. I think they are working on powering laptops on PoE, of course desktop phones and video camers. But even things like LED lights start to use PoE. When you build a new house, consider running an CAT5 cable to the ceiling instead of a regular power cable. It might all help to get the volume up and the prices down.

I was personally never a fan of PoE. But thinking about it, I might actually become a fan these days.


  1. I agree. Power over Ethernet is definitely needed to bring this system to one balance in all countries. It's no good when prices on Ethernet vary greatly from the point of view of usability and comfort.

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  3. Great work. Thanks for your time and another brilliant article.This world is nothing without Ethernet devices.