Many People think about, What is Ethernet Cable? In this topic we are going to discuss about the Ethernet Cable.
When you think of home networking, your thoughts naturally turn to Wi-Fi and the ability to move data throughout a house or apartment over nothing more than thin air. There’s another way that, for some scenarios, is not only easier and more reliable, but potentially faster: use Ethernet cables to move the data to and fro.
After all, even the best WiFi routers have (often unused) Ethernet ports that, with the right cable, can routinely move upward of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) and as far as 330 feet, surpassing Wi-Fi’s abilities. While my family connects its phones, tablets and notebooks over Wi-Fi, we also use wired networking for printers, scanners, access points, network storage and an internet radio. And it’s the simple, but often little understood Ethernet cable that makes it work.
There’s nothing like the satisfying click when an Ethernet cable’s RJ-45 connector snaps into place, ready to move data. At the most basic level, getting top speed out of wired networking relies on three things: the router’s speed, the capabilities of the device that is using the data and, of course, the cable’s data-carrying capacity.
But all Ethernet cables are not created equal. In this primer I’ll describe the capacity and the construction of the major eight classes of cabling. The cable evolution has been surprisingly fast, with the ability to deliver data rising by a factor of more than 10,000.
With all the change, one constant has been that every generation of cabling has required higher and higher frequencies that can carry greater and greater amounts of data. Along the way, this added the need for better insulation and shielding to reduce interference.
Megabits, Cats, and cables get a bit confusing when you are looking at Ethernet cables. Figuring out which works for you without going overboard is hard, but we’re here to help.
We’ve defined these terms and put together tables comparing the benefits and issues with each. We’ll explain what shields do and why you may — or may not — need them. So, start here when figuring out how to choose the best Ethernet cable for your home or work.
How do you choose?
The easiest way to select a cable is to pick one with the range and performance you need.
But what do you need?
Start with the speed of your home internet connection. If you have gigabit internet (1Gbps), an old Ethernet cable will hold you back. Moreover, you have a slower connection — perhaps 10 or 20 megabits per second — you’re good with anything Cat 5 or newer.
If you don’t know your internet subscription’s actual speed, connect your PC directly to the modem and load this speed test. Doing so will give you a starting idea of what you’ll need in terms of wired connectivity. If your subscription only supports 50Mbps downloads, purchasing a 1Gbps Ethernet cable is simply overkill — at least for now.
Next, consider the speed needed for your network. This knowledge is irrelevant to most home users. Still, if you frequently move big files between computers or stream extremely high-bandwidth video, a better Ethernet cable can make a huge difference. If that’s not the case and you only surf the internet’s shallow waters, you don’t need a fast in-homer network.
Finally, consider your router. Many cheap routers only support Ethernet up to 100 megabits per second so that the router will bottleneck anything newer than Cat 5. Even the best home routers rarely support more than gigabit Ethernet, meaning Cat 6a and Cat 7 are of questionable use. If your ISP provides a slow, clunky modem/router combo, request an upgrade or purchase a standalone router with better connectivity.
With all of the above to consider, a Cat 6 cable is the one you’ll most likely need. Many homes can even get away with Cat 5e.
What does ‘Cat’ mean?
When shopping for cables, you may notice they’re nearly always classified as “Cat-5,” “Cat6e,” or something similar. “Cat” simply stands for “Category.” The number that follows indicates the specification version supported by the cable.
A general rule of thumb is that higher numbers represent faster speeds and higher frequencies, measured in megahertz (MHz). As is the case with most technologies, newer cables typically support higher bandwidths, and therefore increased download speeds and faster connections.
Keep in mind that longer Ethernet cables have slower transmission speeds. Cables bought for personal use rarely exceed 100 meters anyway and are unlikely to experience bottlenecked speeds.
Below, you can see the capabilities of each cable type.
|Category||Shielding||Max Transmission Speed (at 100 meters)||Max Bandwidth|
|Cat 3||Unshielded||10Mbps||16 MHz|
|Cat 5||Unshielded||10/100Mbps||100 MHz|
|Cat 5e||Unshielded||1,000Mbps / 1Gbps||100 MHz|
|Cat 6||Shielded or Unshielded||1,000Mbps / 1Gbps||250 MHz|
|Cat 6a||Shielded||10,000Mbps / 10Gbps||500 MHz|
|Cat 7||Shielded||10,000Mbps / 10Gbps||600 MHz|
Cat 3 and Cat 5
Both Cat 3 and Cat 5 Ethernet cables are, at this point, obsolete. You’ll still find Cat 5 cables in use, but you should avoid them altogether. They’re slow and discontinued.
The “e” in Cat 5e stands for “enhanced.” There are no physical differences between Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables. However, manufacturers build Cat 5e cables under more stringent testing standards to eliminate unwanted signal transfers between communication channels (crosstalk). Cat 5e is currently the most commonly used cable, mainly due to its low production cost and support for speeds faster than Cat 5 cables.
These cables support higher bandwidths than Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables. They’re tightly wound and usually outfitted with foil or braided shielding. Said shielding protects the twisted pairs of wires inside the Ethernet cable, which helps prevent crosstalk and noise interference. Cat 6 cables technically support speeds up to 10Gbps, but only do so for up to 55 meters. That speed comes with a price, however, as Cat 6 cables are more expensive than Cat 5 and Cat 5e variants.
The “a” in Cat 6a stands for “augmented.” Cables based on this standard are a step up from Cat 6 versions by supporting twice the maximum bandwidth. They’re also capable of maintaining higher transmission speeds over longer cable lengths. This type cables come shielded, and their sheathing — which is thick enough to eliminate crosstalk — makes for a much denser, less flexible cable than Cat 6.
Cat 7 cables support higher bandwidths and significantly faster transmission speeds than Cat 6 cables by utilizing the newest widely available Ethernet technology. They’re proportionally more expensive than other Ethernet cables, though their performance translates to a premium price tag.Such cables reach up to 100Gbps at a range of 15 meters, making them an excellent choice for connecting modems or routers directly to your devices. These cables are always shielded and use a modified GigaGate45 connector, which is backward compatible with regular Ethernet ports.
This type of cable currently offers the highest-specification Ethernet cables you can buy, but it’s not widely available and offers only a few supporting networking hardware options. Even more, the transmission speed is no different than Cat 7, yet Cat 7a cables improve the overall bandwidth — more than 50%. This improvement may be useful in some instances, but Cat 7a cables are far more expensive than any other option. Consider using Cat 7a only in very niche cases.
Cat 8 is an emerging technology; thus, you won’t find related products saturating the market just yet. This standard promises a maximum frequency of 2,000MHz and speeds of up to 40Gbps at 30 meters (~100 feet). That high frequency requires shielding, meaning you’ll never find unshielded Cat 8 cables. Even more, Cat 8 supports two connectors. Thus it only allows for three connected cables with a combined length of 30 meters.
Older specifications, like Cat 6a, enable four connectors for a total of five cables with a combined distance of 100 meters. Cat 8’s distance limitation ensures the 40Gbps speeds and related power requirements. Cat 8 cables are expensive, however, costing $16 for a three-foot cord, for example.
The differences between the various types of Ethernet cables are rather simple, but some of the terminologies can be confusing. To help out, we put together a quick rundown on what the different terms mean, and what you should expect when buying cables with those designations.