The Wireless Home

The Replacement of Cat-5 Wire with Wireless Routers in the Home

By Mark J. Donovan

It wasn’t that long ago that when you went shopping for a new home real estate agents and home builders would hype a home as wired for cable and the internet. More specifically, they were hyping the fact that the home had cable wire for television service and Category 5 (Cat-5) wire for internet connections strung throughout the home in the various bedrooms, kitchen and den areas. Both the cable and the Cat-5 wire typically terminated in a basement or utility closet where a cable modem and an Ethernet hub could reside if you were so moved to install them.

Cat-5 wire is a unique type of wiring that is slightly different than standard telephone wiring. Cat-5 wire is constructed with four wire pairs that are sheathed into one bundle.

Cat-5 wire is used for interconnecting a network of computers, printers, and other computer peripherals throughout a house that ultimately tie into an Ethernet hub. The Ethernet hub then connects to a modem that brings internet into the home, typically through a cable internet service.

In the past, real estate agents and builders would heavily promote a home that was fully wired for cable and internet as a unique, upscale feature. A feature I might add that they used to price the house higher. To some extent, it was justifiable charging a small premium for a wired house. Electricians had to install hundreds of feet Cat-5 and cable wiring throughout a home which involved material and labor costs.

But with all of the above said, times have changed. People care much less if a home is wired for the internet. With the ubiquitous use of low cost wireless routers in the home, the need for a wired home is no longer compelling to most homebuyers.

Wireless routers provide high bandwidth internet access from a cable modem to any wired computer or computer peripheral in a home. Only for the discriminating homeowner interested in having very high speed internet for such applications as high definition video streaming is a wired home of true value. With the vast majority of today’s consumers of the internet, however, a wireless router connection to their computer is adequate. Not to mention, wireless services only continue to get better and faster.

Computer makers and internet network providers today are the major players in making this paradigm shift to the wireless home. Nearly everyday there is another announcement of a new and faster internet connection technology from leading networking equipment companies such as Cisco. These new technologies enable homeowners to wirelessly connect their laptops, iPads, and notebooks to their local internet services at ever increasing bandwidth speeds.

With the use of a Wireless Media Adapter (WMA) connected via a standard cable wire to a home entertainment center, and a wireless router connected to a laptop computer, homeowners can look at their digital pictures, watch videos, and listen to their MP3 music collection on their television or computer screens. They can also play their MP3 music collection through their home theater stereo system.

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The wireless communication protocol that interconnects the WMA and the wireless Router is referred to as Wireless-N (802.11n). Wireless Media Adapters include a remote control, and have user-friendly menus that are displayed on a television for easy viewing and control. The Media Adapters can support a variety of formats including; JPEG, GIF, TIF, and BMP. In addition, the remote control unit can also be used for browsing MP3 or WMA formatted music or video libraries. The cost for a Wireless Media Adapter is around $50, or half of what it use to be only several years ago. Residential wireless routers range in price from $50 to $100.

To conclude, yes there is still a benefit for having Cat-5 wire installed in the home. However, that benefit continues to decline as wireless router connections speeds increase and video compression techniques improve. So today if you hear a real estate agent or home builder pumping a home as Cat-5 wired, appreciate the fact but don’t let it play very heavily into your decision to buy the home.

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