What is a Home Network? The Essential Elements

June 18, 2012 | Comments

Between computers, tablets, printers, smart phones, TVs, Blu-ray players and a host of other devices, more and more of the components you bring into your home are looking to send, receive and share information.

This information-sharing is done by creating a network in your home.

Your home network is referred to as a local area network (LAN). This is a computer network that connects devices in a limited area, such as your home or an office. Devices connected to the LAN can communicate and share information with one another.

There are several essential elements to setting up a home network:

Cabling and Connections

Networks connect with category-rated cabling typically called Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a and Cat 7. (Those "Cat" numbers reflect different transmission speeds and bandwidths.) This cabling has four pairs of wires that are twisted ("twisted pairs" or TP) at different rates to reject interference and transmit data at high speeds. The category wiring is terminated with a connector called an RJ-45, which resembles a large telephone connection.


The modem (a contraction of modulator-demodulator) is the device that allows your LAN to connect to the wide area network (WAN) and the rest of the world. The modem is often provided by the cable or telephone company and sends information over cable, telephone or fiber-optic wiring. In rural locations, some modems communicate via satellite systems.


The router sits between the modem and your devices, such as computer, TV, Blu-ray player and printer. Category-rated cabling connects the router to the modem and other devices on the network to the router. The router assigns each device on the network a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address. Routers generally have several (often four to eight) ports to connect other devices.


When there are more devices to connect than there are ports available on the router, a network switch is used. A switch connects to a port on the router and then adds additional (often five, eight, 16 or more) ports to connect more devices. Multiple switches can be used, and switches can be cascaded, meaning you can plug one switch into a port on another switch.

IP Address

The router assigns every device on the LAN a unique IP address. Much like an actual address, these unique IP addresses allow the router to send packets of data to the correct device. IP addresses are structured in four groups of numbers, such as


This is the technology for sending and receiving data over the LAN wirelessly. There are different versions of the 802.11 WiFi standards; the most common currently is 802.11ac. WiFi is typically not as fast or as secure as a wired connection, but speed, security and range continue to improve with each new version of the standard.


A firewall is a device or program designed to prevent unauthorized access to data and devices on the home's LAN from the WAN. The firewall provides a layer of protection from people attempting to "hack" into your network and either steal data or install a harmful virus, while still allowing authorized communications to pass through.

With more devices relying on Internet access than ever before, a well-designed and properly installed home network setup is more important than ever. To discuss your home networking needs or have a home network installed in your home, search for a local qualified CEDIA member home technology professional near you.