Cat6a U/FTP in home network & Shielding


I am doing an extension in my house and it is the perfect time to set a home network.
There are some posts on this issue here but I didn't find all the answers I was looking for.

This is my (simple) situation:

  • Trying to future proof the network (or trying to ;-))
  • Small house (hence lots of electric cables going through the stud walls, no cable over 30m)
  • Cat6a U/FTP cables
  • Will use a patch panel
  • Need a 16 ports switch (recommendation? maybe with 1 POE port), and in the future a 10GbE switch when they become more affordable
  • Node Zero is under the stairs

I have a hard time finding details about how to make this work properly.

Scenario A: I use the U/FTP cable as a UTP cable with an unshielded patch panel, with plastic RJ45 plugs for the wall outlet, and UTP patch cables between the patch panel and the switch (not grounded other than the power cable)

  1. I read multiple time that it is possible that this would result in worst performance as simply using UTP cable but is this a theoretical risk or is it likely to happen?

  2. can 10GbE be achieved in this scenario (with the appropriate switch)

Scenario B: Using the U/FTP cable as intended. And this is where I am lost. Here are my assumptions:

  1. I need a shielded patch panel

  2. I need shielded RJ45 modules (metal plugs) on the wall faceplate

  3. I need shielded keystones on the patch panel for each port

  4. I need shielded RJ45 plugs for the patch cables on both ends

  5. I need shielded RJ45 plugs for shielded patch cables between the wall faceplates and the workstations

  6. In situation B, what does need to be grounded? only the patch panel? only the switch? only the faceplates?

There are so many contradictory information out there 🙁
The goal is simply to have a decent home network and optimising the speed.

Can someone help?

P.S: telling me to go with a UTP cable is not an option. I have it, I keep it 😉

Best Answer

You simply cannot mix shielded and unshielded parts in a link. The shield only works if it continuous end-to-end and properly grounded on both ends. The actual wires in shielded cabling cannot meet specifications without working shielding. Having unshielded connectors means that the shielding is broken on the link, and it is not properly grounded. Improperly grounded links with shielded cable cannot meet the required cable specifications.

You need to use Category-6a for 10GBase-T (10 gigabit).

There are documents that explain things for you. For example, Shielded and unshielded twisted-pair cable revisited:

If STP cable is combined with improperly shielded connectors, connecting hardware or outlets, or if the foil shield itself is damaged, overall signal quality will be degraded. This, in turn, can result in degraded emission and immunity performance. Therefore, for a shielded cabling system to totally reduce interference, every component within that system must be fully and seamlessly shielded, as well as properly installed and maintained.

An STP cabling system also requires good grounding and earthing practices because of the presence of the shield. An improperly grounded system can be a primary source of emissions and interference. Whether this ground is at one end or both ends of the cable run depends on the frequency at which a given application is running. For high-frequency signals, an STP cabling system must be grounded, at minimum, at both ends of the cable run, and it must be continuous. A shield grounded at only one end is not effective against magnetic-field interference.

FYI, cable categories are defined by ANSI/TIA/EIA, which only defines UTP. Many cable many manufacturers cannot meet the category specification without adding a shield, and incorrect use of the shielded cable will prevent it from passing the category test suite.

Also, Caetgory-6 and Category 6-a should be installed by professional installers as it is highly doubtful that you have the expertise or (very expensive) test equipment to determine that the installed cable passes the category test suite. You can use all the correct category parts, but most important to passing the tests is the actual installation, and even many experienced installers have difficulties with Category-6 and Category-6a cabling.

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