Snaking Cable to Support Gigabit Ethernet at Home


I should be sleeping after having friends over last night for New Year’s Eve. Instead, I will be crawling through our attic and basement for the next several days. I have to pull new runs of network cable to support an upgrade to wireless Ethernet.

When we built our home in 2001, my wife and I wired the house with Category 5e cable. At the time, Gigabit Ethernet had come into use. We expected residential homes in the future would have wire networks. We wanted to be ready for the resale market.

The only problem was that we didn’t expect the Wi-Fi revolution.

A decade on, our home computer network struggles to feed a host of digital devices with a 100 Mbit/s access point.

Our neighborhood is saturated with Wi-Fi access points, all trying to deliver wide-band digital communication using the 802.11g protocol.

Something has to give, so we’re investing in a scalable, reliable, high-performance network.

I expect the project to take about a month to complete.

Phase I: WAN Security Gateway

Once I pull new cable, I’ll begin work with the gateway. The gateway has a firewall to protect network data. I can create virtual network segments for security and traffic management, which will be important later in the upgrade.

The gateway also has space for voice and video traffic, something we will need once we ditch Comcast Phone.

Phase II: Network Switching

High network speeds require fast, intelligent network switching. The new switch routes up to 1-million packets per second. This is a massive upgrade over consumer-grade devices, bordering on carrier-class networking.

The switch also supports Power Over Ethernet so I can power other devices on the network such as the Wi-Fi access point.

Phase III: High Performance Wi-Fi

The backbone of the network will be an indoor 802.11ac access point. The hardware supports simultaneous dual-band operation. An ideal deployment would allow network speeds up to 1,300 Mbps in the 5 GHz band and 450 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band.

The access point has 3×3 MIMO configuration. This means the device has 3 antennas and 3 radios capable of transmitting and receiving over three streams. All three streams afford the device more bandwidth capacity when downloading and uploading data to and from the network.

Phase IV: Wireless Mesh Network

A Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) is a communication network designed to provide a cost effective, high bandwidth over a specific coverage area. Mesh infrastructure carries data over large distances by splitting the distance into a series of short hops.

The amateur radio community has a WMN called Broadband-Hamnet. This network uses commercial off-the-shelf hardware such as a Wi-Fi access point under the amateur radio rules. This enables amateur operators to use higher output power for longer-range communication.

Broadband-Hamnet supports most of the traffic already found on the Internet such as video chat, voice, instant messaging, email, web, file transfers, and forums.

Phase V: Voice Over IP

The last phase of the upgrade is VoIP, voice over the Internet.

Later in the year, we will ditch Comcast Phone for another provider. With it, we will install smart-phone technology to a scalable PBX system. The system uses the Android platform to provide video conferencing, high-fidelity voice, and a variety of software applications.

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