While remodeling our new home, I took the opportunity to install network cables throughout the entire house, outside office and backyard. I installed multiple Cat6A SSTP/SFTP shielded network wires to every room in the house plus some other locations for security camera's and WiFi access points.
Why still use old fashioned copper wiring?
Call me old fashioned, but a wired connection is still the fastest and most reliable way to connect to a network and only use WiFi for those devices that have no other option or would be too impractical to connect it a network cable. Network cables can also provide power (Power Over Ethernet) to WiFi access points, VoIP phones, security cameras, etc. Eliminating the need for additional power cords and making it possible to manage the power remotely.
Keep in mind that these wires will serve your home or office for the next few decades. Installing the highest specification ethernet wiring will keep you current for a long time to come. Compared to the effort of installing the wiring the cost for the wire itself is negligible.
Does faster copper wire make a difference?
A speed test using your computer might not show a difference since the Cat 5 can handle more then your computer can handle. But it's the millisecond's difference that it takes for each of the countless elements that make a web page to load that add up. I have moved clients to new offices. There was a noticeable difference in how "snappy" the computer felt while using the same hardware. The only difference being the wiring in the walls and ceiling.
EMP proof network:
This higher spec cable is much stiffer and is not easy to install. There are four pairs of copper wire twisted and arranged in a manner to minimize cross-talk between the wires. Each pair is covered with foil to avoid interference from other cables and an additional shield that wraps around the bundle to block electromagnetic pulses from powerlines and machinery. During the installation, one must prevent sharp bend and kinks at the risk of breaking the thin copper wires or damaging the geometry degrading the performance or causing a failed connection. This type of network cable cannot be terminated with RJ45 connectors but has to be punched down in a patch panel or Keystone Jacks. After completing the connectors, each wire needs to be tested to make sure all cables are connected in the correct sequence.
It's unlikely that fiberoptic is going to replace all copper wiring. Some servers have an option for a fiber-optic data connection, and there are adapters available for desktop computers. Keep in mind that your single machine can't handle the speed fiber can deliver so its pointless to connect a single computer using fiber. It's already an achievement if one can fully utilize the speed a Cat6a connection can offer when connected to the matching hardware for rates up to 10Gbs. Fiber is used mostly to connect local networks to which users connect via conventional ethernet cable or WiFi. Fiber is perfect for connecting networks over a long distance. I have installed one fiberoptic line between the server rack and office for future experiments.
More on the hardware and configuration in my next blog post.