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I was at a model home the other day and checked out its structured media enclosure. Inside, it had a "Standard 4 x 10 Voice Distribution Module" and what appeared to be a "1 x 6 3GHz Video Splitter Module" - both made by Suttle.

I was a bit surprised to find it did not have a "Cat5e or Cat6 8-port Voice/Data Patch Module".

Might the notion be that, once cable is activated, I would just plug my cable modem into any coaxial port in the house? I ask since most rooms in the house do have ethernet ports in the wall - perhaps the model just isn't finished yet?

P.S. - Here's a picture. Perhaps the white and blue wires going to the voice distribution module have different purposes?

enter image description here

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    "most rooms in the house have ethernet ports in the wall" -- where are the other ends all those ethernet cables? Is there yet another pretentious medicine cabinet somewhere else in the house? – A. I. Breveleri Feb 21 '16 at 20:00
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    Surprised they're putting ethernet ports in every room on model homes. Lots of money for something few people actually end up using. – DA01 Feb 21 '16 at 21:39
  • @A.I.Breveleri - I don't know; I swore the sockets said Cat5e on them, which makes me think data (as opposed to phone) – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 21:47
  • @DA01 - It's all bedrooms, the family room, and the den. – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 21:47
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    @DA01 I personally plan to make at least 3 Ethernet Cat5e or better home runs to every room in the next place I build. Or just run conduit. Wireless can't touch a physical cable for simple performance or protection from interference within a thousand dollars of the same price point, and the cable can be used for more than just Ethernet. – Craig Feb 22 '16 at 3:37
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All this "glorified medicine cabinet" talk is a little bit uncalled for. These are actually called "Structured Media Enclosures" by the manufacturers, and for many (most or virtually all) home networking and video distribution installations they're adequate. They do come in different sizes, too.

And, you get your own Ethernet punchdown blocks and install them in the cabinet.

If your cable modem and your ethernet switch are wall-mountable, then you can mount them directly to the back of the cabinet. That's one of the purposes of all those handy little holes in the walls of the cabinet.

Here's a picture from Leviton of one of these things populated with more gear. The item labeled #9 in the photo is an Arris (Motorola) cable modem.

enter image description here http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/SectionDisplay.jsp?section=37730 http://www.leviton.com/OA_HTML/SectionDisplay.jsp?section=55914&minisite=10251

Now, having said all that, the picture of the panel I included here is about as crowded as I'd want one to be, and I would worry a little bit about heat buildup. Although none of the devices pictured use enough power to require active cooling.

Also, there's no way I'd put my WiFi access point in a metal box, unless I was mounting it in a sensitive location or exposed to the elements and I had it connected to an external antenna outside the metal box. In the house, I'd run Ethernet cable to one or two appropriate spots on the ceiling and mount the right kind of PoE access point there. Perhaps two of them in different parts of the house.

The housing of a 16-port switch won't fit in this box, and the heat buildup from many 16-port switches would be too much for such a small enclosure, although a couple of low power 8-port switches clearly will work.

Personally, if I were building a new house, I'd install the biggest enclosure I could get my hands on, or more likely, I'd just build an actual closet with a 19" rack and an exhaust vent I could attach a thermostat-controlled fan to, and pull all the cables to that point.

  • In your answer, you mention "The little punchdown block I see in your cabinet looks like a typical 4-pair Ethernet punchdown block.". Where do you see that punchdown block? – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 21:49
  • On the left side, about 1/3 of the way down from the top, with a black base and eleven white 110 punchdown blocks on it. It's good for multiple purposes. But why not just put one of these in the cabinet: amazon.com/Leviton-001-47603-0C5-Category-Voice-Expansion/dp/… – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 21:53
  • I didn't realize that could be used for voice and data. If used for data, how does the cable modem plug into it? The socket in the lower right? – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 22:24
  • As to your question, I don't know why as I didn't design it. :) – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 22:25
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    @A.I.Breveleri That is certainly your prerogative. I happen to be a technologist, software designer, programmer... I'd be putting my hypervisor hardware in that same closet, and some other stuff that you may or may not find in the typical home, or which in many cases could just sit on a counter somewhere. But saying a builder who would install a "structured media cabinet" can't be trusted is a little unfair since that's what they actually are. The media is the cables and the interconnects for said cables. The cabinet lets you organize (structure) it. – Craig Feb 22 '16 at 3:32
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I don't know where in the house your cable modem would go, but it would not go into this "structured media enclosure". Neither would your ATA, your router, and your 16-port gigabit switch.

If you stuffed all that kit, together with its power adapters, into this repurposed medicine cabinet with no vent slots in the door, the heat buildup would be vented through the mounting holes at the back directly into the interior wall space. You would be trying to burn your house down. IMO it is begging for trouble to even have that 15A outlet in the bottom of the cabinet.

If you looked around I'm sure you'd find that the ethernet cables come together someplace else in the house -- someplace with adequate power and adequate venting for the usual home internet equipment stack. So my question has to be: Why not put the Video Splitter Module, Voice Distribution Module, wireless phone base, and all such equipments there as well?

The "enclosure" in that model home can hold only a part of the information infrastructure for the house, which means that if the occupant chooses to use it, any service or troubleshooting is likely to require a lot of running from place to place.

Now, I agree it's a good thing to use a nice cabinet where some of your wires come together. But calling it a "structured media enclosure" is mere pretentious hype and a very strong indication that you should not trust this builder to design or install a wired doorbell much less a Cat-5 LAN.

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    There's essentially a non-existent chance that the equipment would vent enough heat into the wall to burn the house down. The heat build-up inside the enclosure, however, could destroy your equipment if venting is inadequate. – Craig Feb 21 '16 at 21:04

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