To Be at Home with Today's Communications Technologies, You've Got to Have the Right Connections

September 2000

With technology and equipment developed in the last five years, you can turn your home into a communications center with your computers and peripheral equipment talking to one another. You can integrate high-speed Internet access with voice, fax, audio/visual entertainment, and environmental and lighting controls. But buying new gadgets and subscribing to newly minted communications services may not be enough to get you onto the Information Superhighway. It's likely that you also need to upgrade the telephone wiring and other communications cables in your home to keep up with the traffic.

Why Upgrade Wiring?

Installing the right types of cables and outlets throughout a home enhances home communications by making each piece of equipment function faster, more reliably and more conveniently for the user. Among the benefits you can enjoy today are:

Faster, more flexible Internet and e-mail access. DSL(Digital Subscriber Line) service is currently one of the most exciting technologies for upgrading Internet access, but to use it to its fullest potential, your home should have Category 5 or better telephone cable installed throughout. By implementing a home network, you can access your high-speed DSLconnections by plugging in personal computers anywhere in the home for access to Internet and e-mail. Single phone lines can share Internet access for multiple, simultaneous users without tying up phone lines needed for voice service. Wire your home for high-speed Internet access and enjoy multiple e-mail accounts while maintaining a single access/ service provider.

Home computer networking. Multiple computers, printers, fax machines and other devices anywhere throughout the home can be connected to create a costeffective home area network that enables users to share files, printers and games. Professional communications capacity for working at home. Work at home as conveniently as at the office with a wiring system that enables the computer, modem, fax and telephone to operate simultaneously, while providing highspeed Internet access.

Full-function home entertainment systems. Wire your home so it can readily accept all entertainment systems and distribution services, including direct broadcast satellite, DVD and cable. Give yourself the flexibility to direct audio and video on demand to any rooms where they're likely to be used.

Enhanced security. Advanced wiring can contribute to numerous security applications, including programmed lighting controls, alarm and monitoring systems. Security systems can be linked with PCs, intercoms and lights to give you optimum control and flexibility.

Environmental control and energy management. Advanced wiring combined with sophisticated heating and cooling controls can help you gain maximum comfort and convenience at reduced cost by enabling automatic shutdown/ turn down when energy-consuming appliances aren't needed, along with remote control of appliances.

Wiring for Today-and Tomorrow

While technology developers and equipment makers are putting so much communications power within reach today- and promising further advances tomorrow- the wiring infrastructure of the typical American home hasn't changed much in the last 50 years. Old-style telephone wiring and electrical systems can't fully support the communications technology available now and within the foreseeable future.

If your home isn't equipped with adequate cabling, you won't be able to use home computers and peripherals, telephone and audio equipment or cable and satellite receivers to their fullest capacities.

Alternatives such as wireless systems, systems that use old phone wiring and systems that piggyback on existing power wiring are available but don't provide the full capacity that a "structured wiring" package with Category 5 or better telephone cable and RG-6 coaxial cable for TV signals can.

And just as important, your home should have a service panel or central hub where telephone, cable TV, DSS satellite and other services are distributed to various rooms, and through which your home network is routed. Appropriate outlets, such as phone jacks and cable hookups, are also necessary.

Packaged systems that include the cables you need for advanced communications, along with service panels and special outlets, are available under many brand names. Some equipment providers also provide qualified installers, or installation can be carried out by qualified electricians, security system installers and telephone technicians. The installed cost for advanced communication and control wiring may range from $750 to $2,000, according to Wiring Americas' Homes, a trade group formed to promote the benefits of emerging wiring technologies.

While many people believe that upgraded communications wiring is practical only for new construction, it's not especially difficult or expensive to have it installed in an existing home. Electricians, computer network technicians and many security installers are familiar with the installation practice. Whomever you select to do a retrofit installation, make sure he has experience and familiarity with the best practices.

How to Get Wiring Help

Wiring Americas' Homes offers an informative consumer-information pamphlet entitled "Get Connected for Living." For more information on the benefits of advanced communications wiring, visit the Wiring Americas' Homes Internet site or call 1-888-NEW-WIRE.