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I am trying to pre-wire my house for internet and cable/satellite TV before finishing my basement. After researching, I got the idea to run CAT5e and RG6 wires from outdoor to the TV outlet.

One article was referring to a distribution panel to be put near the electric panel. Is this necessary and what does it do? And what should I be asking for in hardware shop?

Am not looking for high end home automation system, just DSL internet and Cable/Satellite TV. So that once I dry wall and finish the house, Service providers doesn't have to drill holes and run wires. Just hook it up at the outdoor and be done with it.

The suggested question doesn't answer my question. It talks about putting up conduit for additional wires in future. Am asking about the distribution panel for network cables.

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    Does this answer your question? What should I leave in the walls to allow me to fish future wires? – ThreePhaseEel Jul 24 at 1:02
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    Note that low-voltage wiring standards change fairly frequently... – ThreePhaseEel Jul 24 at 1:03
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    The point I'm trying to make is that cables run directly in a wall are rather hard to replace compared to how fast technology changes; running conduit for your pre-wiring job can make future tech upgrades far easier. – ThreePhaseEel Jul 24 at 1:18
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    You won't be able to run 100,000BaseT on that old cat5E. You'll be stuck watching 2-dimensional TV... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 at 2:50
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    I think my humor was lost on you. What we're saying is "think about the future... give yourself a way to upgrade those wires... don't be the person who put in Cat3 in 1995 figuring there'd never be anything better... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 at 3:09
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`NotE: I added this answer serveral hours ago, but for some reason it keeps refusing to post:

The issue I see you have is that many of the designs for flexibility in wiring need a central location somewhere in the house for all the outlets in the individual rooms to terminate at. It could be on the wall where your electric breaker panel is located or a different area that is convenient to where you do home computing or to provide a main control point to manage ethernet access.
It would NOT just be a wall space for a distribution/wiring panel (which is not necessarily needed), but an area that either has shelves, cabinets, or a desk for all the commutation devices. At this central termination location, the Cat-6 cables would be run through ENT (smurf-type) conduits to each of the locations where you want to have outlets for TV, ethernets.

Depending on your service provider and each one does it differently, the outside data cable coming into the central location could be a DSL, coax, ethernet, or fiber cable. If you change service provide or upgrade the service, you may have to change the cable type, so that's a good reason for having an ENT conduit for this run. It is most likely that the Access cable entry point on the outside will be located close to the electric service entry. .

You are not really looking for a distribution panel, with its static patching setup. You need a distribution point or location. The distribution location is where all the networking, splitting of service types, distribution of data can be easy managed. The switch is performing what you would be doing with the patch panel.

The COMM devices needed are the gateway modem which connects to the router. This gateway can also split out the phone line, if one is still being used. A variation of this is VoIP, which carries the telephone traffic over the internet, and thereby you are able to put telephone service out of the ethernet line. .

The TV and data service is also just as complex, and depending on the service provider, how the TV signal is brought in, split out, and transmitted to the slave cable boxes varies. The best method is a wired ethernet connection, but if you are using that “one” cable run for data, then you would have to use Wifi to provide a signal to the other TV boxes. For Xfinity, the connection to the TV Master box is coax, and from this box, the TV signal is transmittal to the slave via Wifi or over the LAN that you set up for the other TV cable boxes. The external signal may be coming in over the same coax as the internet. A special splitter is used to split and send the same signal over coax to two devices, the the modem and the main TV cable box. How all this work is specific to each service provider and the level of service they are committing to.

For data networking and providing internet connections to all the locations, the router or switch is providing this service. The router or switch is located in the central location, and the ends of the cables from the various rooms are connected here to the type of service needed.

Picture below show devices described above and how they are integrated, managed, and linked at the central location. A single ethernet cable to each location back to the central location. Alternate path to these locations would be Wifi. Devices inside the dotted box is your central distribution center. Also additional Wifi access points can be connected from the central location to strategic location in the house for better coverage.

enter image description here

My recommendation for your “Distribution panel” is NOT a distribution panel, but a central distribution location with a minimum 16 ports switch that can also provide Power over Ethernet. Co-located with this switch, you can have the modem/router/Wifi access point, splitters, etc. This will make it easier to connect all the devices to each other and distribute the tv or ethernet signal to all the locations that have outlets or Wifi coverage.

If you do go with a distribution patch panel, be aware that two types are being sold, EU-type that needs a Kron Tool for the punch down and the US-type that uses the 101 punch down. Even if you use the distribution panel, you will be patching all those runs to a switch, so why bother to wire up a patch panel, insert a patch cable for every location and connect to the switch. Patching panels are used in network termination rooms to easily “patch” a location/outlet to a different domain switch without having to reroute the cables.

Notes on your pre-wiring of Cat6 cable. Yes – pre-wiring all the locations back to a central point is a good ideal. Central location must be selected carefully so the selected location has space, provide ventilation, and power for all the equipment needed to distribute the data or change data types. The Cat-6 is either solid or stranded, and each type requires its own type of RJ-45 jack, the solid requires fingers that cut and pinch the wire, the stranded has piercing prongs. Normally solid is used for fixed runs like you are doing. The stranded is used for patching or connecting the outlet to the devices (flexible and allows movement). With that said, you can really use either one for the fixed run. Plenum type is only required when the cable is run through a plenum air space, not within a stud space. I do not know what an attic space is designated as.

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Adding additional information based on comments and questions.

½” ENT would be adequate but ¾” at a little extra cost would be my preference. Note in my drawing the ENT stops at the place the wires go down the stud. ENT is used in the stud space to the outlet box. This allows you to push/pull cables from the attic at that location and go off in a different direction. You do not have to provide the splitter for the coax. The proper splitter will be provided by your service provider. For the DSL cable, run Cat-6. I believe the diagram below is what you are trying to do.

enter image description here

The picture below is what I believe you were originally trying to get an answer for. At various time and just recently, I had both Coax and DSL services. I wanted to make sure my new services and cable were working before terminating one of the services.
The Outlet box on the right has two slots, one for RJ45 (DSL) Service IN, and the other one is for coax Service In.

The panel on the left is for ethernet connections on the 2nd floor to a switch which distributes ethernet access to all the rooms upstairs. This was setup and configured before wifi.

enter image description here

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  • Thinking of 1/2" conduit from outside to main location(Living room). Would that suffice or 3/4" or 1" is recommended? At max it would be 2 or 3 cables (Data and TV) running through it. – Naresh Babu Jul 26 at 23:26
  • Also to save some cost, I am thinking of running a single RG6 cable from living room to a location closer to my bedrooms and put up a coax splitter to provide separate lines for the two rooms. Would it be OK using a splitter here? If not, what problem I might have? – Naresh Babu Jul 26 at 23:30
  • is this a one story or two story house? Which room (location) is used for your daily computer/internet usage, where your printers, desktop computer is located? And which room is your primary TV viewing room? – Programmer66 Jul 27 at 1:32
  • It's a one story. Today most internet usage is in living room. Just want to have options available in bedroom, in case later I put up a TV there. – Naresh Babu Jul 27 at 2:52
  • Once the primary TV location (Primary DVR box) is established, expanding to other locations is straight forward via ethernet (cat-6) or wifi. You order the extra tv box, and it will connect automatically to the master. – Programmer66 Jul 27 at 18:13
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Can't speak as much to the TV part, though an awful lot of TVs now work with internet connections. But as far as the internet connection, my recommendation is to wire up CAT 5e (or better) everywhere. Each cable should have one end in the desired location and the other end on a patch panel like:

enter image description here

Then you use cheap patch cables to connect to your switch or router. You mention DSL - that may be the technology now, but in the future it may fiber or Starlink. But you can change that easily enough.

The "main box", which can be a modem or a router or a combination of the two (typically with residential installations it is a combination modem/router/WiFi access point) may be placed where you put your patch panel but may be someplace else. A lot depends on the particular company, whether they do a professional installation or a "self install", the design of your house and other factors. In particular, if you have WiFi as part of the installation then you don't want the WiFi next to the patch panel in the basement or garage, etc. - you want your WiFi access point in a central location. Sometimes that means putting the router/WiFi in a better location and connecting it through one of your wired access points down to the patch panel and just putting a simple switch next to the patch panel. Sometimes the best solution is to put the router next to the patch panel and install a separate WiFi access point in another room. Sometimes multiple WiFi access points are needed for good coverage.

Speaking of good coverage, the best WiFi coverage is often obtained by putting WiFi access points in the ceiling, using Power over Ethernet to provide power and signal through one cable, so you may want to consider prewiring some ceiling locations as well.

What you can't change easily are the actual cables in the wall. Conduit really is a good idea. Think about all the people who had CAT 3 (or worse) cables and now really need CAT 5 in order to have a fast network. Or all the people who had coax and now want CAT 5 for their TV. Your house will (hopefully) be around for a long time, but nobody knows what will be popular for connections 20 years from now. It could easily be fiber everywhere, or some future CAT 'n' - all easy to install if you have conduit, very hard without.

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    +1, though I'd say if they're not using conduit, Cat 6A is probably a better choice than Cat 5e for future-proofing at this point. – Nate S. Jul 24 at 1:26
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    Believe the conduit. Whatever you put in now will be obsolete in 10 years, per history. Assuming you will want WiFi, and possibly FAST WiFi, run a network connection (wired) to the ceiling of each major room. Fast WiFi requires seeing the access point, as building materials block the higher speed signals very easily, so anywhere you want the WiFi to be fast, you want to have an access point in view. And that access point wants to be connected to a wire. – Ecnerwal Jul 24 at 1:39
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    For most service types, the wire from outside goes to a modem, router, and switch (which may all be in one box, and may share space with a WiFi access point that will be at a terrible location in most houses, and which most people incorrectly refer to by the router name that actually has nothing specific to do with providing WiFi - but if the only Wifi they have ever met is in a single box with a router and a switch, it's not surprising.) Then several wires from the LAN ports on the switch go into the patch panel to provide network in the house. – Ecnerwal Jul 24 at 2:56
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    Lots of different opinions here so I won't dive in on that, I've been in the IT industry my entire career and want to add just 2 more thoughts: 1) There is something called MoCA which is Media over Coax. It reuses existing coax for ethernet using "MoCA adapters" 2) I've seen many cabling systems come and go but Cat-5 and Cat-6 have seen some pretty good longevity. Still it's prudent to at least run the various LV cables in conduit to accessible areas (like from the wall box to the attic or crawl). – George Anderson Jul 24 at 16:48
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    Reading comprehension fail. :( – FreeMan Jul 24 at 18:24
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The realities of "low voltage wiring" (also known as Data, Telephone, Alarm and/or Cable TV wiring, and tending to include fiber optics more these days) are that you can have anything from a hole in the wall with a bunch of cables coming out of it that you plug your equipment into, on up to fancified "look what I spent my money on" status symbols that don't work any better than the hole in the wall.

The distribution panel you have asked about is commonly called a "structured wiring panel" or something similar, and is basically a nicer hole in the wall. Most are rather tight for actually putting network equipment in, as they are sized to fit in a 3.5" x 14.5" stud bay, and may overheat any equipment you do put in them if they lack ventilation, as they typically do.

A common approach by professionals not concerned with impressing the neighbors with their shiny chrome network panel is to have a "wall mount rack" over the hole in the wall, which provides space to mount the organized terminations of the wires and a small (or larger, with larger racks) amount of equipment, with ventilation - or just move on up to a "network closet" but that's overkill for any normal house - though a closet may be good for getting the clutter out of sight.

For smaller setups, using a "low voltage mount ring" or a multi-port "surface mount jack" to provide a neater hole in the wall with a cover plate next to a shelf with a power outlet nearby is frequently both adequate and less costly. i.e. buying a 24 port rack mount patch panel is more expensive than buying a couple of 6-port or 8-port surface mount boxes (or rings and coverplates) if you don't have 24 cables to run, and the 6-port boxes or faceplates can do both network and cable TV with different keystone inserts.

Your contention that RG-6 will do everything you ever need for TV is perhaps a bit unrealistic, since RG-59 used to do that, and 300 ohm twin lead used to do that before RG-59 did. We had a question from someone a while back with a house completely wired with twinlead, and they had no idea what it even was. Standards change rapidly, and the recommendation to install conduit (once, while the walls are open) is based on a lot of experience with "state of the art" communication wiring becoming useless junk in a few short years. Conduit (or speaking tubes!) makes it easy to upgrade the cabling when your (twinlead, landline telephone, cable TV) becomes obsolete and you need to install a new type of wire, or 12 fibers of fiber optic, or something we haven't thought of yet to get the "essential basic services" of 20 years from now distributed in your house, without having to rip open walls and repaint. Certainly the last several TVs I've installed had NO coaxial cable running to them, as they get all their programming over Ethernet and/or WiFi, or via an HDMI cable.

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  • Wait... You're saying my wall-mount rack is not the way to go to impress the neighbors? mumble grumble no fun mumble no goodnicks grumble grumble – FreeMan Jul 24 at 17:45
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    Stick some chrome stuff on it, toss in some gamer computer lighting and light-up fans and wow them! – Ecnerwal Jul 25 at 1:09
  • I wired up my dad's house many years ago (when I was in high school!) using a patch panel and a cheapie switch, in a wall-mount rack in a bedroom closet, and a hole in the ceiling to run the wires via the attic to jacks in the other rooms. As far as I know it's still in use to this day, nearly 20 years later. All the search results I see for "wall mount rack" look more expensive than whatever I found back then (at Fry's or somthing, probably.) – Glenn Willen Jul 25 at 23:53
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I think a low voltage panel (LV) is as important as main panels these days. I have 2 large ones in my home that are each the size of a 42 space main panel. One is full, the other is half full! The house is 14 years old and I've managed to make changes as needed without getting into walls to run new cables. Also when doing the wiring, a star configuration is needed for some (like Ethernet), but best practice for all LV wiring rather than a buss style layout.

For posterity here is my list of "Potential" LV wiring needs:

  1. Data (Ethernet) (cat-5 or cat-6)
  2. Coax for TV
  3. Coax for Satellite (often need 2 runs)
  4. Coax for digital over the air antenna
  5. Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS)
  6. Doorbell
  7. Alarm system
  8. lighting control
  9. whole house speaker system
  10. Digital phone system for larger homes
  11. Heating system controls (thermostat cables)
  12. Entertainment room surround sound (Dolby 5.1 or 7.1) cabling

There may be others that I haven't thought of. Please feel free to add to the list.

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    The key ingredient is, as others have mentioned, running wiring in conduit, so when you need fiber for terabit networking, or paper streamers for party networking, or... you've got an easy way of getting the new media from the LV panel to the individual rooms. – FreeMan Jul 24 at 18:27
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The thing is it's hard to predict the future. There are lots of different setups for TV and internet services. Cable TV, satellite TV, Terrestrial and internet TV have different wiring requirements. There are also differences depending on whether you get multiple independent boxes from your TV provider, use a single provider box and distribute it's output or (as is becoming increasingly common) have a system of "master" and "slave" boxes from your TV provider.

You will likely want to have a central location where your internet router, Ethernet switch and any central audiovisual equipment sits. This could be behind your main TV, but big built-in TV cupboards seem to be going out of fashion in favor of more minimalist setups with wall mounted TVs. A more central location may also be preferable from a cabling point of view.

If you want to cover all the eventualities (cable TV vs satellite TV vs internet TV vs terrestrial TV, multiple boxes from the provider vs a single box and distributing it's output etc) without having to go back and add more cabling later you will need to install a bunch of cabling* from each point to your a central location. There is a good chance that much of this cabling will sit unused but different setups will leave different cables unused.

So what do you do with all the unused cabling? you could just leave a pile of cables in a cupboard, attic, underfloor space etc but this presents a few problems.

  1. Even if you label the wires finding the right one in the heap of cabling will be a PITA. In a moderate size house you could easily end up with tens of cables at your central wiring location.
  2. How long do you make the cables? Making them long enough to reach any piece of equipment in your central location and the pile will become pretty big and messy.

So if you are going for a "flood wiring" technique it makes sense to terminate all the fixed wiring on some form of panel which you can clearly label with what wires go where.

On the other hand if you are going for installing conduits and only pulling in the wiring you need when you need it then there is likely a much smaller volume of wiring and thus less need for a panel.

* I am not going to advise you on exactly what cabling since i am in a different country to you.

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