When you want to send data from a dish to a backend, but all you have available is some random type of wire…

The world is going digital, yet in many cases we still use LNB’s that send their signals down a coaxial cable to our satellite backends. The obvious problem with that is that coaxial cable is lossy, and it’s also prone to getting waterlogged if it’s buried underground and there are any breaks in the insulating jacket. And there are a few newer LNB’s that can send a digital signal, but require a network connection. Maybe you want to use some kind of equipment that requires a network connection at your dish, but you don’t trust your coaxial cable anymore (if you did, you could just use a MoCA Network Adapter, assuming you had a suitable weatherproof enclosure and power at your dish).

Now, my preference when running digital cable at a distance is always to use fiber optic cable, because it doesn’t carry electrical current of any kind. But one pitfall with using either MoCA or fiber optic equipment is that you need to run power out to the remote equipment. If you have a dish that’s several hundred feet away, that could get expensive in a big hurry.

Many older dishes have a multi-pair cable running to them that is intended to control the positioner motor, and in addition they have a three conductor cable (or maybe four conductor if the original installer got a deal on phone wire) cable that’s intended to control the servo motor. But if you are replacing the LNB with a digital model, more than likely you won’t be using that servo motor anymore. And of course there is always the original coax. Presumably some or maybe even all of these wire may potentially be available for reuse, but none of them are data cables, or were in any way intended for use with data connections. These cables aren’t Cat 6, Cat 5, or even Cat 3 (multi-pair phone wire), they are Cat-nothing because hardly anyone was doing home networking when they were installed. Does that mean they are useless? Maybe not!

It turns out that Patton Electronics has come out with a new device, their Patton CopperLink 1101E Industrial Grade Power over Ethernet Extender. The feature list is as follows:

  • Ethernet Extension—Extends 10/100Base-TX Ethernet over 3,300 feet (1005 meters) using 2-wire, 24-AWG twisted-pair, Cat 3, Cat 5e/6/7, or coaxial cable.
  • Delivers PoE—PowerPlus technology powers up both the remote CopperLink extender and the PoE enabled device connected to it. No power is required at the remote location.
  • Transparent LAN Bridging—Will pass higher layer industrial Ethernet protocols such as BACnetIP, EtherCAT and Modbus TCP.
  • Plug and Play—Modems need no configuration to operate, Ethernet ports are auto-sensing 10/100, full or half-duplex.
  • Overvoltage Protection—Overvoltage protection on Line and Ethernet ports prevents damage from ESD (electrostatic discharge), CDE (cable discharge events), and lightning.
  • Made in the USA—This Patton equipment is designed by Patton engineers and built in our Gaithersburg, Maryland facility. Patton’s American-made manufacturing process delivers high-quality networking solutions with reliability you can trust.

In case you missed it, there are two main advantages here: First, it can use types of wire that might otherwise be considered unsuitable for data, even down to a plain old single-pair wire, at a distance of up to 3300 feet (which is about ten times the maximum distance of a normal Ethernet connection). And second, power for the device at the far end AND any PoE equipment connected to it is carried over the same wires, so you may not need to run a separate power line out to your weatherproof enclosure.

Hookup diagram for Patton CopperLink 1101E Industrial Grade Power over Ethernet Extender

In the above diagram, you could imagine an ethernet connected LNB in place of a HVAC controller or IoT gateway.

Obviously, making a connection to a dish at some distance isn’t the only possible application. As Patton’s overview of this product notes:

Ethernet, however, presents a few drawbacks that may overshadow the benefits by creating escalating infrastructure costs and system downtime. The Ethernet standard specifies a distance limitation of 328 ft (100 m), which restricts location options for device installation. Standard Ethernet also requires Cat 5 cabling or better, which often leads to installing new cabling infrastructure—involving tearing into walls, ceilings, pavement, and worse.

The CopperLink 1101E kit from Patton enables Ethernet connectivity over previously installed copper infrastructure. The solution breathes new life into circuits previously deployed for such traditional non-IP applications as RS232/485 HVAC and building automation controls, alarms, CCTV, analog phones, intercom speakers, and others.

I will note that there are actually at least three varieties of this device, the standard model CL1101 which is probably sufficient for most indoor applications, and the CL1101E industrial grade model that I have shown here. And then there is also the CopperLink 1101E/IP67 model that is designed for outdoor operation, and therefore would not require a separate weatherproof enclosure (here’s a press release on that model). This same company has an entire line of Ethernet Extenders so if one of these models doesn’t meet your needs, wander around their site and you might discover a more suitable device.

I have mentioned this particular device because of their claim that it has Overvoltage protection that “prevents damage from ESD (electrostatic discharge), CDE (cable discharge events), and lightning.” Since lightning protection would be a big consideration for any wiring running outside, that seems to be a very desirable feature. Please note that I am neither an electrician nor a lawyer, and that your local electrical or building codes may require additional lightning protection. I have never tested nor personally used this product, so I cannot guarantee that it will be suitable for your specific application.

Two things that I am not certain about are the connection speed, and the price. They seem to go out of their way to not mention a specific connection speed, and I suppose that’s because it varies depending on the wire used and the length of that wire. It seems obvious that you wouldn’t get the same throughput on an old, long, small-gauge two wire connection that you would using a few dozen feet of Cat6 underground wire, but will the throughput be adequate to carry satellite video? I would certainly hope so, but can’t guess with any certainty until some reviews are in. As for the price, that depends on which model you choose, and whether you buy one or a pair (obviously you are probably going to need a pair!). Let’s just say that if you have the option of running fiber optic cable, or using MoCA network adapters with the existing coax, you may find those are less expensive options (depending on whether there are any labor costs involved in running new cable). These devices are just another possible tool in the toolbelt, so to speak.

As a side note, the indoor units definitely seem like they could be problem solvers in cases where you don’t want to use WiFi or it doesn’t work well, but the only available wiring is old telephone, intercom, or alarm system wiring. Many homes built in the 80’s, 90’s, and the first part of the 00’s were pre-wired for telephone service, and while newer installs may have used Cat 5 or Cat 5e wire that’s already suitable for Ethernet (if you are lucky), older installations may have used Cat 3 (twisted pair phone wire) or even the older quad-style wiring (red, green, yellow, and black untwisted wires). For some homeowners, it may be worth spending a few hundred dollars to utilize that existing wiring rather that having to run new Ethernet cable, but on the other hand you can buy a whole lot of Spackle and paint (to repair temporary holes in drywall made while fishing new wire) for that same amount of money, so you need to look at the cost and difficulty of running new wire as opposed to the cost of using equipment such as these extenders, that can apparently use existing wiring for networking.