In this time of constant change, you want to build a home and permanently place your home in a technology standard. It is very confusing market to determine what you should do. There are several associations who have developed standards to help with determining what is needed in each location of a home to each technology used. It can be very confusing. Structured wiring has been a buzzword for nearly a decade. What is it, why do you need it and the real question is ?How much of it do I need?? I hope to give you enough information that you can determine where you fit on the scale. It can be as confusing as buying a computer. The industry has its own terminology, and like myself, there are many experts out there. I will break down the areas to hopefully make it less confusing.
Structured wiring needs in the home have changed and developed over the past 5 years. In the past, the general rule of thumb was wire as much as you can, because it is cheaper in the long run to wire now, than it is to retrofit. Many homeowners have felt ripped off in this method because they installed four ?drops? in each room, to find out the only used one of them in 4 years.
The next big change in the industry was wireless. Wireless has taken over in the Consumer Electronic market, tremendously over the past couple of years. Computers are adopting wireless network cards about as fast as they dropped floppy disk drives. So having this in mind changes the landscape. To be smart minded about wiring and flexibility, you have to take into account the needs or limitations of each technology.
Wireless in the home, can be very easy, secure, and simple to use if it is set up properly. It offers the homeowner the flexibility in interior layout. While it is in the National Electric Code (NEC) to have an electrical outlet every 6-8 feet, being wireless means I can have my computer desk anywhere in the home without regards to location of the data jacks. However, Wireless has some limitations. Speed and more importantly traffic are the main concerns. Wireless will always lag in speed of wired networks. Wireless is slower, but for normal environments, this is ok. The average wireless speed is now at 54Mbps1, 13 times faster than Comcast fastest advertised internet connection at 4Mbps. Comcast and all other broadband service providers are the weak link for all networked homes wired or wireless. For most homeowners wireless will take care of all their home-networking needs; that is until Microsoft came out with the Windows XP Media Center Edition.
The Media Center is a centralized computer that allows you to stream up to 6 TV?s with movies, TV broadcast, Radio, pre-recorded music and pictures to name a few. These TV?s use a device called a ?Media Center Extender.? This extender is like a VCR. It has a network connection (Wireless or Hard Wired) and all the displayed media comes over the network. The extender has a 12.5 Mbps demand constantly. This is about a forth of the Wireless network capabilities. This is where wireless; until the speeds get much faster will be a problem. You can have five of these in the home for a total bandwidth usage of 62.5 Mbps; Wireless is stable to 54Mbps (it will get faster, eventually). The sixth TV would be connected directly to the Media Center PC.
Wired data is traditional, you pre-wire category 5/5e/6/7 rated wire to locations where it is planned to have a TV or a Computer. The ?wired? connections can handle up to 1 gigabit (1 Gbps = 1000 Mbps) This wired network can handle the Media Center traffic (which is internal and not limited to the ISP weak link) plus all the other ?internal? traffic. The industry standard is to run 2 category rated twisted pair cabling for Voice and Data, and 2 Coaxial cables for video source and return paths.
Until Microsoft came out with their Media Center Edition there really was no true wireless media (TV, Movie or other video-based media) in the home which was reliable. However, it is highly recommended to keep the coax in the home.
Most homeowners nowadays have cordless phones. Cordless phones in the last year or two have changed the landscape. In the past, you had one wired base station per cordless handset. Recently manufacturers have come out with multiple handsets per base station. I have a system that allows for up to ten cordless handsets. Which begs the question do I need all the telephone jacks in the home? I do not have a great argument against this. This could be an area to cut back on.
Your case is how to find that middle ground. You will need to evaluate your personal usage and determine if wireless makes sense. You need to determine if you have issues with wireless. You need to ensure you wireless networks are properly protected. I recommend any television location in the home have a category rated cable for data or telephone and a quad shield for the television signal at a minimum.
1 (Mbps is a measure of speed like MPH measure the number of bits transmitted per second, the M means mega or million)
Brett Griffin, co-founder of Architechtronics, Inc lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. Brett has 12 years of experience in the technology industry and strives to seamlessly blend high performance technologies into one easy to use system. Visit www.architechtronics.com for more information.