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Ethernet Cables Explained: All You Need to Know

Ethernet Cables: The Need-To-Know Guide

When it comes to cables, it’s easy to get lost in a techy world of Ethernet cable types, their uses and which ones you need.

So if you’re struggling to know your CAT 5 from your crossover cable, our handy go-to cable guide will help.

Reduce your cable headache by checking out our need-to-knows.

What Is an Ethernet Cable?

An Ethernet cable is a very popular type of network cable which is used for wired networks (a network type which connects devices to the Internet or other networks using cables).

They are used to connect devices located on local area networks (LANs), such as routers, PCs and switches.

One of the most common wired networks use cables which are connected via Ethernet ports on network routers and computers or other devices.

Ethernet Cable Types

Most Ethernet cables are designed to connect a computer to a router or switch. Ethernet cables come in a range of types that are defined by the Electronic Industries Association and Telecommunications Industry Association.

Ethernet cable types include Category 5 and Category 6.

CAT 5 Cables

This type of cable is considered the most popular of the twisted pair Ethernet cable types, and consists of four pairs of copper wires.

Fifth generation twisted pair Ethernet technology enables fast speeds of up to 100 Mbps (megabit per second) to be achieved.

It is recommended that CAT 5 cables are restricted to a maximum run length of 100 metres.

CAT 6 Cables

This type of cable is known as the sixth generation of the twisted pair Ethernet cabling, and consists of four pairs of copper wires, as with the CAT 5 category.

CAT 6, however, makes full use of all four pairs of copper wiring, and can achieve speeds of up to 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) and boasts twice the speed of CAT 5e cables.

This type of cable also supports Gigabit Ethernet due to its high performance, with an enhanced type available (CAT 6a) that can achieve speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

It is recommended that CAT 6 cables be restricted to a maximum run length of 100 metres.

Solid vs Stranded

Twisted pair cables come in either solid or stranded variations, which refers to the copper conductor found within the cable:

Shielded vs Unshielded

Due to Ethernet cables being twisted, shielding can help to protect cables even further. Shielded cables are more suitable for cables that are run outdoors or inside walls (where there is high interference), whereas unshielded cables are suitable for interior domestic use.

Crossover Cable

This specialist Ethernet cable type enables a direct connection between two computing devices via their Ethernet ports.

Copper-based, twisted pair crossover Ethernet cables are available in CAT 5, 5e and 6 types.

The development of Auto-MDIX (automatic medium-dependent interface crossover) technology had reduced the need for this type of cable.

This detects whether a crossover or straight-through cable is required, and makes the automatic changes accordingly.

Clearer About Cables?

So there you have it, a brief rundown of Ethernet cable types and their uses. If you have any questions regarding your own wired network and which cables would best suit your needs, contact Comms Express today.

About Steve Wilkin

Steve is the founder and Managing Director of Comms Express, he doesn't look old enough (he told us to put that) but has been in the Networking Industry for 24 years and counting. In that time he has seen the humble Network become one of the most crucial tools that any modern business has (just imagine your company without one).

He's a family man with a wife and two young Daughters to keep him in line, also he's an avid Spurs supporter (well no one's perfect).

You can follow Steve on Google+