What benefit is having Cat6 wired to new rooms addition?
February 10, 2020 9:08 AM   Subscribe

We are adding an addition (3 bedrooms) to our house and in an attempt to future proof our digital needs we will be wiring 2 Cat 6 cables and coax to each of the bedrooms and hardwiring wifi access points to multiple floors. I'm doing this based on internet research suggesting "future proofing". I understand the network speed value of doing this, but I am wondering if there are other benefits I may be overlooking or not taking advantage of.
posted by blackjack514 to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The advice I heard a long time ago was to install conduits as well as the cable. That will let you upgrade your wiring as standards change.
posted by suetanvil at 9:18 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]

Wired has many advantages, but convenience isn't necessarily one of them. People like wifi for convenience.

However, if you put in a media player (AppleTV, etc) which can take advantage of 1080 or 4K media, you will find that it can place a heavy load on your wifi, so having at least a 1000Mbps connection available can be a real network saver. Likewise with laptops doing backups, or pretty much any PC, you never want to put a PC on wifi if you can avoid it.

The other aspect is wifi itself. In the old days, the old slow wifi penetrated walls pretty well, and you could get good whole-house coverage from a single access point. With the 5G stuff and looking forward, this isn't the case, and you really need multiple access points. You are ideally looking for signal to penetrate no more than a single wall.

A lot of people are trying to "fix" this with so-called mesh systems, but this is really just leveraging crappy wifi in a daisy-chain in order to get signal coverage. It isn't necessarily very good performance. Weakest link in the chain applies. The only good mesh systems are the ones that are hardwired.

Hardwiring access points to each floor is probably okay as long as there's a decent upgrade path available. Do not get locked in. Be aware that you probably need an access point in each ROOM where you want the potential for high speed (100Mbps+) wifi. Having Cat6 available in each room means that you can remediate this at a future date if needed. But if you haven't built it yet, it's easiest to run conduit to an empty wall or ceiling box for future AP's. You will probably be happier with that result if you end up needing it.

Where possible, such as in new construction, run a minimum of 3/4" conduit (for network alone) for 1" conduit (for network plus coax) to each wall box so that you may remove "old technology" (think of Cat5 / 100Mbps) and upgrade later. You never know when you might want to do something you weren't originally planning, like fishing an HDMI cable. Leave some slack so you can reterminate.

There are people who advocate Cat6A in order to be able to run 10Gbase-T, but I will point out that the evolution of endpoint ethernet slowed dramatically at the end of the 1990's, as gigabit turns out to be sufficient for many needs. However, slow progress is being made on that angle, so it's worth being aware that you are investing in a Cat level that is closer to the end of its life than the beginning.

If you haven't picked wifi gear yet, do consider looking at the Ubiquiti UniFi line. Good quality, low cost, runs power-over-ethernet if you do it right. Ubiquiti makes a nice small PoE switch that works with many of their access points, and it integrates with their controller software for easier configuration.
posted by jgreco at 9:34 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]

> suetanvil: The advice I heard a long time ago was to install conduits as well as the cable. That will let you upgrade your wiring as standards change.

I can't emphasize this enough. Imagine how much easier things would have been if folks had installed conduit when they installed telephone lines.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:42 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]

You can run HDMI over ethernet. Power as well, for devices that support PoE. If you like DIY projects, Raspberry Pis can be powered with PoE and you can do pretty much anything with them.
posted by bradbane at 11:08 AM on February 10

Yep: put in hard conduit behind the walls, and leave a string fed through it.

Wireless stuff is so common that you and your neighbors will always step on each other -- and the sheer quantity of wireless-capable devices in most homes makes for tons of badnwidth-eating chatter. So it won't get better, butit will (via 5G and ever-higher video resolution) only get worse.

Wires will always carry more traffic with fewer errors than wireless, so run the wires (and the string for That Great Day when fiber takes over from copper and you hire someone to run fiber ) at least for the backhaul from wireless access point to main router, and to connect display devices like Roku/AppleTV/etc.

And yes, consuit will definitely cost more than stapling a few naked Cat6 cables to the studs behind the drywall, but it will also save you ripping up the walls o hanging up ugly surface-mount stuff when the future arrives.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:20 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

In my post above that should have been

3/4" conduit OR 1" conduit

And make sure the conduit runs to some easily accessible location (basement, crawl space, whatever).

Protip: It is not actually necessary to keep a string fed through it, you can always fish a new puller through it using some fishing line (yes the bait kind), some crumpled up kleenex, and a good vacuum cleaner. You tie the fishing line to a small portion of crumpled up kleenex, a bit smaller than the diameter of the conduit, suck at one end, feed the kleenex to the other, and voila. Now you use the fishing line to pull a decent nylon line, then pull your cable with the nylon.
posted by jgreco at 12:08 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]

You can run HDMI or USB or RCA, etc over CAT6. If you have a patch panel where all the cables go, then that effectively means that you could run an HDMI/usb cable from any room to any room by rerouting / connecting the CAT6 cables to each other.

If you ever want to install security cameras, projectors on the ceiling, more wifi access points, a sound system across multiple floors -- your cat6 runs will give you that flexibility.
posted by suedehead at 12:08 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]

I can't emphasize this enough. Imagine how much easier things would have been if folks had installed conduit when they installed telephone lines.

Yes. Conduit makes everything easier.

The city I just moved away from (Irvine, CA) mandated in-ground conduit not only to each home, but anywhere else there were utilities back in 1989. That means when fiber internet connections got popular a quarter century later (or internet connections happened at all, really), the entire city had it available (assuming ATT/Cox/Google and pals had rolled it out yet) practically the first day. In contrast, my childhood home in Santa Clarita is about 70 miles away and it can't even get DSL since the distance to the ATT Central Office is too far and implementing anything invented since the Reagan Administration would mean trenching the street down the entire block, which prob isn't ever going to happen.

So, always put in conduit.
posted by sideshow at 1:35 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Non metallic electrical tubing (smurf tube) as a conduit is cheaper than the redundant cable you are contemplating, is easy to run, and is future proof. Also no joints so easy to vacuum pull strings. Pulls are harder sometimes as length increases so can be worth doing the initial part of the run in EMT depending on house layout. Bends should obey the 360 rule. Running a riser in 2" EMT to each floor from your mechanical room and then running ENT from there is also good (you'll need an access box on each floor, can be hidden in closet).
posted by Mitheral at 7:26 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

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