Maybe you have ever had to ask a friend for their toolbox and in it, in addition to finding the usual hammers and screwdrivers, you have found a bag full of RJ45 plugs. No, that friend is not dedicated to tapping phones: that friend makes his own network cables at home.
In large supermarkets and online stores like Amazon we can easily find these cables and at the length we want, but there are certain people who prefer to have the basic parts of these cables and make them themselves. We have spoken with several of these people to know the reasons why they do it.
If you want to do something right, do it yourself
Xavier Wolf, a veteran system administrator and expert who has preferred to launch an ethernet cable network to every corner of his house (which took him days), explains what these tools are. It all starts naturally with buying a generous roll of network cable, like this 100 meter and Cat6 to support local bandwidths of 1 Gbps. Along with the cable, another basic thing is the RJ45 connectors that will go on each end of the cables that we make. Here’s a pack of a hundred.
Then we will need the tools to strip, cut and crimp wires that we tailor to our needs, which are usually sold in sets and complete cases. And if you already want to get honors in aesthetics and pass the cables through the tubes of the electrical installation so that they are not visible, you will need a grommet, lubricant (yes, lubricant) and some rosettes that provide some aesthetics. And if in some room you have to connect many devices, you will probably need switches like these.
In total, and depending on the amount of cable needed and devices to connect, we can already see that the material costs will be at least 150 euros. Is it worth making this outlay when Wi-Fi networks are becoming more powerful? For Javier the answer is totally yes.
“In the long run, it pays off. Moving a 4K movie from my server to my Apple cable TV is always going to be faster and more satisfying. I’m not going to have any buffering or quality drops. Large transfers of files are noticeably faster and more stable by cable. In addition, the ‘uptime’ of the cable is 100%. Even if the internet goes down for some reason, the local network continues to work if there is no power outage. WiFi can suffer from interference, saturation of channels, noise and bandwidth dips”
If a device can connect via ethernet cable at Javier’s house, it connects via cable. Strategic places such as the television cabinet in the living room or the computers in the office they are connected based on Switches, he comments, in order to adequately distribute the signal.
Javier points out to me what was his main obstacle when assembling all the wiring: the difficulties that can arise when using the cable gland to place the network cables through all the interior channels in the walls of the house. “Normally there are free ‘macaroni’ to be able to pass the cables that you want, but sometimes it is not like that and you have to go to the sack. That is when running a cable through conduits where there is more wiring can be hell.“.
It is that part of the job with which Javier has had the most problems and mistakes. He insists that we use a special lubricant to pull the cables, since he verified in his own meat how to use ordinary dishwashing soap (some people resort to it as a homemade lubricant) causes sticky residue all over the cable, which precisely prevents them from being well displayed inside the walls.
Another lesson Javier learned by the bad is that not all houses are well prepared to be able to deploy network cables. We have to mentalize: it is possible that the cable guide gets stuck halfway, and we can neither continue inserting the cable nor remove the one we have already put. “In this situation, unless you want to do work at home, it is best to leave that guide and the piece of cable stuck in there and look for alternatives.“. These can go through trying other interior raceways that have more space, or simply run the cables outside and make them visible if aesthetics are not too much of a problem for you.
Network cable to work, but also to play
Paco Fernández, a technician who works in Barcelona, is another person who also decided in his day to make the effort to run network cable through his house:
“Depending on Wi-Fi to download content or play games I don’t like, because I lose a lot of latency in games and I like to have a stable 1 Gbps to send me anything I want to see on other devices over the local network. I took advantage of a time when I had I had to change the electrical installation of my apartment and I also started adding ethernet cables”
At the time of installation, Paco used Category 5e cables, which at the moment he has no plans to change since the speeds of the Spanish fiber optic plans do not exceed the speed of 1 Gbps. The technician is more optimistic about the Wi-Fi networks of the future, saying that does not rule out using them if one day they exceed the performance of the cables. Javier, on the other hand, defends that the ethernet cable will always be between the walls of his house.
BE BE BE pic.twitter.com/4TnKO0p5q9
– Fernando de Córdoba 😷 🏳️🌈 (@gamusino) October 12, 2020
Someone who avoided the hassle of running wires through the guts of their home walls is Ferdinand of Cordoba. Seeing that telecommuting is going to be something much more common in the remainder of the pandemic and in the time that will come after, he decided to wire his office to avoid the rather poor bandwidth that came with the Wi-Fi router.
“In general the connection is very unstable, and I have tried different routers, Wi-Fi channels and providers, including technologies (cable, fiber and ADSL). From time to time my Wi-Fi drops… and for work it is complicated, imagine if he catches you in a virtual meeting or working remotely. I live near a military installation so I think that’s why. Either that or I have a luddite ghost in the house”
For Fernando, crimping the cables turned out to be “a traumatic shock”
Fernando’s solution has been to pass the cable outside, fixing it with staples just above the baseboard of the floor and drilling holes to pass it from one room to another. It is the first time that he has dared to do this from a roll of network cable, and for him the biggest challenge has been to crimp the cables:
“Crimping is hell. At first, innocent of me, I thought “let’s see, it’s putting a cable in a plastic box, it can’t be that big a deal”, and I cut it with scissors a little as God gave me to understand. chaos. Putting the eight stiff little cables in order is practically impossible. Finally I bought a crimper, which not only closes the box well but also cuts them all at the same height, and I don’t know if it was because of that or because I had tried twenty times, but it worked for me the first time”
When it comes to crimping the cables, Javier also gives us some advice that will avoid frustration: do not cut the cable too short at the ends: “we must leave a margin of error in case we fail when crimping and we have to cut the cable a little more“.
In Fernando’s words, he will consider wiring his TV zone in the living room “when the traumatic shock passes” to crimp the wires in the office. From his journey He leaves us several recommendations to all of us who consider using cable in our house: buy surplus material, always prioritize it before Wi-Fi and require a network cable integrated into the installation when buying new-build flats.