Home data and telephone, are historically treated separately, however more and more they need to be considered at the same time, as they share similar topographical requirements, and can use similar wires. Ultimately also, telephone systems can run over a data network with Voice Over IP (VOIP).
We are frequently asked to provide advice and schematics for a variety of technologies in the home. In this article we’re discussing the wiring required for a reliable and effective home network, to incorporate data telephone and WiFi.
Typically both telephone and data use a star configured network, where every socket around the house is brought back to a central location. For telephony this is typically where the master socket is, and for data this is usually a data switch, and often where the main router is located.
As broadband typically enters the house run over the phone lines as ADSL, it makes sense to have the router, data switch and telephone hub in the same position.
To get the best out of the broadband signal coming into the house, it is important not to send it all over the house. The typical phone line installations we come across, have a number of broadband filters all over the house plugged into every telephone extension, with the broadband modem plugged into one of these. This means that the telephone points are all connected together, and effectively reduces the signal strength to the modem, and thus reduces the broadband speed available. A far better solution is to only have one filter, such as the ADSL faceplate filter, so all of your extension wiring is already filtered before is sent all over the house.
For a small house, the Broadband Router that is usually sent free with the subscription to the service, will have a strong enough WiFi signal that will reach all around the house. The Routers typically also have four Ethernet ports on the back to plug your computers etc into. These Routers are built to a budget however, and often there are many facilities and features in a home network, that these routers will struggle to provide. There is often the danger of “spoiling the ship for a ha’penny of tar”, and relying on a freebie router to run a sophisticated home network. We recommend either ditching these routers in favour of a better one, or only using it to provide the link to the internet.
Once upon a time houses were built with a phone line at the bottom of the stairs, as this was usually somewhere central where the phone could be heard from throughout the house. The telephone was powered from the line, and could be hung on the wall or could sit on a small telephone table. Now however, we use wireless handsets, and the base station requires mains power. Also there is the broadband router, security system and many other things that may need to be connected. This leads to a number of suggested rules when it comes to thinking about data and telephone wiring:
- Use at least Cat6 grade cable for both Data and telephone outlets
- Put the data / telephone outlets near to a mains socket.
- Put the telephone master socket near to the data hub & mains power
- Put telephone / data outlets near to work surfaces
- Make sure there is a data outlet within 10m or so of everywhere in the house for good WiFi Coverage
How many wires?
With todays modern systems, all wanting access to the internet, there are usually never enough connections available. We recommend that as a MINIMUM there are 2 Cat6 cables to each TV position, or TV equipment position (where the Sky box / Blu-Ray player is). There will also want to be Cat6 cables going to every location where you might want to either plug in a WiFi Access Point (WAP), Telephone, or any piece of equipment that might want access to the internet.
If you are wanting to future proof the house, then there is a certain amount of crystal ball gazing to be done. Essentially you’ll need to think about what things you might want to do in the future. This is more than just giving access to the internet from different places and devices, but also about control and information – you might want to think about:
- Network storage / backup
- Audio Visual Equipment
- WiFi coverage
- Heating and cooling
- Curtains & Blinds
- Energy sources (Solar PV, heatpump etc)
- Motorised doors and Windows
- Gate Entry systems
We try to recommend wiring that is appropriate to the size and nature of the house, however it is always easier and cheaper to install wiring at a first fix stage of a build, or at least before any decoration, than as an afterthought, so generally there is a tendency to over specify wiring, with good cause.
Making sense of the wiring
By the time all of the work surfaces , TVs, lights and bedside tables have a number of Cat6 cables coming from them to a central equipment area, there tends to be a huge bunch of cables, and these need to be sorted and terminated so they can be made sense of.
If there is space, we normally recommend a data cabinet and patch panel system is used to terminate the cables. This means that each outlet can be connected to whatever service is required, and that these can be changed around as required. Typical Facilities include: Telephone Distribution, Data Switch and HD TV distribution. These are all similar but with their own individual systems.
Left is a tight fit equipment cupboard, where we had to wall mount the data switch, and squeeze the data cables directly into it. In this case fortunately, the data switch was the only facility required.
If all of the outlets around the house are RJ45 (Ethernet) data outlets, it is easy for these to be used as a phone socket with the aid of a simple in-line adaptor (right), or for the socket to be changed to a Phone socket.