Keystone vs. Traditional Patch Panels

Keystone vs. Traditional Patch Panels

Patch panels have generally been considered to have RJ45 female connections built right into the panel itself like in the picture below.

 loaded-patch-panel.jpg

While this design worked well for the cabling industry during the cat 5/cat 5e period, it doesn't seem to be the best solution for the category 6 cabling and beyond. 

 

The reasons for this have to do with both performance and functionality.  For performance, the keystone patch panels provide physical separation that reduce the amount of alien crosstalk.  This means the signal interference from nearby terminations as opposed to regular crosstalk which is signal interference between pairs within the same cable.  The higher the frequency, the more danger there is for alien crosstalk. 

 keystone-patch-panel.jpg

For functionality, telecom racks today almost always have the switches on the same racks as the patch panels themselves, and therefore become very problematic for adding new cables.  It is even common for the most conscientious installer to unplug an existing connection while trying to punch down a new one. A keystone panel allows the installer to punch down the jack off the rack itself and then snap it into the panel where it can be inter-connected with the appropriate equipment.

 

Personally, the only time I like to use a category six patch panel is on the original installation, where I know that no cables will have to be added to the panel.  The increase in alien crosstalk is balanced by the higher density of the loaded panel.  Any new terminations or partially filled panels should always be on a keystone panel.

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