Why install Data Cabling?
The short answer – for reliability and speed.
But really, there's so much to be gained from having data cabling available in your network, it makes a lot of sense to install at least some.
Connecting as many of the devices in your network as possible by cable, frees up Wi-Fi bandwidth for the devices that solely rely on it, like phones, tablets, etc. This ensures everyone enjoys the most bandwidth available.
For gaming, video streaming, file transfer, generally all bandwidth hungry applications, cabled connections are really the best way to go
A good rule of thumb is to apply the adage ‘if it has a network port, use it’. Follow that as a guideline and you can't go too far wrong.
Data cabling can dependably deliver speeds up to 20x faster than Wi-Fi. Also, unlike Wi-Fi, it isn’t affected by interference from other networks, distance from the router, walls, or the number of users competing for signal bandwidth.
Structured cabling (data cable) has the ability to carry other services as well, not just LAN and Internet traffic. For instance, HDMI can be converted to stream over a CAT6, or CAT6A cable to distribute video throughout your home. Also VoIP, TV signals, audio, CCTV, and PoE (Power over Ethernet) are some other services.
How many data points per room?
Purely as a guide, it's currently considered 'standard practice' to install two points into bedrooms, and four to six points into study areas and entertainment areas.
If you consider that a typical entertainment area might house a ‘Smart TV’, a media streaming unit (‘Apple TV’ etc), and Xbox or PlayStation, and a Foxtel set top or Fetch box, with four points you're at capacity already.
Even if you're not going to use it all at the beginning, it's better to cable for the future during prewire. Adding more cabling later can be expensive, messy and very disruptive.
Provision for Wi-Fi Access Points?
Absolutley. The prewire stage is the best time to also install cables into roof spaces and outdoor patio areas, ready for PoE Wi-Fi Access Point / Mesh installation. This will ensure you have the best coverage possible from day one.
Choosing your data cable installer -
The 4 key requirements to ensure the best outcome.
Network faults aren’t usually caused by someone spilling coffee on the server, they’re usually the result of faulty cabling. Poor quality materials, inexperienced installers, poor installation practices. We’ve seen it all in the 25 years working in this industry.
Whether it’s a commercial data-centre, or a home cabled for everyday Internet distribution, gaming, 'work from home', it’s crucial that four key fundamentals are applied during the installation. Compromise on any one of these four and potentially, in the long term, the future cost in wasted time, money, and the stress of having a faulty network can be significant.
# 1:  Workmanship / Experience
Not all installers are the same. There's no substitute for hands-on experience. With so many different building practices out there, old and new, renovations and extensions, tilt slab, Hebel, steel frame etc, installing cables is a skill learnt over a long time. And like most skills, there are no shortcuts to learning the trade.
The Australian Standard for structured cabling states that cables must be fixed at regular intervals, horizontally and vertically. In domestic installs, it’s usually going to be fixed to truss timbers or catenary wires.
There are more, but the three main reasons for securing/fixing cable in a domestic installation are;
- To maintain the correct separation from power cables.
- To ensure cables aren’t being stepped on by everyone climbing around the space.
- To ensure cables aren’t being caught between joins in timber joists/trusses.
Ask if the installation technicians you choose have the right accreditations. Your installer must be registered with the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) as a Master Cabler.
They must have ‘OPEN’ registration with the ‘STRUCTURED’ endorsement to complete any data cabling, ‘COAXIAL’ endorsement for any HFC NBN installation work, and ‘FIBRE OPTIC’ to install fibre optic cabling for fibre networks or NBN FTTP.
This accreditation, with the right endorsements, shows they have completed not only the right training, but also completed, at least, the minimum 600 hours of hands on work installing communications cabling.
Be aware that some companies can leave partially trained apprentices or trade assistants on-site alone to install cable. The fully accredited cabling licence holder will sign off on the work at the end of the job without really having laid hands on the installation.
Always ask who will be doing the installation and what experience, accreditation they have.
#3:  Testing before hand-over
At the end of the installation, every cable link must be tested and proven to be working.
This ensures each new data outlet is not only functional, but is also able to handle the bandwidth it’s rated at.
Unfortunately, we find that some installers do not test new data outlets at all, not even at the most basic ‘continuity’ level.
We regularly attend faults where the issue is with the installation, wires not terminated to the right pin in the socket.
It’s lazy workmanship, and the consequence is that the installation doesn’t work.
If the customer doesn’t use the link from the first day (in the case of a new home build) the issue won’t be found until sometimes much later on. By then, if some time has gone by, it's unlikely that the installers will return to troubleshoot under warranty. It’ll be up to the customer to engage someone to troubleshoot the issue at their own expense.
It’s not always backyard installers who do this either.
Over the years, we’ve also repaired many un-tested installations by some of Adelaide’s largest electrical contractors.
Pinout / Continuity / Verification Testing
Verification test instruments perform the most basic continuity function tests. They ensure that each wire in the cable connects to the right ‘pin’ in the socket or RJ Connector. This is the very minimum type of testing that should be done.
Passing this test will generally assure that the link will work. However, verfication testing does not test for link speed, or the quality of the signal. Importantly, it also doesn't test for high resistance terminations (poor contact).
A ‘High Resistance’ fault causes intermittent connectivity issues and can be the hardest type of fault to find.
The cost of finding HR faults can become considerable. Usually, equipment is replaced before the cabling is suspected. Then, once it’s clear the cabling is at fault, costs grow exponentially depending on the number of links that need to be tested.
Loss of productivity from network downtime has all sorts of commercial consequences for businesses relying on constant uptime.
Qualification test instruments determine what type of network speeds and technologies a cable link can support.
Qualification testers are a very good tool for testing whether a cable link can handle “Fast Ethernet” (100Mbps), VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or Gigabit Ethernet.
They are a good tool to assess the available bandwidth and find defects in the cable that negatively affect the bandwidth.
They are widely used to qualify and troubleshoot Industrial Ethernet cabling.
eTechs use Fluke CableIQ Qualification test instruments as a standard.
Certification test instruments are used to guarantee newly installed cable links comply to industry standards. This is the highest level of testing.
Certification instruments will test for compliance to industry standards (ISO, TIA) etc.
They give a PASS/FAIL result, independent of network technologies. In other words, they test the cable for the highest level of transmission capability. This allows future technologies to be developed, knowing they will work over the standardised cabling.
Many structured cabling manufacturers require installations to be certified before they grant their warranties.
These units are mostly used in the commercial realm due to their expense.
#4:  Quality of Materials
The quality of the materials used for your data cable installation is important.
There are endless suppliers offering cheaply imported cables and components, and many installers will use them to save costs.
The savings per metre of cable, per wall plate, per CAT6 module can be up to 50%. Materials are not usually a large part of cabling cost. The main cost is labour. So using cheap, poorly tested components does not make long-term sense. By the time an issue arises, the job will usually be out of warranty, and the owner will be stuck with the cost of fault location and repair.
Always ask what brand of cable and components the installer will use. Research those brands before committing to using them and if not sure, call your local electrical wholesaler for brand advice.
eTechs only uses high quality brands such as Clipsal, ADC Krone, Panduit.