There’s an increasing demand for integrators to extend home and enterprise internet networks to exterior areas, or between structures. Until recently, the most common version of this has been to connect IP surveillance cameras directly to a network but the reasons for running exterior Ethernet cable are quickly diversifying—especially at home.

As smart home networks continue to expand into more rooms in the home, they’re also finding their way to more spaces outside the home, such as backyards and balconies. This includes everything from a simple smart speaker, like Google Home, to home entertainment systems and hardwired Wi-Fi repeaters and boosters.

Additionally, there’s been a widespread trend among homeowners to convert backyard sheds into offices, due to the pandemic. In these cases, the need to connect the shed-office directly with the home’s network is acute, given the unreliable nature of Wi-Fi connections.

If you’re an integrator who mostly deals with interior installations, here’s a quick brush-up on considerations when running cable outside.

Select the Right OSP Cabling and Enclosures

As you’re planning your exterior installations, ensure you’re incorporating high quality OSP enclosures, connectors and outlets where needed. These must be durable and weather resistant like the Primex Wave series. Failing to do this can result in connection and termination points being the weak links in your OSP cable installations.

OSP enclosures are also an especially useful way to install and protect devices like Wi-Fi extenders and routers from the elements and intrusion.

Ethernet cables graded for exterior use are available in several varieties and should be chosen to suit the specific installation you’re planning.

If the cable is going to be secured to the exterior of a building to connect to an IP camera, for instance, you’ll want an exterior-grade Ethernet cable that’s UV resistant and coated with PVC or LLDPE to protect it from sun, rain, and large temperature variations.

If you’re planning to bury the cable, make sure you’re choosing an exterior-grade Ethernet cable that’s direct burial rated. Indoor-rated Ethernet cable should never be buried, even when placed in a conduit.

Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and Zoned Cabling care other important considerations. PoE can make installations simpler and faster for devices that require a direct power source in addtion to a network connection.

Bury the Cable in Conduit When Possible

Ethernet cable graded for use outdoors can be installed in direct exposure, including strung in the air between two buildings or structures. In most cases, however, it’s preferable to hide the cabling out-of-sight and bury it underground.

Direct burial OSP Ethernet cable does not need to be placed in a metal EMT or plastic PVC conduit but doing so is a best practice. Not only does the conduit provide the cable with more protection from the elements, it also makes it easier to run additional cables in the future if they’re needed.

Tip: To make running additional cables through a conduit later on, leave a string  running through the full length of the conduit. This way, a new cable can be tied to one end of the string and easily pulled all the way through.