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LAN & WAN Basics

Introduction

In the last installment, I described the general approach to the project, my home's layout and how I generated my "drop list". This time I'm going to cover the design and material selection for the wall plates and central wiring panel.

But first, I need to step back a bit to respond to this reader's question, which I had intended to cover in Part 1, but frankly, forgot to!

"I was excited about the article, but then heavily disappointed to learn the networking was all wired. What about some pre-802.11n wireless network that links up all the mentioned devices and rooms without the neccessity of demolishing the walls, having cables all around the house etc."

The simple answer is that wireless is not ready for prime time as the sole medium for building a home network. While the range vs. throughput performance of the MIMO wireless products that I've seen that are based on Airgo's TrueMIMO technology is truly impressive, there is nothing in the technology that specifically addresses QoS issues required for handling real-time applications such as VoIP and especially high-definition video streams.

In addition, manufacturers insist on promoting products that use the overcrowded 2.4GHz spectrum. Interference from other products in this band has a high probability of at best degrading network throughput, and at worst, shutting down a network entirely. This isn't to say that wireless technology capable of handling most home networking needs won't come along at some point in the future. But if you're building a network today, you still need cables to support "mission critical" (must-have) applications. Now back to the story...

Now that I knew what I wanted to run, I had to figure out where. Since I used the "home run" wiring method, each cable would run from a central location to wall plates in the rooms. Because my Utility room is centrally located on the lower level, it was a natural spot to locate my wiring panel. All I had to do was pick a spot that was out of the way of the HVAC unit, water pump and water heater that also had to occupy that room and make sure a power outlet was installed nearby to power the networking gear.

Figure 1 shows all the drops that I had my electrician run. He charged $50 per drop which I judged to be worth it, since I didn't have to coordinate with any of the subcontractors' schedules, nor did I have to drill the holes, pull the cables, mount the boxes, etc.

Drops waiting for the central panels

Figure 1: Drops waiting for the central panels
(click image to enlarge)

Since I wasn't planning on installing any especially power-hungry gear near the network panel, I had the electrician also run a single 20A circuit to a single duplex outlet (that's the yellow cable in Figure 1). I didn't bother putting in any more outlets, since everything was going to be plugged into a couple of UPSes anyway. I did have the electrician, however, connect the circuit to my home's distribution panel that can be cut over to an emergency generator. That way, I can still have Internet access if main power fails.

On to the wall plates!

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