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tschmidt
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4 edits

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Future Proofing home networks

Not sure if this really fits the Home Improvement forum but I though I'd give it a try.

In this forum, and in many others, have had numerous discussions about which category rated cable to use. Well for all of you "future proofers" out there will be happy to learn EIA/TIA has just started working on Category 8. BTW contrary to popular belief there is no EIA/TIA Category 7. There is an ISO/IEC Class F and Class FA. However there are no flavors of Ethernet that require it.

For those of you keeping score at home here are the relevant specs:

Cat 5e - 1G Ethernet - 100 meters (328 ft)
Cat 6a - 10G Ethernet - 100 meters (328 ft)
Cat 8 - 40G Ethernet (but probably not 100 meters)

For phone you can use anything that is vaguely twisted. My recommendation is to use the same rated cable used for your network. That way if down the road you no longer needs POTS (fairly likely) you can use the cable for networking.

PVC is cheaper and can be used anywhere except air handling spaces.

Plenum rated cable (Teflon) is required in air handling spaces - not typical in residential work. Also contrary to popular belief Teflon is fire resistant not fire proof. The goal of plenum rated cable to to delay the onset of combustion until air quality in the space is incompatible with life. Once it starts burning it is as nasty as any other plastic.

Use UV-rated cable for external use. Usually black and has UV resistant chemicals added to jacket to protect cable from sunlight degradation. Outdoor cable is usually flooded with water resistant goo (icky-pic) to prevent water ingress and discourage critters from chewing the cable.

»www.cablinginstall.com/webcasts/···ate.html

/tom
fixed typos
fixed more typos

Mr Matt

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Re: Future Prooffing home networks

From previous experience I would install conduit ending above all low voltage outlet openings extending into the attic or location where cables can be pulled to in multistory homes. For low voltage outlets I would stub out conduit to be level with or just above the outlet opening extending through the top plate. Use a mud ring rather than a electrical box. That will allow you to install cables or fiber that requires a large bending radius. You might consider two 3/4 inch EMT conduits to each outlet opening. You can easily replace cables in a conduit. Once cables are stapled to the studs it is impossible to easily replace them whether CAT5, Fiber or COAX or some new technology.


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
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reply to tschmidt

Re: Future Proofing home networks

I was going to say the same thing regarding conduits.
The best way is to run cables in a way that is easy to pull out.
Heck, you can tie the new cable to the old cable on one side and pull the old cable from the other side, thus pulling in the new cable.

In the end, CAT6 should do fine for many many years. For residential use, WiFi should be able to take over any time (if not already satisfying for most types of use). I'd future proof as well by preparing locations for wifi transmitters. Multiple transmitters = better coverage and less traffic on one node. Of course, this is probably only good for single detached homes. Condos would have too many neighboring wifi networks.

As for combustability of teflon, I don't think it's much important to buy teflon if it's much more expensive or hard to find. I can see the point to it for server locations where you can have 100 network cables running into one location, but when you have the odd 1 cable running here and there, it's not what will make a difference in case of fire.


cdru
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reply to tschmidt
said by tschmidt:

UV-rated cable for external use. Usually black and has UV resistant chemicals added to the jacket and is usually flooded with water resistant goo, to preserve transmission characteristics.

The goo isn't to preserve transmission characteristics. It's there in the event that if water does manage to penetrate the sheath through a nick, puncture, abrasion, etc that the water can't reach the shield and conductor. Think tire slime for the cable.

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

1 recommendation

reply to tschmidt
Personally, I wouldn't bother with anything more or less than CAT6 (not 6a) for residential use. 10 Gb Ethernet isn't ready for residential use yet, and even still CAT5e can handle 10 Gb for a 45 meter run*, which would cover most households.

I myself will be wiring my house with CAT6. It's only $20 more than CAT5e at Monoprice.com for a 1000-foot spool, so why not?

I'm not even going to bother with conduits. If I still own the house by the time the wiring needs to be replaced (10-15 years from now at the earliest), I'll just buckle down and cut holes in the wall and use the old stuff to pull the new stuff through the wall where I can.

*Source: »www.kit-communications.com/FAQCa···Cat6.htm


leibold
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reply to alkizmo
said by alkizmo:

As for combustability of teflon, I don't think it's much important to buy teflon if it's much more expensive or hard to find.

Plenum cable (CMP rated) is readily available everywhere cable is being sold and while indeed more expensive, it is not so much more expensive that cost becomes the reason for a homeowner not to buy it.

I remember seeing a video showing the difference in flame-spread and smoke development between CM (General Purpose), CMR (Riser) and CMP (Plenum) which was sufficient for me to spend a few extra dollars even if the code doesn't require it (I thought it was at the UL website but couldn't find it now).

With all the combustible material in a typical home a fire will spread regardless what type of cables you use. However plenum cable will at least not actively help in spreading the fire around (as plain PVC will do).
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cdru
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said by leibold:

I remember seeing a video showing the difference in flame-spread and smoke development between CM (General Purpose), CMR (Riser) and CMP (Plenum) which was sufficient for me to spend a few extra dollars even if the code doesn't require it (I thought it was at the UL website but couldn't find it now).

Here are a few different types of cables and how they react under a flame. Below is also a video of two different alleged plenum cables. The one on the right I think would be an inferior cable if not an outright counterfeit.

»www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EOEZMq_BzI


With all the combustible material in a typical home a fire will spread regardless what type of cables you use. However plenum cable will at least not actively help in spreading the fire around (as plain PVC will do).

I think that is the main benefit of the plenum rated cables. It's not that it won't burn. Or that it's not toxic if it does. Both of those things can happen. It just helps prevent fire spreading to new parts of the building faster by using air plenums that often have moving air currents that would easily "fan the fire" so to speak. Anything that helps delay the spread of fire is beneficial, and if it releases less smoke, particularly the thick dark smoke that's typical when PVC burns, all the better.

JoelC707
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Lanett, AL
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reply to tschmidt
Despite there being a networking forum here, I suspect since it deals with "wiring" similar to power wiring, that many people would come here first for this kind of info. It doesn't exactly fit, but it's still a good place for it IMO.

Interesting info regarding Cat 8 spec. I too have seen cables and other things sold as Cat 7 but had never seen anything official about it. I believe they skipped Cat 4 as well (straight from 3 to 5).

That said if I were really into future proofing I would do one of two things, possibly both. First, I would strongly consider putting in conduit. If you still own the home decades later (I grew up in the same house my dad grew up in, so it's possible), even if you put Cat 8 in today, you may want to upgrade that at some point. Conduit really helps to facilitate that.

The other option, in addition to or in place of the conduit is to just run fiber. You can get fiber NICs sure, but I would instead go with a media converter. Yes, it's one more component on each end and one more component that can fail. It also may take time for the media converters to come out but considering these advancements usually come to servers and backbone equipment first, which are usually fiber connected, you'll be ahead of the curve compared to copper users. Besides, who knows, in the future fiber may be the preferred cabling instead of copper.


leibold
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said by JoelC707:

I believe they skipped Cat 4 as well (straight from 3 to 5).

Cat 4 wasn't skipped but it had a very short lifespan. It was designed for 16Mbps Token Ring and 100Base-T4 (4 pair 100Mbps Ethernet). When the Cat 5 specification was finalized most manufacturers found that their data cables already met or exceeded Cat 5 requirements and simply changed the product labeling without having to retool their plants (which is time consuming and costly).

I remember an office (early 90s) being wired with Cat 3 for voice and Cat 4 for data (initially for a 10Base-T network). By the time we had moved in and needed some additional locations wired Cat 4 was no longer available. Before upgrading to 100Base-TX (2 pair 100Mbps Ethernet) some years later I measured the installed Cat 4 wiring for compliance with Cat 5 specifications and all tested locations passed with a comfortable margin.
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JoelC707
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Wow, I learned two new things in one post. There actually was a Cat 4 (makes sense on the explanation too), and that there was a 100Base-T4 specification. Never knew that existed. And for some reason, every time I think of Token Ring I think of 10Base-2 (the old coax network).


whizkid3
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reply to tschmidt
Plenum vs. PVC jacketed cables. The primary difference is that the plenum jacket is designed to be very-low smoke generating in the event of a fire. It lowers the 'load' of flammable materials, and the amount of smoke produced. Its used primarily where smoke can be re-circulated throughout the building; i.e. in ceiling plenums.

Its not needed in homes. In almost all homes, the amount of materials that produce poisonous smoke in a fire - and large amounts - is overwhelming. If there is a fire in your house and you breath in the smoke - good chance you are dead. Sorry, to say, but there are almost no requirements for low-smoke producing materials in households, because in a fire its only a few dead people; compared to an office building, for example, where hundreds could die. In those buildings, very often all of the furnishings - walls, ceilings, flooring, paint, furniture, etc - are often 'Class A' in terms of low-flammability and low-smoke producing.

So, if you want to spend an extra $20 or so on a roll of plenum cable for your house - great. Its not going to do a damn thing to save you in a fire, however.

TheMG
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2 edits
said by whizkid3:

In almost all homes, the amount of materials that produce poisonous smoke in a fire - and large amounts - is overwhelming.

Doesn't surprise me one bit, especially with the over-abundance of cheap synthetic materials and plastics found in the majority of consumer products. It's scary how flammable some of these materials are.

said by JoelC707:

The other option, in addition to or in place of the conduit is to just run fiber. You can get fiber NICs sure, but I would instead go with a media converter. Yes, it's one more component on each end and one more component that can fail. It also may take time for the media converters to come out but considering these advancements usually come to servers and backbone equipment first, which are usually fiber connected, you'll be ahead of the curve compared to copper users. Besides, who knows, in the future fiber may be the preferred cabling instead of copper.

Even fiber isn't completely "future proof". Not all fiber is created equal. Who knows what type of fiber will be the standard in the future.


leibold
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If you want to see just how quick a fire spreads through a room, the Christmas Tree Fire videos from the NIST are both informative and seasonal

With regards to the original topic, when using flexible plastic conduit (a.k.a. Smurf Tube, ENT) to future proof a home network there is no point in using plenum cable since the conduit itself is not fire rated at all.
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JoelC707
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reply to TheMG
True, no one really knows what the future holds so the whole concept of "future proofing" is kind of a futile effort. On the fiber front, you really only have multimode and singlemode fiber and I suspect mode converters/NICS use multimode. The connector is somewhat volatile with a lot more options now than just the ST/SC options when I first got exposed to fiber patch cables LOL. And the average user isn't going to have the skill or equipment to replace connectors either.


nunya
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reply to tschmidt
For residential use, I think wired networks don't have much of a future at all. Maybe for hardcore enthusiasts. For most people wireless will be plenty.

The only way to "future-proof" a wired network is conduit.

Back in the late 90's and early 00's, we were installing banana peel with mm fiber. Nobody ever bothered to use it. Why? Unnecessary expense. Cat5 does what you need with no "special" conversion.
I'd even say cat6 is a waste of time any more. Wireless just keeps getting better and better. All of our client devices are trending to wireless as well (phones, iPad's, laptop, kindle, etc...
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shdesigns
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said by nunya:

Wireless just keeps getting better and better. All of our client devices are trending to wireless as well (phones, iPad's, laptop, kindle, etc...

In many places, wireless keeps getting worse and worse.

I used to get good wireless speeds but now there are too many neighbors with wireless routers to get reliable speeds. (I see 6 AP's or more in my client)

This is a neighborhood with 1/2 acre lots. Those in apartments have it worse.

It is fine for cell phone use but by laptop needs wired for HD video and my desktop needs gigabit for access to my server.
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JoelC707
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You know, I was thinking this too. Wireless has the potential to be a major game changer, at least in residential settings. I recently setup a new computer for a friend in an apartment near Mercer University. She mentioned horrible wireless interference as an issue and upon looking at inSSIDer it was clear why. I saw no less than 30 APs with each channel having 5-6 APs on it, and the major ones having more than that. I ran a cable instead of dealing with that.

Honestly for wireless to truly take off there needs to be some changes. First and foremost, get rid of 2.4 GHz, it's too crowded. Going to 5 GHz is of course going to reduce range but I'd rather have low signal at the far corners of my property than have 2.4 barely make it out of the house.

Sure this is a chicken and egg scenario, there's a lot of 2.4 only devices out there and just dropping 2.4 will cause problems. My opinion is there needs to be a major incentive to upgrade. Or if you just don't care about the speeds then run a separate G/N network. If you include both 2.4 and 5 in it as N does, you have no incentive to upgrade your devices and just keep it on 2.4 (I know mine is on 2.4 only).

The other major thing is speed. 300 meg N APs are great but honestly you are lucky to get 150 out of them. Sure, it's better than G and better than a typical fast ethernet wired connection but it doesn't take long to degrade and that fast ethernet connection is looking better and better. When they can make a wireless AP that delivers at least gigabit speeds at max distance, then we'll see widespread adoption.


cowboyro
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reply to tschmidt
There is no real way of "future proofing" other than have easy ways of running new wires.
Not that long ago future proofing would have been running quality 50ohm coax cables. It's hard to predict where the industry will go. Could be twisted pairs or could be fiber optic. But single-mode or multi-mode?
For now the reality is that the existing CAT5e or CAT6 are more than enough for most residential and even industrial applications. There are very few systems that can even process the amount of data that can be transferred, and for those fiber optic cables are typical...


cdru
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reply to nunya
said by nunya:

For residential use, I think wired networks don't have much of a future at all. Maybe for hardcore enthusiasts. For most people wireless will be plenty.

Try to stream a high-bitrate 1080P BD over wireless-g in an urban/suburban area. Wired networks will be around for a long time.

TheMG
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reply to nunya
said by nunya:

For residential use, I think wired networks don't have much of a future at all. Maybe for hardcore enthusiasts. For most people wireless will be plenty.

It will be interesting to see what will happen when the typical home or apartment contains dozens of active WiFi devices.

Actually, it's already happening. Getting good performance out of WiFi in a high density area can already be challenging especially on the 2.4GHz band.

And I expect that as more and more devices start using the 5GHz band, it will have the same problems as well.

Fact is, the amount of spectrum allocated to consumer devices (in other words, the unlicensed ISM bands) is absolutely minuscule, especially when you can have 100+ devices within range of each other all using the same band.

It's only going to get worst. Especially as people start substituting wireless instead of wires for interconnecting their various audiovisual devices (several technologies are emerging that can stream high definition video and audio wirelessly to a TV).

The problem becomes even more apparent when you look at these bands with a spectrum analyzer. It's quite nasty.

Who knows, maybe eventually the FCC/IC/etc will allocate more ISM bandwidth. But for now, I'm not convinced that wireless will totally replace wires in the consumer side of things.

telco_mtl

join:2012-01-06
reply to JoelC707
said by JoelC707:

Wow, I learned two new things in one post. There actually was a Cat 4 (makes sense on the explanation too), and that there was a 100Base-T4 specification. Never knew that existed. And for some reason, every time I think of Token Ring I think of 10Base-2 (the old coax network).

dont forget token ring on type 1 cable with hermaphrodite connectors, that was fun to cable.

Pher9999

join:2011-07-06
Carmel, NY
reply to TheMG
When I had to swap my Samsung GS3 at ATT it couldn't download the simple activation files on their wifi in the store, there was too many other devices eating the spectrum, BestBuy is just as bad. I try to wire all I can.


cableties
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reply to tschmidt
Future Proof can be tricky and costly:
-the average homeowner stays in residence on average: 7 years (according to National Association of Realtors)

So if you plan on staying more than that or want to "add" some kinda equity to future buyer that is net-centric, then I would recommend some easy-pull conduit system (spare fishtape).

Some make valid points that plenum and fiber are overkill (or even unnecessary), or that wifi will supplant, but not all houses are the same. Stone, steel, glass, foundations, and engineering are all limiting factors to wireless. Additional devices for repeating, power points, and needs should be factored. E.G. my house had two outlets in the room, with two others being switched. Adding powerstrips became ugly. (think of teen with laptop, wifi repeater, lamps, audio stuff, gaming stuff, chargers for phone, tablet, etc...).

I have an integrated AV system. There is so much left to expand that its a good platform for next person to build on (When I started the project, and put all the components in...I added a 400CD changer...2 months later the iPod came out...it collects dust...along with the LD player. All I use now is the UPS, receiver, xbox and PS3...) Might pull the other components and THX amp all the speakers.
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norbert26
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reply to Pher9999
said by Pher9999:

When I had to swap my Samsung GS3 at ATT it couldn't download the simple activation files on their wifi in the store, there was too many other devices eating the spectrum, BestBuy is just as bad. I try to wire all I can.

Problem is there are some devices that must use wireless such as ipods and ipads and smart phones. In this portable era wireless for other tablets and laptops is nice too. Wired is good for blu-ray players or stationary smart TVs and desktops that stay in one place so you can figure wires for those or additional APs .


whizkid3
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reply to nunya
said by nunya:

For residential use, I think wired networks don't have much of a future at all. Maybe for hardcore enthusiasts. For most people wireless will be plenty.

Respectfully, I would have to disagree. I am in the city, but in a 'burb' type setting of single family homes with some apartment buildings nearby. I can see no less than 15 wireless networks at any time; with about 1/3 interfering. I have DirecTV receivers on internet. I am not going to attach a wireless AP to each one of those, especially considering the bandwidth they require.

Going by theory alone, there is only so many bits (you can call it bandwidth if you like) that can be carried on a radio signal with a given power level. This is based on laws of physics and can not be improved. Given these constraints, improved coding is one way to solve this, but will only get one so far. The more people go to wireless, the less 'bandwidth' available for others. If one wants increased data rates ('speeds'), its going to have to be 'wired'.


alkizmo

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said by whizkid3:

said by nunya:

I think wired networks don't have much of a future at all.

Respectfully, I would have to disagree.

I think it's a matter of blending the two.
Keeping wired networks up to date when you have an outlet in every room is kind of intense. Also, a lot of devices are now wireless only, or pretty annoying to hook up:

- Laptops (Sofa, kitchen table, toilet, you name it, can't hook it up every time).

- Cellphones, Tablet PCs, they are only wireless.

What's left are desktop computers, Set-Top-Box (and variances of it) and network storage. Those are typically in fixed locations.

What I'm doing is running cable to key locations but I'm not going to bother getting a RJ45 port in every bedroom, just the office room.


nunya
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reply to whizkid3
I wholeheartedly agree that the 2.4 GHz band is now just "junk". But as people move to 5 GHz and buy newer equipment with better "anti-crowding" algorithms, things will get better.

Remember, as wired data rates increase, wireless rates do as well, with an increasingly shorter lag period.
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Draiman
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reply to tschmidt
Like any technology it depends on a lot of variables. If your in a very old house running cables might not be an option. If your in a busy area wireless might not be an option. Neither is better then the other overall it just depends on the variables for each use/person/application/etc. To that end there's no way to future proof more then maybe 2-3 years tops. You roll the dice every 2-3 years in hopes your stuff might make it another 2-3 years. At some point you're going to lose that gamble.
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reply to tschmidt
Ok, I have only skimmed though this thread and see a lot of posters saying wireless is the way to go. I can tell you with certainty that IT IS NOT the way to go.

Wireless is quickly becoming unreliable as more and more devices use it and hog up spectrum.

Wireless bandwidth is shared among all devices on the network. In this future when IPTV takes over this will be a serious problem to have more than a few streaming at the same time on a wireless network.

Wireless is a nice convenience for portable handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. Desktops, laptops, TVs, network media players, etc should all be on a fast wired network.

Wireless should be thought of as a extra convenience, not a primary connection.

IMO I would wire with CAT5e STP (Shielded Twisted Pair) and install a nice gigabit switch in your network closet.

Remember with STP that the shield needs to be grounded and special metal covered ends need to be used to make the connection. Most commercial quality gigabit switches support the grounding of STP.
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nunya
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Tell that to 3 Roku's (all streaming HD), 3 laptops, a WII, an Xbox 360, 1 MythTV frontend, and 3 smart phones.
They are all very happy on wireless. I have wired connections available but don't even bother except on stationary PCs.
Excepting OTA (and I also stream OTA on my LAN!), I'm all IPTV. Guess what? It's happening now - and working just fine.

STP in a residence? Big old waste of time, effort and money.

There will be a place for wired networks for the foreseeable future, but they are going to eventually disappear in residential settings. I already see the writing on the walls. I practically have to twists peoples wrists any more to get any ethernet jacks or phone jacks installed. All they are concerned about is coax. Which is fine, because even if wireless wouldn't cut the mustard, MoCA will. MoCA is awesome.
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