I'm buying a house which I intend to live in for a couple of decades. The house is not complete yet, so now is a good time to specify modifications. It looks to me like it's worthwhile to wire the house for 10G Ethernet (I am reasonably sure that none of the cable runs will need to be more than 55m, but in any case I'll probably go for Cat 6a in preference to Cat 6). It looks like the cost-effective way to do this is to ask the builder to to it (I assume they will subcontract the work) before the house is plastered. I would plan for a patch panel in the loft space (and clearly, also power for a switch there).

I would like to make sure that I specify the things I need to specify to make sure I end up with a working installation. Apart from numbers and locations of Ethernet jacks, what else should I specify to the builder to make sure the result is useful?

(Anticipating the "why the hell 10G" question, I expect to live there perhaps 20 years; 20 years ago, Fast Ethernet (100 Mbit) had not yet been introduced. So that's a change of x1000 in speed in 20 years. So in 20 years 10G won't seem so much like overkill. Besides, I think the cost difference is reasonably small, except for the switch, but I'll start with a 1G switch).


Most likely the current standard for 10G will change for residential networking over the next several years. Currently 10G is found in datacenters, network bridges, and offices. I would recommend a different route where you're able to pull the wiring currently installed down the road.

The hardest part in homes is to do the initial wiring on a completed house. I ran straight down from my second floor to the basement. It took me all weekend. However, once a new standard for residential networking is done, I will upgrade the original Cat 5e 350MHz to something else. It would take me an hour to fish the new lines for the whole house since I already have the hanging wires there.

So, I would wait. Go with Cat 6 or Cat 5e 350MHz (both capable of running a 1Gbps speed). When running the cables, make sure that they are not stapled down or stuck around a bend. You'll want to tie your new cable to the existing one and just pull the old ones out (while running the new ones at the same time). If your house is yet to be finished (drywall not up yet) then this would be a good time to either run the wires yourself, or get some PVC tubing and run the wires through there.

You'll shoot yourself in the foot later if you find a 10G wiring, only to find that the residential standard for such speeds are fibre optic.

  • I don't agree. The 1000x increase in network speed coincided with only about 3 generations of wiring standard. So the lifetime of good 10G wiring should be reasonable; it's good for at least an additional order of magnitude now with multilane. Fibre optic on the other hand will be much more expensive to lay now, not to mention test. As for pulling cable later, I'd be surprised if the builder would go for such a scheme, since they have a contractual obligation to achieve a specific BER rating on the building, and it would significantly affect the airflow. – James Youngman May 13 '12 at 22:57
  • By the PVC pipe, I wasn't meaning air ducts. Plus, I doubt Ethernet wiring would have a huge affect on HVAC airflow if you're just wiring up a few rooms in a house. I was basically meaning, go with the current top of the line residential standard for networking your house. Do it in a manner that would be easy to upgrade down the road. Cat5e 350MHz will give current top speeds (1Gbps) for a cheap price and depending on your planning of the future, would allow you to easily upgrade down the road. – kobaltz May 13 '12 at 23:43
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    @JamesYoungman: You cannot predict the future, but you can prepare for it. It makes most sense in all relevant ways (overall cost, performance, ability to upgrade) to install Cat6 now, while taking measures to be able to easily switch the cables in the future, if needed. Not just for technical upgrades - there are tons of reasons to be able to access cables in the walls in a simple way. One does not want to have to tear down the walls just because a wire is malfunctioning. – Daniel Andersson May 14 '12 at 6:44
  • @DanielAndersson did you specifically mean Cat6 rather than Cat6a? – James Youngman May 15 '12 at 12:57
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    @JamesYoungman: It is a issue of cost and crystal ball prediction. Since Cat6a is backwards compatible, it makes sense for permanent installations in most cases, but it does cost more at the moment. Depending on installation size/type this cost will be more or less noticeable. Factors to include are: when will Cat6 be the bottle-neck? How much will the cost of Cat6a have sunk until then? Will there be even newer standards before that time? And so on, and so on... Since you seem very concerned, Cat6a is probably worth the extra cost to help you sleep at night! :-) – Daniel Andersson May 15 '12 at 13:34

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