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How to set up a cabled network

Adam_W
Valued Contributor

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Although wireless is very convenient, a cabled connection will typically be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi. Here’s how to hardwire ethernet cable into areas where high-demand devices live.

 

We’ll also show you how to bring these cables back to one point in a cupboard or on a shelf that’s tidy and out of sight.

 

What is a cabled network?

 

A well-designed communication hubA well-designed communication hubA cabled local area network (LAN), also known as ethernet, uses cables to directly connect your devices to your modem-router and the internet.

 

A local network also enables your devices to talk to each other, and can improve speed when sharing files between computers or streaming music or video from a computer to other devices on the network.

 

Most network-capable computers and devices these days can transfer data via cable at speeds faster than a typical Wi-Fi connection and usually even faster than your internet connection – which can mean no more lag or freezing when streaming movies or television.

 

Such connections between devices are made with ethernet cables (rated at least Cat 5e, preferably Cat 6). The plugs are known as RJ45.

 

How do I create a cabled network?

 

First decide how many rooms or areas need a connection and how many devices you want to plug in at each location.

 

Let’s say that your modem-router is on a shelf some distance away from the areas that need connecting. You have a media room where you want to connect a smart TV, a media server (such as an Apple TV box), a soundbar that is the hub of a wireless sound system, and a games console. You also have a home office at the other end of the house where you need connections for two PCs and a networked printer, as well as a sitting room where you want a smart TV.

 

Getting familiar with the hardware you’ll need will help you understand how easily this can all be networked. Here are some key elements:

 

  • Ethernet or networking switch – these hub-like devices allow communication between multiple devices, not just to and from a single source. You can plug one into your modem-router to turn one socket or port into multiple connections, or you can have one at the receiving end of a single line (such as a media room) and connect multiple devices at that end. You can also plug one directly into your modem-router to feed a distribution wall plate. Home ethernet switches could have anything from five to 26 ports. When choosing them remember that one socket will be taken up by the main network connection, so a five-port switch will only let you connect four devices.

 

  • A two-aperture plate with RJ45 ethernet and TV aerial connectionsA two-aperture plate with RJ45 ethernet and TV aerial connectionsAn aperture grid (or gang plate) is a wall plate with holes for taking a range of inserts. These plates are the face covers used with matching mounting grids when making up your own multi-connection plates. For a location such as a media room you could customise a dual-aperture plate to carry ethernet and TV aerial. You can also use these plates to create a distribution panel for multi-room cabling.

 

  • Cat 6 RJ45 grid plate insert – the part that fits behind the aperture grid plate to give you an ethernet wall socket.

 

  • Cat 6 solid core ethernet cable – the (typically blue) wiring that connects your plate inserts in different locations.

 

  • IDC (Krone) or 110-type punch tool – what you use to wire your ethernet cable into the grid plate inserts.

 

  • RJ45 crimping tool – what you need to make your own patch cables using RJ45 plugs and ethernet cable.

 

  • Network test tool – enables you to check the quality of ethernet sockets and leads and troubleshoot network wiring problems.

 

You should only mouse cables through walls from beneath the house upwards or from the ceiling cavity down. If you try to mouse cables sideways you’re likely to push your plaster away from the stud framing.

 

Be aware of the location of electrical cables. Apart from the risk of electric shock, placing data cables too close to electrical cables can interfere with data flow. Always use a non-conductive cable feeder to avoid electric shock.

 

Where a TV-aerial socket already exists, the smart way to run a data cable is to follow the same pathway as the aerial lead and then convert the aerial outlet into a dual aperture aerial and data point. If you need to pass cable through a wall between rooms you can fit a brush-type wall plate outlet cover on each side of the wall.

 

Before you start making your own custom wall-plate outlets check out the available range, which includes pre-made multi-RJ45 sockets and RJ45 and TV aerial combos.

 

How we installed our cable network

 

To replicate tUse multi-aperture grid plates with ethernet inserts to create network distribution pointsUse multi-aperture grid plates with ethernet inserts to create network distribution pointshe network at our house:

 

  • Connect a five-point ethernet switch to the LAN port on the back of the modem-router.

 

  • Add a three-aperture grid plate with RJ45 sockets to the wall beside the modem-router. Connect to the ethernet switch by patch cables and mouse a new cable to each room.

 

  • For the media room, run an ethernet cable down the same route as the TV aerial line and convert the aerial wall socket to a dual-output aerial and ethernet outlet. Connect a five-port ethernet switch to the RJ45 wall socket and then connect your devices to the switch with patch cables.

 

  • For the home office, mouse through a single line to a single-outlet ethernet wall socket. Connect a five-port ethernet hub to this and then plug devices in to the switch with patch cables.

 

  • For the lounge room, run an ethernet cable down the same route as the TV aerial line and convert the aerial wall socket to a dual-output aerial and ethernet outlet. Connect the TV with a patch cable.

 

Tips for your networking project

 

Here are some more handy tips for setting up your cabled network: 

 

  • Add vents to the top and bottom of cupboardsAdd vents to the top and bottom of cupboardsEnsure that you have enough power outlets where you plan to have your networking hub. Have an electrician install more if necessary.

 

  • Your equipment can generate a lot of heat so if it’s in a closed cupboard ensure there is good air circulation. Add vents at the top (or the side towards the top) and at the bottom. You’ll find snap-in vents are easiest and neatest to fit. Just jigsaw the correct-sized hole and their flanged edge provides a neat finish. Leave a 10mm space in front of or behind shelves. This allows for passive convection cooling airflow – hot air escapes at the top and sucks cooler air in through the bottom.

 

  • Allow space between pieces of equipment for air circulation and cooling.

 

  • Elevate your modem-router as much as possible to maximise your Wi-Fi range and signal strength. Aim to lift it above the height of things like fridges as they can be serious signal blockers.

 

  • If you need to run cables along skirting boards or benchtops, check out cable-management products such as D-Line 2m White Cable Management Quadrant Adhesive Covers that can conceal and protect cables and be painted to match the background.

 

  • Use colour-coded patch leads to reduce confusionUse colour-coded patch leads to reduce confusionUse colour-coded patch cables to feed different areas and then repeat this coding from the wall plate in that area. This reduces confusion and can help when troubleshooting any issues. If you have multiple devices connected to an ethernet switch, somewhere such as a media room or home office, use colour-coded patch leads to make setting-up and moving devices much simpler.

 

  • Having trouble getting some smart devices to connect or stay connected to your network via Wi-Fi? Many new modem-routers are dual-band wireless (2.4 & 5MHz) and have a feature called band steering that attempts to direct devices to what it assumes is the correct band. Many devices only use 2.4MHz and this re-steering can cause them to drop out or be slow to connect. Go into your modem-router's set-up page via your browser or smartphone app, locate "band steering" in “Wi-Fi” or “Advanced network > Wi-Fi settings” and turn it off. This way devices will automatically connect to their preferred band. If you don’t know how to access your modem’s settings via a web browser your ISP’s webpage will have simple instructions on how to do this.

 

Let us know if you need a hand with this project and check out Bunnings smart home guides for more project inspiration.

 

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