Advanced Residential and Small Business Physical Ethernet LAN Setup

Advanced Residential and Small Business Physical Ethernet LAN Setup

Written by Don Schultz, trueCABLE Senior Technical Advisor, Fluke Networks Copper/Fiber CCTT, BICSI INST1, INSTC, INSTF Certified

I have written much about the individual phases of working with Ethernet cable, such as how to terminate a keystone jack or RJ45 8P8C connector. What has not been covered in much detail is the actual network layout and strategy employed, nor the equipment to actually make all the physical Ethernet cable useful. Quite simply, coming up with an example of an “all inclusive” local area network (LAN) is nearly impossible since each installation is different. There are some common denominators such as cabling, connections, and network gear but nearly all of them differ significantly. The reasons are multifold. Everything from the structure itself to what you are looking to do will dictate what you purchase and how you install it. That said, we will cover an advanced residential installation! In this blog we will go over:

  • What separates an “advanced installation” from a “normal” one?
  • What networking equipment is required, regardless of LAN size
  • How do you hook things up?
  • Power and protection
  • Should I use shielded or unshielded bulk Ethernet cable?
  • Should I make my own patch cables?
  • What kind of Ethernet terminations are required or recommended (covered throughout)?
  • Small or medium sized business TR (Telecommunications Room) example
  • Some best practices and tips and tricks covered throughout

Below is a video overview of this blog, but I suggest watching the video and reading the blog as well as both bring something to the table.


What separates an “advanced installation” from a “normal” one?

Essentially, all networks operate the same at the most basic level. The idea is to connect up and organize all of your equipment so that equipment can share information or even get onto the Internet. You need a network interface of some kind to access the Internet (cable modem being a great example). Also required is a router and Ethernet switch of some kind and a way of getting connected into your network like Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable. What separates a very small network from a more advanced network is:

  • Size and quantity of equipment
  • Amount and type of equipment, including PoE (Power over Ethernet) capability
  • Anticipated number of connections required for the network
  • Amount of space required for the equipment
  • Management of the equipment (remote management and configurability)

Most residential LANs are simply rented all-in-one cable modem/router/Wi-Fi hotspot combination devices that your Internet service provider dropped into your home and told you what the Wi-Fi password is to “get onto the Internet”. This small and unassuming box is likely rented and you pay a monthly fee. This is the typical amount of network equipment exposure that the average lay person has. In an apartment or small home this might work just great and serve your needs well.

Typical all-in-one combo cable modem, router, Wi-Fi hotspot

Typical all-in-one combo cable modem, router, Wi-Fi hotspot

Although convenient, this all-in-one device may not be enough to serve a larger home or small business network that requires more advanced capabilities. Some homes and small businesses require a lot more. The primary issue is that most all-in-one devices don’t excel at any one thing, especially Wi-Fi coverage and routing capability (speed being a significant factor). Another limitation is the lack of upgradability. If you need a more powerful router, for example, then that means you have to retire and purchase replacement equipment.

Advanced installations are going to typically involve:

  • Larger and separate equipment dedicated to the task, such as a separate devices like a cable modem, router, switch, NAS (network attached storage)
  • Permanent Ethernet cable installed into your walls with outlets
  • Dedicated space for your equipment like a spare closet or basement area
  • Use of PoE devices such as surveillance cameras and extra Wi-Fi access points to cover a larger area
  • The ability to grow and expand your network as needs increase
  • More extensive physical installation that might require specialty tools


advanced home network setup

Much more advanced home network setup
See below for letter descriptions

A. Tool-less unshielded patch panel with unshielded Cat6 keystone jacks
B. ¾” plywood backboard to mount equipment, secured into studs at four spots
C. Ubiquiti UDM-Pro SE router, NVR, PoE Ethernet switch, and network controller
D. Cable modem (single purpose device only, not rented)
E. Bulk Cat6 unshielded riser rated solid copper Ethernet cable with three feet of service slack. Remote ends are either terminated to an unshielded Cat6 keystone jack mounted in a wall plate or an RJ45 8P8C plug for PoE devices like Wi-Fi access points that require data and power from the same cable.
F. Coaxial Series 6 cable (RG6/U), as provided by Internet Service Provider (ISP), with three feet of service slack
G. Rack to wall-mount bracket, 1U size, for single 19” rack mount device
H. Factory made and pre-terminated Cat6 unshielded patch cables
I. Proper three prong grounded outlet with surge protector (surge protector mounted align side of stud and hidden from view

    How does this look at the outlet and device ends? Well, here are couple of examples:

    Outlet in bedroom, mounted to face plate
    Outlet in bedroom, mounted to face plate
    PoE Wi-Fi access point, wall mounted
    PoE Wi-Fi access point, wall mounted


    How do you hook things up?

    Conceptually, in this case, the coaxial RG6 cable coming into the structure from the ISP screws into the cable modem. The cable modem has an Ethernet port, and is connected via patch cable to the WAN port on the router/switch device. The router/switch device uses Ethernet patch cable to plug into the patch panel. The solid copper Ethernet terminated to keystones mounted in the patch panel radiates outward like an octopus to other places.

    The use of the patch panel and solid copper Ethernet structure cable is a “rack to jack” strategy. The “rack to jack” strategy is a fancy technical person term that basically means all remote Ethernet outlets, surveillance cameras, and Wi-Fi access points connect back to a centralized patch panel. Patch cords are used to patch the solid copper Cat6 Ethernet cable into the Ubiquiti UDM-Pro SE network device. Some of the runs are PoE, and those are plugged into special PoE switch ports. This method requires a dedicated space, and in this case that is in the basement of a home.

    Here are some basic rules of thumb, but just be aware that this information can and will change depending on what you are doing!

    • The “rack to jack” strategy means the runs are called permanent links. The bulk solid copper Cat6 Ethernet cable is terminated with female ports on both ends (keystones). You patch into the permanent link with stranded copper Cat6 patch cable at both ends to make things work. The maximum length of a permanent link is 295 feet at typical indoor temperatures.
    • The “rack to jack” strategy also includes runs that specifically address devices that require PoE and those are called modified permanent links (MPTL). In this case, only one end has a female port (at the patch panel by the switch) and the other end has a male RJ45 or field termination plug. The male plug end of the run plugs directly into the PoE device (Wi-Fi access point, for example). The maximum length of a MPTL run is 295 feet at typical indoor temperatures.
    • Indoor installations should normally use riser rated or plenum rated cable. Riser rated cable is all that is required for residential installations. Plenum rated cable is more expensive and may be required for a commercial structure. There are rules and regulations around this, and some caveats. See Facts About Ethernet Cable Jacket Ratings.
    • All terminations are not created equal! Some are better than others, and significantly so. See Choosing the Right Termination - Keystone Jack vs RJ45 Connector vs Field Termination Plug.
    • Cat6A is the generally recommended Category cable for modern home or business installations. That said, Cat6 and even Cat5e are not dead (not by a long shot). An experienced installation technician can make the call as to which might be “better” where. Sometimes “better” means differences such as ability to bend or bandwidth requirements that are fully understood and won’t change. Pricing comes into play as well. As an experienced installer, I will judiciously use Cat5e Ethernet cable even in 2022, depending on multiple competing factors.

    Power and protection

    You want a surge protector to plug your network equipment into. Be sure your AC electrical outlet is a properly grounded three prong outlet. I cannot emphasize that enough: Properly grounded three prong outlet! The surge protector requires a proper ground in order to operate correctly. The size and amount of equipment you need to power up will dictate how large and fancy the surge protector should be. In some cases, a UPS (battery backup uninterruptible power supply) is a superior alternative if network reliability is of paramount importance.

    surge protector strip

    Your basic surge protector strip

    Battery backup UPS unit

    Getting fancy! Battery backup UPS unit, Eaton brand
    Image courtesy of Eaton USA

    If you wish to check to see if your outlet is correct, you can purchase a simple three prong tester and see if anything is amiss. If it is, don’t attempt to correct the situation unless you have de-energized the circuit at the breaker box and confirmed the circuit is not live. The better option is to consult an electrician on this, but many DIY individuals can correct a bad outlet pretty easily. Once the correction has been made, then re-confirm with the tester again to be sure everything is correct.

    AC outlet tester

    Simple AC outlet tester…get one!
    Image courtesy of Amazon

    Should I use shielded or unshielded bulk Ethernet cable?

    In short, use unshielded (U/UTP) unless you have a specific and compelling reason to not do so. Shielded Ethernet cable (F/UTP, etc.) does not get you any more performance, but can get you into a lot of trouble.

    • Unless you have a EMI/RFI issue, bulk shielded Ethernet cable won’t give you any more speed
    • Bulk shielded Ethernet cable is not only more expensive, but also requires more expensive shielded hardware
    • Bulk shielded Ethernet cable requires more complex termination techniques
    • All shielded Ethernet cable runs must be properly bonded to ground, and in a residential environment this is no small matter!
    • Bulk shielded Ethernet cable cannot be bent nearly as tightly, increasing installation difficulty

    That all said, there are situations where using shielded Ethernet cable is strongly advised. See Shielded vs. Unshielded Cable.

    Should I make my own patch cables?

    As a general rule, definitely no. Purchase factory made and factory tested patch cable in the Category that matches your solid copper Ethernet cable. You will save yourself a lot of potential trouble. Fair warning!

    Solid copper Ethernet cable terminated with RJ45 8P8C plugs can be problematic and requires a great deal of expertise to get perfect. Testing is all but required. There are some certain situations where use of an RJ45 plug at one end of the cable (for a PoE device for example) cannot be avoided, but the other end of the cable run should be an IDC style (insulation displacement contact) termination (keystone jack, etc.) It comes down to mechanical fitment right away and termination reliability over time. Proper fitment is key--Category of the RJ45 is not relevant. Manufacturing variability with Ethernet cable is another significant factor. Everything has a tolerance in manufacturing and solid copper Ethernet cable is rather…intolerant…of less than ideal termination methods.

    That said, this is where field termination plugs can come in. Field termination plugs end up being a male plug but are terminated like a tool-less keystone jack with an IDC termination scheme. This is an acceptable alternative if you have no other choice and need a patch cable in a pinch, or only a custom cut patch cable will do. The only thing about field termination plugs is their physical size. Although most Ethernet switches don’t care about plug size, a Wi-Fi access point or surveillance camera housing might. It might not physically fit!

    trueCABLE Cat6A Unshielded Field Termination Plug

    trueCABLE Cat6A Unshielded Field Termination Plug

    Small or medium sized business TR (Telecommunications Room) example

    Most homes and smaller businesses are not going to have a dedicated climate controlled space set aside for telecommunications equipment. That said, in larger businesses it is a good idea to have this sort of space. It will all depend on how large the business is and if security matters. A dedicated room has a big advantage: It can be locked. In a room such as this, rather than wall mounted rack equipment there may well be an actual rack unit to mount the equipment. Let’s see some example pictures!

    Climate controlled TR with equipment rack

    Climate controlled TR with equipment rack. Note the same Ubiquiti equipment was used here, just more of it! Also, there is a UPS battery backup.

    equipment mounted in the rack

    Close up of the equipment mounted in the rack. Note the additional PoE switch in this installation example along with the copper rack busbar for bonding to ground.

    busbar bonds

    Copper PBB or Primary Bus Bar. This busbar bonds everything metal in the TR back to a common AC ground. Note the thick 6 AWG bond wire!

    busbar bonds

    When I said everything in the TR is bonded to the busbar, I meant EVERYTHING. In this case, even the metallic conduit has bond collars.

    Why all the extra bonding connections? Wouldn’t the three prong AC power cords be enough? Well, in a residential environment the answer would be yes. In this case, we have a commercial environment and BICSI guidelines were followed for bonding everything in the TR to ground. Commercial environments have different rules and best practices, some of them being part of the local code for that jurisdiction.

    Wrapping up…

    So, there you have it. What was demonstrated in this blog are two different installations (one residential and the other small-business commercial) that largely use the same equipment, just in greater or lesser amounts. That is the essential point: Ethernet networks, whether large or small, all work the same way. How the installation is accomplished, the degree of effort involved, and scale of the installation were the primary factors.


    trueCABLE presents the information on our website, including the “Cable Academy” blog and live chat support, as a service to our customers and other visitors to our website subject to our website terms and conditions. While the information on this website is about data networking and electrical issues, it is not professional advice and any reliance on such material is at your own risk.

    Zac January 24, 2023

    In another post you talk about Ground Loop issues when using shielded cable. My take-away from that was that the shield ground should be connected only to one ground (the same ground used by the electrical system of theprimary switch). So, is this copper busbar grounded to the electrical system's ground-rod? Should that be a direct cable to the ground-rod at the breaker box that is supplying power to the switch, or can it be grounded to the ground wire in the electrical box?

    trueCABLE January 24, 2023

    Hello Zac. The possibility of ground loops arises when you have more than one ground system (either two separate AC ground systems or if you pound in a separate ground round not bonded and equalized to your original AC ground system) involved. Note, I am not talking about more than one bond point. Having more than one bond point to the SAME AC ground is a good thing. This means you can bond both ends of a shielded Ethernet cable to the same AC ground system and potentially increase the performance of the shielding as you reduce resistance. If there is a risk of an actual ground loop where you might bond your cable shield to two different ground potentials then you should bond the switch end only. As to where and how you bond your patch panel, in a residential setting a simple bond to the nearest properly grounded AC outlet is sufficient. In commercial installations with commercial voltages, this gets a lot more complicated and each install is different.

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