What is the most crucial component of a gigabit network? Is it the network switch or perhaps the encoder/decoder units? While the type of sources and destinations matter, they are, to poorly paraphrase James Brown, nothing without a good cable. Yes the cable.
It is not the sexiest of topics when it comes to discussing the modern “Gigabit Home,” but its importance cannot be understated.
Network Problems Traced Back to the Cable
Cable is often overlooked in its importance. We know we need it, but common practice shows how little we recognize it. Who is most often in charge of getting the cable run? More often than not, the crew sent out is comprised of our most junior techs.
In the right situations, and with proper oversight, this can be a great lesson in fundamentals, yet we know the truth of it. The understandably essential credo is to get the job done fast and move on to the next one. The cost of having to repair or replace runs done wrong can be substantial, so the gamble we’re often making is really not worth it.
Step back for a moment and see that the cable is the one component that we bury inside walls. Once the electricians and plumbers are done, the walls go up and getting access after is just slightly problematic.
All too often, network issues can be traced back to Category cable not being raised the six to 12 inches above the BX via J hooks or straps. Instead we find UTP cable lying parallel directly on the electrical runs, incurring noise and inhibiting performance. In such cases, the hope that someone even thought to run the cables in an intersecting pattern is just too much by half. The cost of your crew’s labor to install wiring in the proper was is minimal versus having to eat the cost of replaced sheetrock, or worse having to break through specialized wall coverings.
Avoiding the Bends
Another all-too-common issue is forcing the cable beyond its specified bend radius. Often this is the result of poor planning of runs, where potential pinch points would be identified and worked around.
Bend radius calculations are just as important as avoiding electrical runs. The result can turn a great system into mush, sometimes 30 days later. In the same vein, how many of us train our junior techs pulling cable about just how much pulling is needed, or not needed. Stretching and over bending wires changes the twists ratio of the cables, greatly changing data timing, noise isolation, and throughput.
Some reading this may be tempted to say that while all of these wiring rules are true enough, the world is going wireless, so what’s the point?
True enough, there are folks looking to solidify these solutions via Wi-Fi, a move to new frequency sets, channel merging, MIMI (Multiple In, Multiple Out), and mesh networking. In fact homebuilder Lennar has begun to offer homes with the option of being wireless only. Unfortunately, the potential for consistent success is quite low. Throughput speeds are barely able to push 4K 4:4:4 60 to the multitude of monitors and devices in a home. 8K is coming in fast and furious; will the technology catch up?
It is, for the foreseeable future, well advised to adhere to the adage that while Wi-Fi is the most convenient methodology for the transmission of data invented, it is also the most unreliable methodology implemented.
Take care of those wires. Your project success depends on it.