A future-proof low-voltage installation means that your equipment will stand the test of time. Achieving this requires a few key features:
- Carrier and Media Agnostic Entry Route – Smurf tubes or other conduit enables future upgrades.
- Wi-Fi Friendly Low Voltage Panel – Plastic panels optimize the Wi-Fi signal’s range.
- Wired Connections – Use hardwire connections and Cat6 cable to optimize performance.
- Wired Access Points for large buildings – Run Cat6 in large spaces and install access points to extend Wi-Fi coverage.
Set Up a Carrier and Media Agnostic Entry Route
It is best to run a flexible conduit, often called smurf tube, or other conduit from a point outside of a building or home to the low voltage panel. This will allow any internet service provider to run any type of media to the low-voltage panel. Running just CAT 5 and coax outside limits the options of what service can be provided there. Nobody can say for sure what wiring will be in demand in the next five or ten years, so it is best to provide a route to the network home run for any type of connection to future-proof a build.
Install a Wi-Fi Friendly Low Voltage Panel
Ideally, all internal low-voltage wiring and the entry conduit will meet in a plastic low-voltage panel with an electrical outlet. This location will need to house internet service provider equipment as well as the router. Ideally, the box is built from material (usually plastic) that will not block Wi-Fi signals. Metal is not advised as it severely inhibits Wi-Fi propagation.
Enable your Internal Network for Wired Connections
Even in the 2020s, wired connections remain faster and more reliable than wireless. It is best to provide the option to hardwire as much equipment as possible to leave Wi-Fi bandwidth available to phones, laptops and other devices that cannot be or are impractical to wire. Wireless is also subject to slower speeds due to low signal strength, interference from other nearby wireless devices, and congestion due to shared Wi-Fi channels.
Cat6 is the current ethernet cable standard and what we currently recommend because it is backwards compatible with older devices and capable of handling potentially higher demands as technology advances. Cat5e is limited to 1 gigabit per second (gbps) while Cat6 can run 10 gbps on lines up to 180 feet and will set your customers up for the next generation of devices.
Plan to Have Additional Access Point Locations for Large Buildings
In spaces over 2,500 square feet, one router is not likely to provide adequate Wi-Fi coverage. In these cases, it is beneficial to run Cat6 cable to locations where a wireless access point can be installed. These are typically powered by a Power Over Ethernet injector (POE) and do not need power at that location.