How To: trueCABLE Shielded 24 Port 1U Toolless Patch Panel
Written by Don Schultz, trueCABLE Senior Technical Advisor, Fluke Networks Copper/Fiber CCTT, BICSI INST1, INSTC, INSTF Certified
So, you purchased all of your shielded solid copper Ethernet cable, shielded keystone jacks, termination tools, and are ready to get your installation started! Finally, a wired network to install your outdoor security cameras rather than relying upon potentially unreliable Wi-Fi. But, wait. Did you forget something? Did you pick up one of the most important pieces of equipment for your install? You may have forgotten the shielded patch panel. In this blog we will cover what shielded patch panels are, where they are used, how to install them, and some basic ground rules. Various sections will include videos! Keep reading and watching for an in-depth analysis.
Shielded Patch Panel? What’s That? Do I Really Need One?
If you are installing shielded solid copper Ethernet cable and…
- Want the best possible network stability
- Want the best possible network performance for your money
- Need to bond your shielded Ethernet cable to ground properly
- Wish to stay organized and flexible
Then, yes, you absolutely need a patch panel. Specifically, you will require our shielded patch panel.
In general, patch panels serve as the central starting point for your communications and A/V cabling. It typically is mounted with your network switching gear out of the way and out of sight. Normally, residential patch panels and switching gear are mounted in an “A/V closet” or basement on a plywood backboard. In a commercial business, this type of gear not only needs to be out of sight, but protected from unauthorized hands--a locked TR (telecommunications room).
When it comes to termination of solid copper Ethernet cable, the best style of termination is known as IDC (Insulation Displacement Contact). This means keystone jacks, essentially. For an in-depth analysis of why IDC terminations are far superior to any other please read Terminating Pass-Through RJ45 Connectors onto Solid Copper Ethernet Cable -- A Really Bad Idea?
Our toolless keystone modular patch panel allows keystone jacks to be simply terminated and then snapped in. The nice thing about shielded keystone patch panels is you may use them for shielded cable, unshielded cable, fiber optic couplers, and A/V keystones such as coaxial, BNC, RCA, HDMI, and USB. Another nice attribute of modular keystone patch panels is they are Category agnostic. This means you can use Cat5e, Cat6, or even Cat6A (with limitations as outlined later) in a mix and match scenario. The keystone jacks and Ethernet cable set the Category. Pretty cool, right?
In case you were wondering, there are other variations of patch panels. Some are 110 punch down. Others may be feed-through. All come in various sizes. There are shielded and unshielded varieties, too. See Punch Down, Feed-Through, and Toolless Keystone Ethernet Patch Panels Explained.
So, that is enough background information. Let’s talk about installation!
Installation of the trueCABLE 24 Port 1U Shielded Patch Panel
Stating the obvious, our shielded patch panel accommodates 24 keystones. These keystones may be:
- Shielded Ethernet keystones (any Category)
- Unshielded Ethernet keystones (except Cat6A unshielded pushed to 5Gb/s and especially 10Gb/s)
- Blank fillers
- A/V keystones of various types
Our shielded patch panel is 19” and uses 1 Rack Unit (1U) of space. This means you will require one of three methods to mount it:
- Traditional seven foot tall telecommunications rack (typically seen only in businesses)
- Wall mount rack. This is a 1U to 10U or more rack that mounts directly to a backboard on your wall. These wall mount racks can also be floor-bound on caster wheels. This is typically seen in small businesses or advanced residential setups.
- Wall mount bracket. A wall mount bracket will typically come in 1U to 4U sizes and mount vertically. Your patch panel will mount in a vertical position, and the rest of your network equipment will likely be mounted vertically as well. Use of a backboard is also recommended.
Included in the package:
- Shielded keystone panel
- Metal fold-out cable management bar
- Pre-attached 8” bond wire to bond the patch panel to your formal bonding infrastructure (rack busbar) or rack frame*
Note that these items are not included:
- Rack screws. Use the screws and/or cage nuts that came with your rack. You can likely find extra hardware for your rack online if you need more than what was provided.
- Nylon ties. In a future revision of the shielded patch panel we will include 24 nylon ties to secure cable to the management bar. If you elect to use nylon ties, 4” ties are perfect.
*If you attach the bond wire to your rack frame, it is important to remove any paint from the area where you intend to attach the bond wire. It is also wise to use No-Ox anti-oxidation grease which enhances conductivity. Further, the rack itself must be properly bonded to the AC system ground. It is NOT sufficient for the rack frame to be simply bolted to a concrete floor. For residential installations that lack formal bonding infrastructure, it is strongly recommended to use our Shielded Ethernet Patch Panel Bond & Ground Extension Wire Adapter.
We have another video for you! Please watch this…
No doubt in the video you heard about the ANEXT and Cat6A warning. That’s important! We will discuss that in the next section.
Installation Guidelines for Category and Bandwidth
A topic frequently neglected by modular keystone patch panel manufacturers is a discussion around what NOT to install in your patch panel. Fortunately, our shielded patch panel is so versatile that you only need to avoid Cat6A unshielded hardware and cabling if you intend to push that cabling to 5Gb/s or higher. This is critically important if you wish to achieve 10Gb/s. The reason has to do with ANEXT (Alien Crosstalk) at the patch panel. Considering all the keystones are lined up in a row, unshielded Cat6A pushed from 5Gb/s to 10Gb/s will generate a larger EM (electromagnetic) field than Cat6 or Cat5e driven to lower speeds. These individual EM fields generated at the unshielded keystones will encroach upon each other and cause communications errors that will be very difficult to track down. Needless to say, this obviously applies to Cat7 or Cat8 unshielded keystones and cable too.
Shielded Cat6A hardware and cabling is fine. The ANEXT protection at that point is the shielded keystones and the cable shielding.
If you wish to install unshielded Cat6A keystones and Ethernet cable, then we have another patch panel option that is specifically designed to prevent ANEXT. Please see our Unshielded 3D Staggered 24 Port Patch Panel.
Here is a handy chart for your reference!
*Shielded compatibility assumes the patch panel frame is properly bonded to ground. Cat6A unshielded hardware and cable is not compatible due to Cat6A ANEXT requirements. This patch panel is compatible with any HD or standard size keystone or coupler except as noted above and works with fiber optic and coaxial keystones.
For how to dress Ethernet cable into your patch panel, please see How to: Dressing Ethernet Cables into Patch Panels.
Residential and Small Business Bonding & Grounding Considerations
As you have no doubt noticed by now, bonding and grounding is a rather important topic of discussion when it comes to shielded patch panels.
It is extremely important to properly bond your shielded patch panel to your AC system ground if you intend to install shielded Ethernet cable and shielded hardware. See Q&A: Do You Really Need to Bond Copper Communications Cable to Ground? for why this is important.
Most homes have nothing more than 3 prong AC outlets to access the AC system ground. This applies to many small businesses without a formal bonding infrastructure, as well. If you are curious about what a formal bonding infrastructure looks like, please see Commercial Bonding and Grounding of Ethernet Cable Systems.
No longer is the simple 3 prong AC outlet a limitation. In previous blogs, like the one where we discuss residential bonding and grounding we suggested attaching a bond wire to the center screw of the outlet wall plate. This is less effective and not as straightforward as a very cool new accessory we have introduced -- our Shielded Ethernet Patch Panel Bond & Ground Extension Wire Adapter. We call it “truePLUG” for short.
Shielded Ethernet Patch Panel Bond Ground Extension Wire Adapter
Our truePLUG accessory will be discussed in detail in a future blog, but suffice to say here are the highlights:
- Gives you 6 feet of extra reach
- Plugs into any properly wired 3 prong outlet*
- Poses no danger of electrical shock as the hot and neutral prongs are not connected. Only the third ground prong is connected.
*Make certain to test your outlet before using truePLUG. You want a properly wired AC outlet, and ground should be working. Consult a qualified electrician to correct any wiring issues that you may find. Use a simple 3 prong outlet tester to check your outlets. You can find them for less than $15 just about anywhere.
So, there you have it. Shielded toolless keystone patch panels fully explained. Many homeowners and small businesses think that patch panels are not needed or for “big business” only. This is not only not true, it is the quickest way to a poorly performing installation. With that said…
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