Networking

So you can expand the Ethernet LAN ports of your home router

We generally connect to our router using a network cable or WiFi. The drawback we have is that our routers have limited Ethernet ports and that usually are four. In addition to the typical PC, other computers that can or need to be connected by network cable are laptops, PLCs and even the NAS server or printer. This can lead to a time when we do not have enough Ethernet ports for our computers. So, we have to look for alternatives to expand the LAN ports of a router and this is where the switch stands out as the best option, although it is not the only one.

The problem usually begins when we buy a new device and we see that all the RJ45 ports of our router are busy. So, we have to find a solution to expand the LAN ports, but first we will define what they are.

What is a LAN port

The LAN port is also known as a local area network port with an RJ45 connector. Its acronym LAN comes from the Local Area Network, which, translated, means “local area network.” These are basically ports that allow communication between two or more PCs in the home local network, and have an Internet connection through the router. We must remember that routers normally have two interfaces, Internet WAN and local network LAN, the LAN is divided into the wired LAN and the WLAN which is the same as the LAN, but with WiFi.

This is the back of a router:

In yellow you can see an example in which its 4 LAN ports are observed. In this sense, it should be noted that over the years they have evolved and increasingly support greater speed. The port speed is governed by BASE-T standards, therefore, our current home routers would be:

  • 10 BASE-T, which works by transmitting data at 10 megabits per second. At the moment, although it is compatible, it is no longer used.
  • 100 BASE-TX, which transmits data at a speed of 100 Mbit / s. It is the one that is present above all in ADSL routers.
  • 1000 BASE-T, which would be the one that transmits data at 1 Gigabit per second. In this case, it is the one we have in most current fiber routers.

However, fiber connections are already reaching 1 Gbps even more. For this reason, routers have already appeared that have speeds higher than 2.5G, 5G and even 10Gbps in their Ethernet LAN part. These LAN ports are where we are going to connect our PCs, laptops, printers, NAS servers, PLCs and any other wired device.

The relationship of the RJ45 port to the Ethernet network cable

If we want to take advantage of the full potential of our Internet connection, our LAN port has to support a certain speed as we explained in the previous section. Then, to connect to that computer and for communication to be established, we will need an Ethernet network cable. However, network cables are not all the same. This means that, if we do not choose the correct one, we could be wasting all the bandwidth of our connection. Thus, network cables are classified into categories based on their speed. These are the ones that are currently used the most:

For example, the Gigabit Ethernet ports of most of today’s routers, to take advantage of a connection greater than 100 Mb, would require a network cable of category Cat 6 or Cat 5E. Right now, given the low price difference between the two, a Cat 6 network cable would be more interesting.

What can we use to expand LAN ports

At the moment that we see that we do not have enough RJ45 ports available, it is time to look for solutions. In this sense, if we want to expand the LAN ports, we would have the following options available:

  1. Switch.
  2. Hub.
  3. Ethernet Splitter.
  4. An old router that we are not using.

Next, we will start talking about each of them and we will explain what advantages they can bring us. Without a doubt, of those I have named the switch would be the most recommended, that is why it is the one that we are going to discuss further.

Switches

The Switch is the easiest and cheapest option that we can choose when we want to expand the LAN ports of our router. As for its configuration, it is very simple. All we have to do is connect our router with the Switch by network cable. Then, we will be able to use the rest of the available Ethernet ports to connect the new equipment that we could not use before. Here you have the photo of a switch with 8 Gigabit RJ-45 ports with a speed of 10/100/1000 Mbps and that costs approximately € 25.

Another feature of the switch is that it supports Full-Duplex communication. This means that the devices connected to it can send and receive data at the same time, which will mean having a faster network. Currently, the LAN ports of a switch are normally Gigabit Ethernet, although we are already beginning to see the first Multigigabit switches with speeds 2.5G, 5G and higher.

If we want to choose a good switch to expand the LAN ports, we must look at several very important aspects:

  • The number of Ethernet ports we need. At the domestic level, we will generally buy a Switch with 5 or 8 network ports. In this sense, it would be advisable to buy one that would allow us, if possible, that after using it we would have at least one or two free. So we must calculate well what we need.
  • The speed of the Ethernet ports. Here we have to look at the maximum speed that they are capable of synchronizing, be it 1 Gbps, 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps or 10 Gbps. Currently the minimum recommended would be that at least a speed of 1 Gbps be supported. Also, sometimes it can be interesting to have SFP or SFP + ports for fiber optic or DAC cables.
  • The 10G uplink ports : it can also be interesting to have one or two 10 Gbps ports to interconnect the switches and not have a bottleneck. This is optional, because it increases the price and is not always necessary. These ports can also be used on NAS servers to avoid bottlenecks in the wired network.
  • If you buy a non-manageable Switch, it is recommended that you buy one with IGMP Snooping so that the IPTV services work perfectly.

As for a switch with 5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, we could buy the D-Link DGS-105:

D-Link DGS-105

>
EUR

16.95

And if we need a switch with 8 Gigabit Ethernet ports, the D-Link DGS-108:

D-Link DGS-108


>
EUR

22.73

Ethernet hub: a long-gone option

The Ethernet Hub has been replaced by the Switch. We could qualify a Hub as a large chamber full of network traffic, where packets enter and leave to find the computers they are trying to connect to.

The Hub uses what is known as half duplex communication. Due to this way of operating, it causes data retention and collisions, hogging valuable bandwidth and causing a slowdown in the network. In this sense, the situation is complicated when several devices are used at the same time. If we take into account that we can get a Switch for about € 20, it is not worth using it to expand the LAN ports, unless we already have one.

Ethernet Splitter: the cheapest and the least possible

An  Ethernet Splitter is a small device with three Ethernet ports, two on one side and one on the other.

One thing to consider is that an Ethernet Splitter reduces the number of cables used in a Cat 5e Ethernet cable, but reduces data throughput from 1000 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Its main benefit is that it allows you to use one network cable for two Ethernet connections and they are cheap. If we take into account that for a little more money we have a Switch to expand the LAN ports in most cases it does not compensate for its use.

An example of an Ethernet Splitter that you can buy would be this:

Ethernet splitter


>
EUR

7.99

Old router to expand LAN ports

An old router can get you out of trouble in these situations, and you could configure it to use it as a switch.

The point is that, if it is an ADSL router, the equipment connected to it could not exceed 100 Mb in a speed test. On the other hand, if it is a fiber router that you still have at home, then the maximum speed that you could reach it would be 1 Gb. The only thing you have to do in the configuration of the old router is:

  • Change the router’s LAN IP to an IP within the range of the main router
  • Disable the DHCP server of the old router
  • Connect a cable from the main router’s LAN port to the old router’s LAN port.

As you have seen throughout this tutorial, we have seen four ways for you to expand the LAN ports, the most recommended and cheapest is always to use a switch, but if you have an old router with Gigabit Ethernet ports in your home it could also be very interesting, in addition, you can always configure the WiFi of this old router and you will have more coverage in your home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button