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Power over Ethernet or PoE describes any of several standard or ad-hoc systems which pass electric power along with data on twisted pair Ethernet cabling. This allows a single cable to provide both data connection and electric power to devices such as wireless access points, IP cameras, and VoIP phones.
There are several common techniques for transmitting power over Ethernet cabling. Two of them have been standardized by IEEE 802.3 since 2003. These standards are known as Alternative A and Alternative B. For 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX, only two of the four signal pairs in typical Cat 5 cable are used. Alternative B separates the data and the power conductors, making troubleshooting easier. It also makes full use of all four twisted pairs in a typical Cat 5 cable. The positive voltage runs along pins 4 and 5, and the negative along pins 7 and 8.
Alternative A transports power on the same wires as data for 10 and 100 Mbit/s Ethernet variants. This is similar to the phantom power technique commonly used for powering condenser microphones. Power is transmitted on the data conductors by applying a common voltage to each pair. Because twisted-pair Ethernet uses differential signaling, this does not interfere with data transmission. The common-mode voltage is easily extracted using the center tap of the standard Ethernet pulse transformer. For Gigabit Ethernet and faster, all four pairs are used for data transmission, so both Alternatives A and B transport power on wire pairs also used for data.
In addition to standardizing existing practice for spare-pair (Alternative B) and common-mode data pair power (Alternative A) transmission, the IEEE PoE standards provide for signaling between the power sourcing equipment (PSE) and powered device (PD). This signaling allows the presence of a conformant device to be detected by the power source, and allows the device and source to negotiate the amount of power required or available.

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