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Our local fiber optic internet company wants an outrageous amount of money to run a line from the road 1000 feet back to our home, so we're doing it ourselves and then having a tech come hook us up.

We're in northern Minnesota - will we need to encase the line in something? Do they make pre-insulated CAT6?

What should we know going into this project?

We're completely off-grid, so there are no electrical lines.

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    maybe you should be asking if a 1000 foot cable is not too long for ethernet, before you start asking if you can bury a 1000 foot cable
    – jsotola
    Jun 19 '20 at 17:52
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    @DMoore, as long as one of the two ends has electricity, PoE powered repeaters can be used along the run. But if there's power at both ends, it may be cheaper to convert to fiber.
    – Nate S.
    Jun 19 '20 at 18:16
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    @NateS. - you think average homeowner should set up something like that? I mean what do they do if something doesn't work in a few months? It makes no sense. Putting in a PoE repeater is the WORST solution because these things are as reliable as as harbor freight power tools.
    – DMoore
    Jun 19 '20 at 18:30
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    @dmoore average homeowners should live in the city. Those who live off-grid have to "Daniel Boone" up, roll up their sleeves and tackle things like this. American self-sufficiency isn't bought Jun 19 '20 at 21:25
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    I don't understand -- wouldn't this line be fiber optic, not Cat 6??
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 20 '20 at 17:14
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To directly answer your question, there is direct bury ethernet cable. You would probably want to go at least 18" deep with it. But there is still a chance it will break, and then you'll be replacing the whole run, so it might make sense to place it in conduit right away to make future replacement easier.

However, the real issue is that 1000 ft is much too long for Ethernet to work properly. For CAT6 cable, the general limit is about 300 ft, which can probably pushed a little, but not 3x as long. In your case, the best best would be to either run fiber optic cable, coax, or use a wireless bridge. There are some reasonable options available for either of those. Fiber is not trivial to install unless you get pre-terminated cable. For either fiber or coax, you would need some sort of converter at either end. The wireless link would probably be easier. Wireless would also require devices at each end to convert wired/wireless. All options would require electricity at the end points.

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    It's also possible to do it with PoE repeaters every 100m, such as this one: veracityglobal.com/products/ethernet-and-poe-devices/…
    – Nate S.
    Jun 19 '20 at 18:03
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    They are not necessarily running actual ethernet (I.e. 802.3 Physical layer) on this cabling. Since CAT6 is a perfectly fine, mass produced, shielded , 4 twisted pair copper conductor cable rated for 500MHZ at 330 FT (some derating thereafter) it may be suitable for the fiber companies application and is suitable for many traditional copper twisted pair applications., As @abligh points out in their answer, there is no reason to expect it is vanilla ethernet,
    – crasic
    Jun 20 '20 at 18:36
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    @BillThePlatypus Ethernet as specified (1000BASE-T is IEEE 802.3ab) is not guaranteed to work at 1000' and will likely result in a derated (drop down to 100BASE-TX or 10BASE-T, potentially half-duplex) but in all likelyhood, will still make a link. Additionally you can work outside the spec and select (bin) specific PHY's (ethernet tranceivers) that will work in this one instance together. For other communication protocols, you can still get a lot done with 300MHZ (derated from 500MHZ) bandwidth on 4 copper pairs, so a custom protocol can be used even if the underlying cabling is "Ethernet"
    – crasic
    Jun 20 '20 at 18:40
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    It may not be obvious, but gigabit ethernet runs at 67MHZ (compared to 32MHZ form 100mbit ) and transfers 4 bits per hz per pair using PAM5 encoding, it also does not require CAT 6 (1000BASE-T is CAT5e) so there is a good chance 1000' will work just fine with the increased frequency performance of CAT6 (500MHZ at 330 ft may be enough to run 67MHZ at 1000' and ethernet is tolerant to phase shifts). See my answer here networkengineering.stackexchange.com/a/56218/53744
    – crasic
    Jun 20 '20 at 18:46
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    @crasic I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers; 100BASE-TX and 1000BASE-T both run at 125MHz; PAM-5 transmits 2 bits per pair per symbol. And if I'm being picky, technically 1000BASE-T is designed for CAT-5, no e. I don't know if 1000BASE-T will run on longer but better cable, but honestly I'm sceptical.
    – marcelm
    Jun 20 '20 at 22:54
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Should a cable that long be in conduit? Yes, that's a good idea, primarily because it'll be easier to repair or replace if/when something goes wrong. CAT6 cable is probably not the best solution to your problem though.

As others have noted, there are multiple ways of peeling this onion. Wireless is feasible -- you can get a gigabit-capable wireless bridge such as IgniteNet's MetroLinq point-to-point or Mikrotik's LHG60G. Cost would be in the neighborhood of US$400. You'd need about 15 watts of power at the far end plus whatever power the ISP's ONT/router device requires. Precipitation isn't likely to be a problem but clear line of sight is essential for these 60 GHz radios -- no trees in the way.

Having some kind of cable in the ground would be great and optical cable would be ideal. No matter what kind of cable you use conduit is a good idea. Figure out how you'll get it placed. You might be able to rent a vibratory plow, but most likely a traditional trencher is all you'll be able to get.

Next you need conduit. You can get small-size PVC at any home center, but for 1000 feet, consider calling an electrical or telecom distributor and buying a full reel of tubing. Commscope 3099999 is 1/2" duct in a 1000 foot reel. Since this is low-voltage or even non-electrical, you might consider a 1000 foot coil of PEX, or PE sprinkler tube. On that note maybe you can find an irrigation installer who has a vibratory plow and would lay a tube for you at a price that rivals the cost of renting equipment.

Ask the ISP if they'll install their drop fiber in the conduit you provide. Maybe it's that easy. If not, consider extending their line. The fiber will terminate in some kind of connector, most likely SC or LC. You can get pre-terminated fiber and a coupler; attach these to the end of their fiber and relocate the ONT/router into your house. You'd have to figure out whether they use multi-mode or single-mode fiber and use the same. For 1000 feet you'd probably have to chain together multiple off-the-shelf cables (such as Ubiquiti FC-SM, up to 300 feet). Alternatively, get a custom assembly made (not prohibitively expensive, but there will be a lead time of several weeks).

Personally, I'd go fiber or wireless, leaving copper cable as a last resort for a run this long.

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  • 1000BASE-T runs at 67 MHz and requires CAT5e for 100meter runs. CAT6 is rated for 500MHz at 330' and will likely (but not guaranteed and may be sensitive to hardware and other things) to be fine for 67MHz at 1000 feet, assuming the fiber company is running actual ethernet on the cable (You can run whatever protocol you want with that 300-500MHZ of bandwidth)
    – crasic
    Jun 20 '20 at 18:50
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Let's assume your local fibre optic company is indeed providing a fiber optic connection. There's two ways that could work:

  • Their normal model is "FTTC" - "Fiber to the cabinet". They have fiber to some roadside cabinet, and the cable between the cabinet and the premises is normally copper telephone cable (at least in the UK). The conversion between fiber and copper requires power, and is done in the cabinet. Cat-6 will work fine, but 1,000 feet is still a long run, and you might get a lower bandwidth than you expect. You're not running "ethernet" (the protocol) on the cable as some others have suggested. Northern Minnesotta gets very cold (you may have noticed!), and thus you want to buy cable suitable for external deployment. Critters like eating cable insulation, so you want bury it. PEX water pipe suitable for external use should be fine. Alternatively you could run the cable in the air between posts like overhead telephone cable. Provided normal telephone cable works, then ... normal telephone cable might be your best bet here.

  • Their normal model is "FTTP" - "Fiber to the premises". What they expect to do is run a fiber optic cable into your house, and it will connect there to a router with a fiber optic connection or a protocol converter, which will have an ethernet output. In this event you COULD put the router/protocol converter 1,000 foot away from your house and try to get the ethernet connection back to your house with Cat-6, but I would avoid this. Firstly the router/protocol converter will need power, and you don't have any. Secondly Gigabit ethernet is only meant to work over 100m (~300 feet) - see here; using Cat-6 does not help; nor Cat-7; it only works above (under FTTP) as you are effectively derating it and using it as standard twisted pair telephone cable. Thirdly, you will be restricted to using real ethernet cable (not cheaper telephone cable). Fourthly, you'd have to worry about your router/protocol converter working in the winter in Northern Minnesota and protect it from the elements. So you could run a fiber instead, which will be complicated as there are different types of fiber, terminating fiber is difficult and requires specialist equipment (or getting preterminated fiber) and if there is a problem it is hard to analyse without expensive equipment.

You lay conduit, they pull cable

It either case a far better plan (it seems to me) would be just to lay the pex conduit to the edge of your property (or wherever it is the ISP would bring the edge of the network to) and persuade them to pull their copper/fiber through your conduit. That sounds like a couple of hours work for them (which should be cheap) rather than laying a conduit for 1,000 feet, which sounds like a couple of days' work (which is probably why it's expensive). Tell them you will provide a draw string / draw wire - here's one way to do that bit (or ask on this site). That way they get to do the complex optical / electronic stuff, but they avoid most of the cost.

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    Second this. You're not paying for 1000' of connection, you're paying for burying 1000' of cable. I had enough trouble with my ISP about replacing a bad feed for only 30'. (Definitely their responsibility, but multiple people simply failed to do it.) Jun 21 '20 at 2:45
  • I've never heard of using pex as conduit. Is that common in other places in the world?
    – Matthew
    Jun 21 '20 at 23:14
  • @Matthew I'm EMEA based so may have used the wrong USA word, but I think it's right. Essentially I'm recommending using whatever you would use to bury a water supply connection in Northern Minnesotta. It will need to be resistant to freezing temperatures, rodents etc. You also want it to be minimally flexible as there will be a lot of resistance to pulling a 1,000 ft cable; i'd oversize it (1" / 1.5" or similar) for the same reason. Normally the tubing is blue and made from cross-liked polyethylene, as per here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-linked_polyethylene
    – abligh
    Jun 22 '20 at 5:44
  • @Matthew ... though a little investigation of Home Depot suggests there is also "liquidtight flexible conduit" that is suitable for direct bury, which is probably a better bet. The key thing is you want it to be smooth on the inside as attempting to pull 1000 ft of cable along smurf tube (with interior ridges) is going to produce a broken cable and sadness.
    – abligh
    Jun 22 '20 at 6:26
  • No problem. In the states we call the blue tubing ENT, or sometimes "Smurf tube" because of its color. In USA "PEX" commonly refers just to water lines, and nothing rated for electrical raceway... It made me curious, though, because one could get PEX in a 1000' roll thus eliminating the need to connect the pieces together but I'd dread pulling through that.
    – Matthew
    Jun 22 '20 at 14:30
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You should put it in conduit, because you will likely have to pull it more than once during the lifetime of the line and you will hate yourself to bury it twice.

Assuming the fiber company is terminating at the edge of the property and you are running legitimate Ethernet protocol the full 1000' and not a jury rigged protocol on the same cable which another answer indicated is a possibility.

  1. The limitation commonly cited (100meters ~ 330ft) is a specification where any two compliant Ethernet devices should ( and usually do ) make and keep a reliable link with 100meters of CAT5e cabling (CAT5 For 100mbit).

  2. This is not a drop dead distance but a maximum distance where the spec guarantees function and thus you should treat it as a minimum specification for any high quality Ethernet device . It is very hard to make a device that works reliably at 100m but stops working at 100.1m

  3. Service quality degrades to slower speed grades, first 100mbit, then 10mbit (if the network hardware supports those modes) until a lowest common denominator is found that works (including half duplex) , if not, no green light on your network hardware (no link). But even with a green light you might be working in a degraded speed mode.

  4. Cat 6 cabling is overkill for gigabit applications and this may give you enough margin to make it the full length.

  5. When operating beyond the spec the system may be sensitive to 1. The exact model of network hardware used and 2. environment conditions .

  6. It is relatively inexpensive to buy a spool of cable, terminate both ends and test your hardware

  7. It is relatively inexpensive to put in line repeaters, but PoE should be avoided because the DC resistance would be a bigger issue with 300m of 28awg wire!

  8. Using conduit maintains more consistent (passive) electrical conditions compared to buried cable in weatherproof insulation and may serve to maintain a more stable link .

A specification is not a code on the user, but an agreement between designers of devices. So it is ok to attempt to violate it and it may work if you test it! There is no Ethernet police.

Ethernet is designed for maximum interoperability but specific combinations of devices and high grade cables, or even custom-purposed devices may be capable of extreme feats of spec busting.

However, If it were me I would avoid the headache and risk of intermittent behavior if it works and use fiber Ethernet which is somewhat more expensive .

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To answer your question directly, yes, there is CAT 6 cable available that is rated for direct burial. But, even if you install it in a conduit, you will still need cable that is rated for a wet location. As several people have pointed out, however, CAT 6 has an official distance limitation of 100m (about 300'). While this distance can be fudged a little, you will NOT be able to successfully use CAT 6 (or any other UTP or STP ethernet cable) for a 1000' run.

The majority of the installation cost will be for the ground work. Conduit is generally preferable since it allows relatively easy cable replacement. Direct burial can be ok as long as the soil isn't rocky. The minimum cover is 18" in most places. That puts the cable below the frost line. The cost of fiber and copper cable is similar, but fiber terminations require more specialized tools. In this case, single-mode fiber is the clear choice. BTW, the fiber will also need an outdoor rating and both copper and fiber cables are available for direct burial.

Ultimately, you will need to install whatever the ISP supports. You will also need network equipment with the right type of interface. Traditionally, fiber optic has been limited more by the cost of the electronics than by the cost of the cable.

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You don't bury cable in the ground unless it can function for that length. You are not a tech support center or a ISP. You will not be able to troubleshoot a CAT6 outage on your property and you will pull your hair out.

You must use a type of cable that can last at least 1000 feet or you have to pick some kind of midpoint to broadcast from. I would suggest putting cable in conduit however that might not be that feasible and might be costly. Cable, telephone, dish services do not put theirs in conduit but the new stuff is shielded very well.

Honestly your best bet is coaxial. You can throw that stuff straight in the ground and it will transmit well past 1000 ft. Also not only will it have better performance but it will be probably your cheapest solution.

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  • Coax is good in theory, but as far as I am aware there is no off the shelf networking solution/coupler that is capable of taking either fiber or Ethernet to Ethernet with a coax link, There may be adhoc or other solutions or a solution provided by the fiber company, but it sounds like the fiber companies may put this on copper anyway (reusing cat6 cabling for an ad hoc spec)
    – crasic
    Jun 21 '20 at 1:17
  • Ethernet 10base2 (ThinNet) uses coax. Before you say 10Mbit is too slow, the limiting factor is actually the Internet connection, and OP is out in the sticks. Jun 21 '20 at 22:08
  • @crasic, there is one, but it's expensive -- a cable modem + a cable modem termination system (CMTS). Cable modems convert coax to ethernet at high speed, and CMTSs convert fiber or ethernet to coax. The downside is that CMTSs are usually large, expensive, rackmount devices designed to terminate an entire neighborhood's worth of cable modems and send that all up one fiber line. However, it does seem possible to find some cheaper used CMTSs on ebay.
    – Nate S.
    Jun 22 '20 at 15:50
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica - This is odd because I have this similar setup at our lake cabin. I wonder if you go to a survivalist website what campers are doing for internet? I can't see using anything other than coaxial... The thought of burying conduit in random land is laughable. I would like any sort of picture of someone doing that for more than 100 feet. There are a lot of bad/unrealistic upvotes on this question but oh well.
    – DMoore
    Jun 22 '20 at 16:12
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To answer the question directly: No. You can get Cat6 rated for outdoor and burial use which doesn't require conduit.

However, I strongly advise that you do not bury 1000 feet of cable.

Let's break this project down. First you need to dig 1000 feet of tenching. Hopefully your land is such that you can rent a bobcat trencher for this task. Without machinery this week be a huge amount of work. Assuming you have a trailer this equipment rental should be under $350 per day. If you have easy access to diesel a novice operator could trench 1000 feet in a day. Dig it deep, 18" minimum. Also you'll want an attachment to fill the trench back in. This will be another day rental. Equipment total ~ $700

Next, this is a capital investment in your property to be able to interconnect to the road. If you're going to do this you should not only run conduit but you should run two of them. Why two? Because you are likely not allowed to run high and low voltage in the same conduit. Even if you're allowed to you shouldn't due to interference, electrical risk, and generally the savings just isn't big considering the scope of the project.

In this quantity you should be able to find 3/4" conduit for about $0.21 per foot, probably in 20' sticks. This means you will be buying at least 100 sticks. $2100. Ouch. You could go smaller on conduit but the savings may not be worth it to you.

You need to use appropriately rated cable even in conduit because the conduit can and does fill with water. 1000' of direct burial cat6 should be around $170.

But, ya know, big sections of cabling like this tend to come into service boxes along the way. This is to simplify pulling, repair, troubleshooting, installing repeaters (which are necessary if this is Ethernet), and similar. If I were you I'd come into a service box every 200' in this run, whether you use conduit or not. There are many options, but let's say $50/box (more if you need them to survive snow and sun) so that's 4 boxes assuming one end is the house and the other already has a Telco box, but the ISP won't let you bring your own conduit into it. $200

I see the hesitation on conduit, given the $2100 price tag versus the $1070 other stuff. But remember that this is double the conduit... Only one is half that: $1050.

What does the conduit buy you? It protects the cables better and gives you more options (possibly including a better fiber!). Mostly though, a buried cat6 of this length is almost certain to become damaged... Without conduit a damaged cable likely means retrench and redo the entire run, as you won't have a way to localize damage and, should you try digging it up to find damage you'll probably damage it in the process.

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  • A TDR (time domain reflectometry) instrument should be able to localize a break in a cable to within a couple of feet without digging anything up. Unfortunately it's not the kind of thing you can rent at your local Home Depot, and probably costs over $10k to buy.
    – The Photon
    Jun 21 '20 at 23:09
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You may not even need cat 6.

When you extend a network like this, you will use either fiber, twisted pair or line-of-sight radio. The kit to do this is readily available and not expensive - however you may be limited to 50Mbit or less unless it is fiber.

There is simply no point running cat 6. Trying to keep an Ethernet signal coherent is a lost cause over this length.

Pulling it may be a problem, though.

Network cable is simply too fragile to direct bury. As the ground settles, or is run over by vehicles, even the smallest rock is likely to penetrate the jacket and damage the cable. Then you get to do it again!

To pull a cable 1000 feet, the force will be quite considerable. I don't know of any network cable this wouldn't tear apart. You may be better off having a segmented conduit system which comes to the surface at a series of pull boxes, thus reducing the pull to several sections. This will have 3 useful effects:

  • it will be practicable to pull
  • it will let you find and fix damage in a smaller segment
  • if you decide to do ethernet after all, your boxes will be <100m apart.

Powering things down such a distance

First, if you have intermediate boxes, I would aim to have them not terribly far from locations you control which are accessible to southerly sun. I'll give you one guess why :)

Now, let's deal with AC mains power in the pipe. You cannot do that unless the data cable is non-conductive fiber optic. In that case, power would be adequate at any wire size (even #14) because the data equipment will draw only 30 watts at the absolute max - or 1/4 amp.

PoE is not going to work at these distances with the #28 wire found in ethernet cables. But PoE is DC power... DC power doesn't care at all about twisted pair! It doesn't care about paralleling either. So don't carry the PoE on the Ethernet. Carry it on a pair of #12 THWN wires also put in the pipe. That stuff is about 11 cents a foot when you buy by the roll.

Lastly if you have to go solar at a remote location, you select equipment capable of running straight off 12 volts DC. Two good size 6 volt batteries will be about $200 and give you about 2000 watt-hours. You shouldn't make a habit of using more than about 30% of their capacity, but if your equipment is 10 watts, that'll give you about 8 days of runtime. You then size panels to be about 10-15x practical draw, say 100W of panel for a 10W load. That is so you quickly regain charge when the sun returns, and rarely deep discharge the battery. Mount it near vertical so it self-sheds snow.

If you use lead-acid or nickel wet batteries, have a separate compartment for them.

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Buy direct-bury fiber at the length you need. You can buy it pre-terminated. You can get DIY fiber terminator kits too. Don't try copper. At that distance, it will be nothing but trouble. Just ask the ISP what kind of terminator they have on their end, and install a standard fiber junction. At your end, match what the ISP uses, they provide the fiber-ethernet converter in your home. A company called lanshack can provide the fiber pre-made.

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