A Complete Guide To Ethernet Cables
When building a network in your home or business, ethernet cables form a key role. As we become more reliant on the internet, the technology that controls network speed and usability also develop along with the cables we use. This guide will explain what ethernet cables are used for and the different types available on the market.
What are Ethernet Cables
So, let’s answer the first key question here. What are ethernet cables? Put simply, they are cables used to connect an electronic device directly to your network. When fitted, they allow said device to maintain a strong internet connection. Even those who rely on wireless networks generally have an ethernet cable within their network - it’s there to help strengthen the internet connection when needed and to make it safer.
There are times when normal wi-fi connections aren’t strong enough to deal with specific demands. This could be due to the distance between an electronic device and the modem or something causing interference. In this setting, ethernet cables are a popular alternative. One benefit is that the design is internationally accepted as a standard. So, no matter where you get your electronic device from, it’s highly likely that there will be an ethernet connection.
What are they used for?
We’ve mentioned that ethernet cables are used for creating strong internet connections. Following on from this, they can be used in any wired network including those found in residential settings or larger corporate environments. Generally, you’ll find them linking together wireless routers or modems directly to the available telephone line. Ethernet cables can also be used on smart televisions or stack computers that need an internet connection for certain features, such as streaming.
How do you choose the right ethernet cable?
There are a number of different ethernet cables available on the market. If you’re in the early stages of planning a network or looking to improve your own internet connection, this range of options can be confusing. To make the decision easier, we recommend doing as much research as possible beforehand. Our top 3 tips include:
You’ll want to take into consideration the available internet speed available to you. Older or low-performing ethernet cables won’t be able to maintain high speeds. Equally, it’s not really worth investing in a cable that supports very fast speeds if those aren’t available to you either.
What internet speed do you need to achieve? If the network you’re building will be used to stream videos or employees are likely to repeatedly send files back-and-forth, you’ll need a more powerful cable. Understanding the speeds you need will help dictate the right option for you.
What speeds does your router support? Home routers normally operate at under 1GB while larger ones meant for business use will have much bigger capabilities. Identify this and you’ll be able to find the best ethernet cable for your needs.
What does 'CAT' mean?
Ethernet cables are categorised to help the general public understand their capabilities. You’ve likely seen the terms Cat5 or Cat7. The ‘Cat’ stands for category and it relates to the version supported. As the number increases, the speeds and frequency of each cable will increase. And, as technology evolves, so does a cable's ability to support higher bandwidths. Let’s take a look at the most common types of ethernet cable here and their suitability to different applications.
What are the different ethernet cables?
Category 5e cables are some of the most popular ones of the market. This is largely due to their low cost and ability to support both 10BASE-T and 100BASE-T network standards (10Mbps or 100Mbps). They have been redesigned from the traditional Cat5, with reduced crosstalk and a bandwidth rating of 350Mhz. The ‘e’ here stands for enhanced.
Category 6 cables have a more tightly wound design and are shielded with foil or a braided design. This works harder to prevent crosstalk and noise interference with the ability to support speeds up to 10Gbps. They can be used to achieve higher data transfer rates, are backwards compatible and can be easily upgraded, if needed.
These cables have the same design as category 6 options, however they have a unique design that means they can support twice the bandwidth. They support data transfer rats up to 10Gbps, with a maximum bandwidth of 500MHz. They are also backward compatible with Cat6 and Cat5e cables.
Able to support even higher bandwidths and faster transmission feeds, they are some of the most technologically advanced on the market. Generally, they’ll have a higher price tag than others on the market but this correlates to the quality of the performance they offer. You’ll find them in commercial environments, with the ability to reach up to 100Gbps. They are shielded and backwards compatible too.
A less widely-available option, category 7e ethernet cables are very high-spec. They offer an improved bandwidth in comparison with normal Cat7. Each one offers a high-speed connection, as an alternative to fibre optic cables but they are very expensive so should be chosen for specific applications.
Cat8 ethernet cables are the newest option on the market, manufactured with the newest type of internet connecting technology. They have a maximum frequency of 2,000 MHz and speeds of up to 40Gbps. Because of this, they are always shielded and have 2 connectors. And, along with all of this, they are the most expensive available.