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Today's Wired Home. What Does it all Mean?

Fall 2004

Remember the Jetsons?  Believe it or not, each day we are moving closer and closer to the automated world portrayed in the cartoon.  Look at today's newer homes, built with a structured wiring system providing lightning fast internet and High Definition television.   Think back 5 - 10 years ago, we had no idea that such possibilities existed.  It is important to understand what value the structured wiring systems bring to today's buyers.

Most buyers of today will have at least one computer within their home.  Many will have two.  The term SOHO Small Office Home Office is in full swing in Arizona.  Each day, more and more people are opting to work from home than ever before.  With this, the expectactions of having their homes technologically capable are greater.  They seek high-speed connections with the ability to have mulitple computers on the net simultaneously.  To take it further they are seeking expandability such as WiFi (wireless network), which allows today's computer users to search the web without wires, perhaps from their laptop on the patio beside the pool.

All this flexibility is bound by the amount of data and the speed that it can be transmitted within the home network.  A structured wiring system is essentially a network allowing the fast transmission of large amounts of data throughout the home and ultimately too and from the web.  The following are some key terms used when home networks and structured wiring are discussed.

Network - The means by which computers and other networking devices are connected together so that print services, files, equipment, and software applications may be shared.

Local area network (LAN) - Technologies connect many devices that are relatively close to each other, usually in the same building.

Wide area network (WAN) - Technologies connect a smaller number of devices that can be many miles apart.

WiFi - Wireless networking. Utilizing radio signals and tiny antennas, computers can be networked within a 100' area of one another.


Bandwidth - Describes the rate at which a network can transfer data. Standard Ethernet operates at 10Mbps.  Fast Ethernet operates at 100Mbps.

Twisted-Pair Cable - A cable used for both network communications and telephone communications.  Also known as UTP (unshielded twisted pair) and 10BASE-T/100BASE-T cable.

Category 5 Cabling - A higher grade of unshielded twisted-pair cabling required for networking applications such as 100Mbps Fast Ethernet.  Most commonly pre-wired in buildings wired within the last five years.

Coaxial Cable - A cable composed of an insulated central conducting wire wrapped in another cylindrical conductor (the shield).  The whole thing is usually wrapped in another insulating layer and an outer protective layer. A coaxial cable has great capacity to carry vast quantities of information.   It is typically used in high-speed data and CATV applications.

Fiber-Optic Cable - Fiber-optic cables transmit digital signals as light pulses. Fiber optic cable connections are made through an AUI port using an external transceiver.

RJ-11 - A standard telephone modular connector.

RJ-45 jack
  - The connector on the back of a computer or printer that accepts the RJ-45 plug; looks much like a modular telephone jack.

RJ-45 plug - The connector on the end of 10BASE-T or 100BASE-T twisted-pair cabling; looks much like a modular telephone plug.


Routers - Advanced networking components that can divide a single network into two logically separate networks. While Ethernet broadcasts cross bridges in their search to find every node on the network, they do not cross routers because the router forms a logical boundary for the network.

Hub - Also referred to as a "repeater" or "concentrator", its primary function is to receive and send signals along the network between the nodes connected to it.  For home users, hubs usually have 4-8 "ports" (or RJ-45 jacks) that connect cables coming from individual computers on the network.

Structured Wiring - A "home-run" wiring strategy and a minimum set of wires.   With home-run wiring you make all the wiring runs from a central point in the house, usually in a closet.   At the central point, the wires terminate at various types of patch panels that let you connect to equipment such as signal amplifiers or network hubs and to external sources such as the incoming telephone and cable TV lines.

Additional Resources:

Cox Communicatons

Leviton Voice and Data Learning Center

Smart Home