A patch panel is a panel that houses multiple cable connections. It is also known as a jackfield or patch bay. The back of the panel has wiring or other connective cabling that runs to disparate equipment. The front of the patch panel allows easy access to connect the different equipment with the use of short patch cables.
Before automatic telephone switching became widespread, huge arrays of patch panels were used, in which early telephone operators would connect callers to their intended parties manually by plugging in a cable on the switchboard.
Patch panels are used in a variety of fields and applications. Some of the key applications of patch panels are listed below:
- Telephone and cable companies build patch panel cabinets at strategic points in their coverage areas. This allows their roaming technicians to make a quick change at the cabinet to deploy or disconnect service to homes.
- Auditoriums and stage theaters use patch panels connecting the various audio-visual components to aid with performances and presentations.
- Radio stations, recording studios, television broadcast studios, and other media-heavy services require extensive abilities to connect and route data and media to different devices as a part of their productions.
- Local Area Networks (LANs) and larger networks such as the global Internet make extensive use of patch panels.
Alternatives to Patch Panels
The patch panel implies a connection of a transitory nature, where the connection can be easily redirected or completely disconnected. There are other connection matrices of a more permanent nature, such as the breakout box, punch box, distribution frame, and termination panel. While they perform very similar functions, these interfaces are usually of a more permanent nature because they involve direct wiring to terminals instead of plugs and removable cabling.