Home Communications Wiring Upgrades Can't Wait for Tomorrow

October 2001

It's Not Just Phone Wiring Anymore

What hath the Web wrought?

In the figurative blink of an eye, home computer users have been introduced to such wonders as Internet phone calls, streaming audio and video, 24/7 Webcams and "instant messaging." Communications Wiring Upgrade Can't Wait

Americans, with their love for new technology, have embraced these innovations at every level. Parents are networking homes to share Web connections among family members. Grandparents exchange e-mails and pictures with their grandchildren. Students file book reports and get test grades online. Each day brings increasingly sophisticated options in home electronics, audio and video entertainment, security systems and more. Communications wiring brings it all together, and making the connection in this brave new world has never been easier.

That's the good news. The downside is that most homes still lack the proper wiring that allows them to take full advantage of these and other new technologies. And it's not just future technology that's "on the line." The high-tech electronic equipment most of us already have in our homes also requires updated wiring-right now. Think of communications wiring as a pipeline. If you want more capacity, you need a pipe with greater diameter.

Fortunately, the wiring that can handle our communications needs, now and in the foreseeable future, is available today at modest cost. It's called Category wiring. Recognizing the need to upgrade our data-carrying capacity, the FCC recently boosted the wiring standard for all new or retrofit home and business communications installations. The new minimum standard, Category 3, has already been surpassed by even-better-performing Category 5 and 5e (for enhanced) wiring. For homes and home offices, Category 5e is recommended.

Category 5 wiring contains four pairs of tightly twisted, high-quality copper wires, installed in a "star" or "home run" pattern, that can handle multiple phone lines and support high-speed digital communications. Sometimes mated with new, improved quad-shielded RG6 coaxial cable for video signals, this "structured wiring" package is a potent carrier for a home's electronic needs, from digital feature-phones to home computer networks to signal-level audio.

Improved function, service and reliability are primary, but there are other reasons for upgrading a home's communications wiring now. Real estate professionals know that it can increase a home's resale value. The cost of the wiring itself is minimal, and if you need to add phone lines, computer workstations or even a home-security camera in the future, structured wiring makes it easier and less expensive. And with the availability of new installation tools and techniques, there are few obstacles to retrofitting structured wiring in almost any home, regardless of age.

Learn more information on these applications in our Electrical and Telecommunications sections.