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My house is wired for Ethernet, and it uses RJ45 jacks wired with Cat5 cables for POTS. I have no use for POTS, and I'd prefer to repurpose those jacks as additional Ethernet jacks. The Ethernet and telephone cables all end up in a central wiring closet, and the telephone cables are wired to a Channel Vision C-0438 distribution box:

The Channel Vision C-0438 in my wiring closet

To make it easier to repurpose cables (by disconnecting them from the distribution box and connecting them to an Ethernet switch, or vice versa), I am considering replacing this distribution box with a Channel Vision C-0436, which uses RJ-45 jacks. Would there be any disadvantages to this?

(As far as I can tell, each telephone jack in the house corresponds to a cable connected to the distribution box, so I don't think any of the cables are spliced.)

  • Are the cables cat5 or cat5e? – Craig Oct 9 '16 at 4:33
  • @Craig The home was built in 2007, and I presume that the wiring is cat5e. The cables don't seem to be explicitly labeled with "cat 5e", but they do have "5E" printed on them (although I'm not certain that I'm not misinterpreting the label): 266 FT E164061 VERIFIED (UL) CMR OR MPR 5E 350 MHZ TO TIA/EIA-568A 24 AWG 4 UTP C(UL) DEVICE A B C D E F ZONE 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 – jamesdlin Oct 9 '16 at 4:57
  • Be aware that if you decide to crimp RJ45 style cable ends onto the cables that there are two types of the ends....one for solid wire and another style for stranded wire. One reason punch down style connections are used is that they are really reliable when used with the solid wire style cables used in walls. – Michael Karas Oct 9 '16 at 15:41
  • @jamesdlin: Yeah, that's Cat5e cable, both because of the 350Mhz rating, and because of the 5E printed on the jacket. – Craig Oct 10 '16 at 16:41
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Yes, you can pull out your existing telco punchdown block and replace it with a suitable block for Ethernet networking.

What you're really looking for is a Cat 5e (or better), T-568B compatible punchdown block with RJ45 jacks. That's TIA/EIA-568 revision B, which is essentially identical to the older AT&T 258A (Systimax) standard, which was originally designed for telephone service.

So a typical structured cabling solution works for phones and data networking, although a residential solution may bridge tap all of the phone lines so all the extensions ring together, and that's completely incompatible with Ethernet networking. It's also easy to bridge tap multiple RJ45 ports together in the future if that becomes desirable.

Your new punchdown block

First confirm that those cables in the wall are Cat5e. If they're only Cat5, then you'll only be able to reliably use Fast Ethernet (100Mb/s), not Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mb/s).

You'll fasten your new punchdown block to the back of your media cabinet, then punch your incoming cables down to the new block. There's an example below (picture), but you can literally just walk into a big box store and grab one for $20 or so. Then you'll run short Ethernet patch cables between this punchdown block and your switch or router. T-568B is also compatible with telephones, so this upgrade won't prevent you or the next owner from using those existing wall jacks for telephone extensions later if you want to.

enter image description here

You'll want to confirm that your RJ45 wall jacks are wired up to the T-568B standard.

enter image description here

You'll fasten your switch(es) and/or router(s) to the back of your structured media enclosure as well, then you'll use short Ethernet patch cables to make connections from the switch/router ports to your wall jacks.

Someday you might want phones again

If you want to bridge some ports to turn on some telephone extensions in the future, you could easily do it with a little creative crimping of RJ-45 and/or RJ-11 plugs to connect all the right wires, which you would then plug into the RJ-45 jacks you want to connect phones to.

Or you could just buy a telephone interface hub similar to the one pictured below, which lets you adjust which jacks are bridged together using bridge clips. So you would snap on whatever bridge clips suit your purpose, then use regular telephone patch cables (2 or 4 wire) to connect the wall jacks to the telephone interface.

I guess I should clarify that you can plug RJ-11 (phone) plugs into RJ-45 jacks.

enter image description here

  • "It's also easy to bridge tap multiple RJ45 ports together in the future if that becomes desirable." Could you elaborate a bit more on that? The Channel Vision C-0436 would be a bridge, right? And if so, is there an advantage to using patch cables between the punchdown block and the C-0436 (or Ethernet switch) instead of crimping RJ-45 plugs onto the cables and running them directly to either the C-0436 (or switch)? – jamesdlin Oct 10 '16 at 22:32
  • If you go the structured cabling approach, you're going to punch the wires from your incoming cables down to that block. Then you can use standard Ethernet patch cables or telephone patch cables with RJ-11 plugs, to plug individual wall jacks into your Ethernet switch, or into a telco interface hub. The C-0436 would work if you don't mind punching everything down again. – Craig Oct 10 '16 at 22:40
  • Otherwise, you could add a telco hub with RJ-11 (or RJ-45) jacks similar to this one, which lets you use bridge clips to decide how many jacks are bridged together: amazon.com/gp/product/B00013BO8I – Craig Oct 10 '16 at 22:41
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The distribution box you show is designed only for telephone signals. If you want to use the cabling for ethernet there are a few changes you need to make:

  1. With POTS telephone wiring all of the wires are connected together. All the orange wires are connected to each other, all the blue wires are connected to each other, etc. That's why every phone in the house rings at the same time.

Computer networks do not work like that. With a computer network each jack needs to be independent and connected to a network switch. The standard way to do this is to have each cable run connected to a patch panel and then run short ethernet patch cables to the network switch. However in a small home environment it is probably easier to just crimp an 8P8C modular connector (a.k.a. RJ45) onto the cable run and then plug that directly into your network switch.

The Vision C-0436 item you link to looks basically the same as the one you have now: everything is all tied together. So it would not be usable for ethernet.

  1. The above point is far and away more important but I also want to point out that the way the wiring is done in your photo is fine for low-bandwidth POTS but not ideal for ethernet networks. You can look up tutorials online for how to "punch down" cabling but in brief you want to keep the cable twists intact for as long as possible and avoid excessive unraveling.

  2. Finally on the other end of each wire you will need to make sure the jacks are wired properly. Telephone signal only uses 2 conductors but ethernet uses all 8. Depending on how it was originally wired you may need to redo the punch-down and/or even replace the wall jacks entirely.

Whatever components you buy, make sure they are rated for whatever your cable type is. Probably CAT 5e (not the obsolete 5) from the looks of it, maybe CAT 6. Cabling, wall jacks, 8P8C connectors, and patch panels are all rated for a certain category.

  • Sorry, I wasn't clear. My plan would be to replace the box to make it easier for me to disconnect a cable from the distribution box and instead connect it to a real Ethernet switch (and to later reconnect it back to the distribution box if someday I sell the house). – jamesdlin Oct 9 '16 at 3:04
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    Getting a good crimp on the connection is more difficult than getting a good connection from a punch down. Even on a small home network, I'd recommend punch down for this reason. A cheap patch panel from e.g., monoprice will come with a cheap punch down tool, too, which will be suitable for this project. – mmathis Oct 9 '16 at 5:14
  • @jamesdlin: I guess I'm not clear on what you're asking. You want to rewire the whole distribution but keep it as POTS? – Hank Oct 9 '16 at 14:42
  • @HenryJackson Yes. My goal would be to be able to easily repurpose one of the cat 5e(?) cables from telephony to Ethernet (and back if necessary). – jamesdlin Oct 9 '16 at 17:58
  • @mmathis: I've never found that to be true. It's just a matter of using the right tools. Bad punchdown connections, for instance, will be highly susceptible to NEXT (near-end cross-talk), if the wire ends aren't cut very close to the block. A real punchdown tool has a blade on it, and is spring-loaded so it chops the wire. The crappy plastic punchdown tools that come in the package obviously don't do any of that, etc. – Craig Oct 9 '16 at 17:58

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