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  • Writer's pictureJonathan P

Active PoE vs. Passive PoE: Which is Right for Your Network?


Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology has become increasingly essential in today's networking landscape. It allows for both data and power to be transmitted over a single Ethernet cable, simplifying installation and reducing the need for additional power sources. Within the realm of PoE, there are two main types: Active PoE and Passive PoE. In this blog post, we'll explore the differences between these two technologies to help you decide which one is the best fit for your network requirements.

1. Active PoE

Active PoE is a standardized approach to power delivery over Ethernet, following IEEE 802.3af or 802.3at standards. This method of power distribution involves a negotiation process between the power sourcing equipment (PSE) and the powered device (PD). Here are some key characteristics of Active PoE:

a. Standardized: Active PoE adheres to IEEE standards, ensuring compatibility across various devices.

b. Dynamic Power Negotiation: Active PoE devices negotiate the required power between PSE and PD, allowing for efficient power management.

c. Safety Features: Active PoE includes features such as overload and under-voltage protection to safeguard connected devices.

d. High Compatibility: Devices labeled as IEEE 802.3af/at compliant are generally compatible with Active PoE infrastructure.

e. Complexity: The negotiation process can make Active PoE more complex to set up, requiring managed switches and proper configuration.

2. Passive PoE

Passive PoE, in contrast, is a non-standardized method of delivering power over Ethernet. It doesn't involve any negotiation between devices and relies on a fixed voltage being supplied to the powered device. Here are the main characteristics of Passive PoE:

a. Non-Standardized: Passive PoE does not adhere to any specific standards, which can lead to compatibility issues between different devices.

b. Simplicity: Passive PoE is easy to set up, requiring only a power injector or splitter and standard Ethernet cables.

c. Cost-Effective: Due to its simplicity, Passive PoE is often more cost-effective to implement.

d. Limited Protection: Passive PoE lacks some of the safety features found in Active PoE, which can make it riskier for devices.

e. Compatibility Concerns: As there are no standards, you need to ensure that the voltage supplied matches the requirements of your PD to avoid damaging equipment.

Which is Right for Your Network?

Choosing between Active PoE and Passive PoE depends on your specific network requirements:

1. Active PoE is ideal for businesses and organizations where reliability and compatibility are paramount. It offers standardized power delivery and robust safety features. If you're using mission-critical equipment, Active PoE is the safer choice.

2. Passive PoE is suitable for simpler setups, small-scale projects, or when cost savings are a priority. It's easy to implement and is often used for non-standard devices, but it comes with compatibility and safety risks.


Active PoE and Passive PoE each have their advantages and disadvantages. When deciding which one is right for your network, consider your specific needs, budget, and the equipment you'll be using. If you prioritize safety, reliability, and standardized equipment, Active PoE is the way to go. On the other hand, if you're working on a smaller scale or cost-efficiency is key, Passive PoE may be a suitable choice. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your unique network requirements and goals.

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