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I'm doing a bit of renovation at my home and as part of that I'd like to better hide my internet cable.

The current situation:

  • The cable is an old one, installed in 2003 or something. It's a bog standard Cat5E without shielding.
  • The cable comes into my condo through a hole in the wall and runs all the way up to the router. It's currently sitting on the surface, not hidden anywhere.
  • I'm currently getting full duplex 100MBit broadband (one of the nice perks in my area), although faster speeds are available even now via optics. If in the future I decided to upgrade my internet speed even more, I'd need to change this cable.

What I want:

  • After renovations I'd like to hide the cable beneath baseboard and (for a few metres) run it through a shallow channel ("through"?) in the concrete. So it won't be that easy to replace in the future, thus I want it to be high-quality and future-proof. (The location where it comes out and connects to my router I judge to be pretty optimal and unlikely to change in the future)
  • I'm slightly worried that the insulation plastic on the old cable might start to fail simply from old age - plastic isn't forever, especially on cheap ancient cables. That doesn't seem to be happening yet though.

What my problems are:

  • Looking at the current cable standards it seems that Cat6A should be the best currently available, probably with some sort of shielding. However I have a hard time finding anyone selling such a cable by the metre. At best there are some who sell whole rolls of 300m or so, and that's waaaay too much for me.
  • But there are plenty of factory-made patch cables, which makes me wonder if constructing a proper high-speed cable like that could be beyond what is possible at home? Like, maybe it requires some special connectors that need to be soldered on, and the regular 8P8C connectors that I can attach with a simple crimping tool won't cut it?
  • And to make matters (potentially) even worse, I don't intend to get rid of the current incoming cable. Instead it will be rolled back to near the point where it enters my condo and there I will connect it to the new cable, via some sort of connection (either a coupler, or just by adding a female end to the new cable). This connection point... I understand it's a risk, although I don't know how large. The overall distance between the provider's switch and my home router is probably going to be less than 50 metres, so there shouldn't be any signal issues... I guess? But I just don't know.

My question:

So, what I want to know is - is this a good plan? And if not, then why not? Or if it is doable, then is there something I should keep in mind which I haven't already described?

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    If you're considering an upgrade to fiber in the house at some point in the future (even if it's only a vague thought), I'd suggest that you run conduit now, then pull your new CAT6 cables through that. That makes it dead simple for someone to pull a different physical cable at some point in the future.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 30 at 15:40
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    Cat5e is good for full duplex 1 Gbit speeds, bog standard, no need to change it for that purpose. Shielding is not needed or beneficial for most homes. And if you run conduit, you can wait to change out cables until you actually need to which might be never.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 30 at 15:41
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    I don't think I can run a conduit in such a way that it would be useful later... too many turns along the way.
    – Vilx-
    Jul 30 at 16:01
  • Some sort of "pull box" - even if it's a low voltage wall box with a blank plate on it would resolve the "too many turns" issue. That is very good of you to think of that!
    – FreeMan
    Jul 30 at 16:05
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    Something like this that's designed to open so you can pull cable out of the conduit, then feed it back in. It's for making corners when pulling cable through conduit, and to ensure that you remain below the 360° corner limit allowed (by NEC). Any sort of in-wall box will work just fine for your low voltage wiring, though - just a standard single-gang box (for outlet or switch) will work.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 30 at 16:25
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Using patch cables, whether manufactured in a factory or made at home, for long runs is not a good idea. The ends will inevitably get messed up and then you will have to put on new ends, which is not an easy job. It has gotten worse with each upgrade (CAT 3 -> CAT 5 -> CAT 5e -> CAT 6) and the tolerances now are extremely tight.

The proper solution is to terminate each end in a standard jack. That is done with a punch tool (generally less expensive than a decent crimper, and a lot easier to use to create good connections). Then you use factory-made short patch cables to connect to the router, switch, etc.

I have never seen a problem with CAT 5e insulation except due to physical damage (chairs rolling over it repeatedly, staples in the wrong place tacking to walls, pinched under furniture legs, etc.). So the main concern is simply keeping it out of harm's way.

The best thing though is that CAT 5e (terminated properly) can provide a Gigabit connection. So you can definitely get past the current 100 Megabit limit. In fact, I often put in Gigabit switches together with a (default until recently) 100 Megabit router so that computers within a building can communicate with each other at Gigabit speeds over standard CAT 5e cables, even if the internet connection is far slower.

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    @Vilx- the "jack" is what you plug the end of the cable into. There are multiple jacks on your router, there's one in the NIC in your computer, etc. It's the female end. Patch cables are terminated with male ends, and that's what you're thinking of. What manassehkatz is referring to is running "structural" wiring in the wall that terminates in a female jack at each end. You then "patch" a short cable from the router to the jack in the wall at one end and from the jack in the wall at the other end to your computer/game console/BluRay player/etc.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 30 at 15:44
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    You "punch down" the wires from the "structural" wiring into the jack - it's similar to how you wire the male end, but since the connector is physically different, the connection tool is a bit different, too.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 30 at 15:44
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    Gotcha! Thanks! That actually sounds like a good idea.
    – Vilx-
    Jul 30 at 15:46
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    Patch cables are used to connect from a device to a wall port or another device. They are typically stranded (because they are expected to move) and have insulation not suited to in-wall use. Riser or Plenum cable are solid wire used for connections between ports in walls and between floors, are not expected to move; with plenum having the better fire performance so that it won't help to kill you in a fire when it's run in a space (such as a drop ceiling) where air may also be circulating.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 30 at 15:46
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    @Vilx- There are many types of "patch cable" (which is just slang for "any extra cable you have lying around that is the right kind of cable you need to connect two devices together or one device to a port somewhere else, more generally"). One of these types is "ethernet cable".
    – TylerH
    Jul 30 at 15:47
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Just to add the the other answers, because this point has not been addressed. Cat6A cable is considerably fatter and stiffer than Cat6, and has a much larger minimum bend radius. It's horrible stuff to work with, and you can forget trying to terminate it to anything other than punch-down connectors.

Cat6 is all anyone needs; It will do 10G for short runs, and if you need anything faster, fiber is superior in every way.

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  • Shit, I already got 20m of 6A. But if I understand correctly, the bend radius is about 3cm, and tighter bends are not recommended, but not fatal either. Should be OK.
    – Vilx-
    Aug 27 at 9:33
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    Not fatal, no but likely to degrade performance. Unless you're running at 10G, however, you're not likely to care! It really is a cable manufacturers numbers game though, better than Cat6 is totally unnecessary.
    – SiHa
    Aug 27 at 10:00
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    forget trying to terminate it to anything other than punch-down connectors - I learned, many years ago, that Cat 3/5/5e - all should be only terminated to punch-down connectors. Back in the olden days I used to terminate to jacks with screw connectors for telephone and serial (RS-232) connections but for many years I have used punch-down connectors for those as well. The parts don't cost a lot, the jacks fit multiple (easily 6 in a one-gang plate) in a small location, results are consistent - I punched 5 cables x 2 ends yesterday with a "PASS" from the tester first try on every one!. Aug 27 at 14:01
  • @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact Very true.
    – SiHa
    Aug 28 at 18:38
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So Cat5e has exceeded your needs for 18 years now?

Public internet is unlikely to saturate Cat6a within your lifetime. The performance you expect from your intranet is a different ball game.

You could buy a patch cable by the foot from https://www.amazon.com/Cable-Matters-Snagless-Shielded-Ethernet/dp/B00HEM66VE, cut the ends, and terminate in a proper wall jack.

You are thoroughly unlikely to ever upgrade this cable for speed reasons.

By the way, why not Cat8? https://www.amazon.com/Ethernet-Outdoor-Connector-Weatherproof-Resistant/dp/B07QLXC6QR


My guess is that the next owner of your house or ISP is just going to run the latest and greatest cable up the wall again anyways.

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    @Vilx- Oh, hah, no sweat. Looks like you can buy Cat8 jacks and it seems like you punch down the wires similarly to any previous iteration. It's possible that you're only permitted to untwist a certain amount of the cable or else 40Gbps won't be attainable. So make sure to buy more patch length than you need because you might have to cut and re-crimp. Of course the only way to know would be to test with 40Gbps-capable devices on both ends. Overall, if you get full 100Mbit internet speeds after installing it then you'll probably live "happily ever after" =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 30 at 17:33
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    @Vilx- That's totally your choice. You asked "How do I do this right?" and so I answered =). Do note that the raw Cat8 roll is 22awg whereas the patch cables are either 26 or 24. I assume the roll is the most robust and proper solution unless you can find a 22awg Cat8 patch cable; assuming you even care at this point =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 30 at 18:11
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    @Vilx- That's cable thickness, a lower the number means it's a thicker the wire. A thicker wire provides less electrical resistance so that you can physically achieve those 40Gbps speeds.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 30 at 18:20
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    @Vilx- I haven't read the Cat8 engineering spec but it's possible that over short distances a thinner cable is acceptable but if you wish to go the full 100 meters without a booster then you need the 22awg. If a cable is not specc'd properly for a given distance then your transfer speeds might get reduced to 10Gbps or even just 1Gbps.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 30 at 18:22
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    Looking at the Cat8 options I think it's probably safer to just go with Cat6a. The sellers seem shady and I doubt you'll ever need more than 10Gbps in your lifetime; note, this is 100x your current Internet speed.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 30 at 19:05

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