Network Drop

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Network drops, often simply referred to as “drops,” serve as crucial connection points in a structured cabling system. While casually synonymous with wall plates, the term “drop” in computer networking encompasses far more. Let’s delve into the intricacies of network drops.

In this article:

What is a Network Drop?

A network drop is a physical termination point where a network cable connects to a computing device. Commonly, these are RJ-45 wall plates where Ethernet cables can plug in. For instance, a network administrator might comment, “This room has 24 drops, and 6 are still available.” Here, 24 wall plate connections exist, and 18 are already in use, connected to computers or other network devices in the room.

Drop in Computer Networking

The Anatomy of a Drop

While a drop may appear as a mere wall plate, it’s part of a much larger system. Each drop usually extends from a patch panel located in a wiring closet or server room. These patch panels serve as centralized hubs for network management.

Alternate Names

Besides being called a “drop,” these connection points are sometimes referred to as “LAN Drops,” “Network Jacks,” or “Ethernet Ports.”

Why are Network Drops Important?

  1. Structured Cabling: Network drops play a critical role in a structured cabling system, facilitating a clean and organized setup.
  2. Scalability: Drops are strategically placed to accommodate future network expansion, offering a degree of future-proofing.
  3. Troubleshooting: Locating faults becomes easier when drops are well-documented and organized.
  4. Quality of Service: A well-planned network drop strategy can lead to better performance and reliability, as it avoids ‘daisy-chaining’ devices together, which can compromise network integrity.

Types of Drops

Network drops are more diverse than one might initially think. Depending on the environment and specific needs, different kinds of drops serve distinct purposes. Knowing which type to install where can make a significant difference in the efficiency and functionality of your network. Here are some types of network drops commonly used:

1. Data Drops

These are perhaps the most common types of drops and what most people think of when they hear the term “network drop.” Data drops primarily serve to connect computers, printers, and other data-centric devices to a Local Area Network (LAN) via Ethernet cables.

  • Usage: Offices, homes, data centers
  • Connectors: Typically RJ-45
  • Cable Types: Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a

2. Phone Drops

While VOIP technology is increasingly replacing traditional phone lines, phone drops are still prevalent, especially in older installations. They connect to a building’s internal telephone system.

  • Usage: Office buildings, hotels, hospitals
  • Connectors: RJ-11
  • Cable Types: Cat3, Cat5e (for VOIP)

3. Audio/Video Drops

These are specialized network drops designed to handle high-quality audio and video signals. These are often seen in conference rooms, auditoriums, or home theater setups.

  • Usage: Conference rooms, home theaters, auditoriums
  • Connectors: HDMI, VGA, DVI, RCA
  • Cable Types: Coaxial, HDMI, optical fiber

4. Specialized Industrial Drops

In manufacturing or industrial settings, network drops may have specialized rugged connectors to interface with machinery and other high-end equipment.

  • Usage: Factories, outdoor installations, marine environments
  • Connectors: Often circular or heavy-duty types
  • Cable Types: Ruggedized cables, often shielded

5. Fiber Optic Drops

Used in environments that require high-speed data transmission over long distances, fiber optic drops offer superior performance but at a higher installation cost.

  • Usage: Data centers, enterprise-level businesses, long-distance links
  • Connectors: LC, SC, ST
  • Cable Types: Single-mode or multi-mode fiber

6. Wireless Access Point Drops

While not a ‘drop’ in the traditional sense, the installation points for wireless access points also require network cabling. These enable Wi-Fi connectivity in a given area.

  • Usage: Offices, public areas like airports or malls, homes
  • Connectors: RJ-45 (for data backhaul)
  • Cable Types: Cat5e, Cat6

Network Drop Best Practices

In network architecture, details matter. Network drops, as simple as they may seem, play a pivotal role in how efficient and reliable a network can be. Employing best practices when it comes to designing and installing network drops can significantly benefit both administrators and end-users. Here are some guidelines:


  1. Needs Assessment: Before installing any network drops, thoroughly evaluate the current and future requirements of your network. Factor in the types and numbers of devices that will be connected.
  2. Location Scouting: Identify optimal locations for network drops, taking into consideration ease of access, safety, and room layout.
  3. Redundancy: Always plan for a few extra network drops than what you currently need. This provides flexibility for future expansion.


  1. Quality Components: Opt for high-quality cables and connectors that meet or exceed current standards. Inferior components can result in poor performance and more frequent repairs.
  2. Professional Installation: Always employ trained technicians for the installation to ensure it’s done correctly and safely, complying with local building codes.
  3. Testing: After installation, each network drop should be tested to confirm its functionality. Use network testers to validate the connections and ensure they meet the required performance metrics.


  1. Labeling: Clearly label each network drop and maintain an updated diagram that shows where each drop is located and where it terminates.
  2. Inventory: Keep a record of the types of cables and connectors used, as well as the devices connected to each drop.
  3. Configuration Details: Document any particular configuration settings that are crucial for the network drop to function correctly.

Management & Maintenance

  1. Regular Audits: Periodically check the condition of the network drops, connectors, and cables. Replace any worn or damaged components.
  2. Performance Monitoring: Use network monitoring tools to keep an eye on the performance metrics of each network drop. This can help in early detection of any issues that may need attention.
  3. Updates & Upgrades: As network technology evolves, older types of cables and connectors may become obsolete. Plan for regular updates to keep the network current.


To conclude, while network drops may seem straightforward, their importance in a well-designed network should not be underestimated. From scalability and troubleshooting to maintaining high-quality service, understanding the nuances of network drops is crucial for any network administrator.

See also: Telecom 101: High-Quality Reference Book [Sixth Edition 2022]