What is an Ethernet cable? How do you choose the best cable to connect to the high-speed Internet?

If you’re familiar with using technology, especially the Internet, you’ve probably heard of Ethernet cable. With the advent of high-speed connections provided by fiber optics, users have begun to upgrade networks in their homes.

This improvement includes changing the router to increase speed and coverage. But, usually people leave aside another very important element, which is the replacement of network cabling. This is where the use of Ethernet cable comes into play.

Not all network cables offer the same performance, nor do they get the most out of routers, so it’s really important to consider them when you want to improve your connection by changing all your equipment. In this post, we will explain what an Ethernet cable is, its features and other details.

What is an Ethernet cable and what is it used for in computing?

It is a network cable used especially to interconnect all the devices that make up a LAN. Within them is the most common device that is the router, but you can also connect printers, external drives, switches, scanners and computers.

Their job is to transport the data transiting in a network from one device to another. The Ethernet is the most used for standard installations called “crossover” and are very effective because they avoid interference and can be used over long distances.

There are different classifications of Ethernet cables and each has a specific function. If you take advantage of the right cable for your local network, you can certainly achieve amazing data transmission speeds and even shorten waiting times when you copy files or movies from a NAS disk to a computer.

What are the features and parts of an Ethernet cable?

Ethernets have been very successful in the world of technology because they are easy to maintain, reliable and very simple to install. Apart from that, there are some very interesting features that make them stand out from the competition. These are:

  • They offer stability in the connection, because they do not suffer interference.
  • They provide control and security to those who use them.
  • It has the flexibility to transfer data up to 100 meters.
  • There are different categories for specific functions.
  • They allow a transfer rate of up to 40,000 Mbps on CAT 8 cables.

On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that the quality of the cable is determined by some important factors, one of the main ones being the shielding. Shielded cable is understood as that electric cable which is covered by a common conductive layer.

The purpose of this is to prevent noise, interference and other factors from interfering with its operation. Each cable includes the letters “TP” (Twisted Pairs). This terminology refers to the way the lines within the cable twist together. Twisted pairs have been an industry standard for years, and are only inferior to fiber optic cabling in terms of maximum length and speed.

Consequently, there are mainly UTP, STP and FTP cables:

  • UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair): Cables designated for UTP have no braided or aluminum shielding, making the cable cheaper to produce and more flexible. However, this will sacrifice signal quality and increase vulnerability to interference.
  • STP (Shielded Twisted Pairs): Cables with STP or SSTP designations are protected with twisted shielding, which is usually made of copper or another conductive polymer. The shielding reduces interference and improves the quality of the connection.
  • FTP (Foiled Twisted Pairs): Cables with FTP or SFTP designation are protected with foil shielding, which helps reduce interference and improve connection quality.

Each of the above points refers only to the inner composition of the cable. However, to know the type of Ethernet we are looking for, it is done through its category, which is indicated with the term “CAT”.

What types of Ethernet network cables are there and how do they influence the data transfer rate?

At first glance, it may seem that all the wires are the same. However, this is not the case. There are 7 categories available on the market and each one has a specific function in terms of transmission speed and transmission frequency.

To find out which category it is, just look at it until you get the “CAT” to which it belongs, which is recorded along the Ethernet cable. Here are the different categories with their transfer rates and transmission frequencies:

  • CAT 5: 100 Mbps speed and 100 MHz frequency
  • CAT 5E: speed of 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) and frequency of 100 MHz
  • CAT 6: 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) speed and 250 MHz frequency.
  • CAT 6A: 10,000 Mbps (10 gigabits) speed and 500 MHz frequency.
  • CAT 7: 10,000 Mbps (10 gigabits) speed and 600 MHz frequency.
  • CAT 7A: 10,000 Mbps (10 gigabits) speed and 1,000 MHz frequency
  • CAT 8: 40,000 Mbps (40 gigabits) speed and 2,000 MHz frequency.

Of all these categories, the most widely used for domestic use is CAT 5E. This is a type of cable that commonly accompanies network extenders, routers, among others.

The use of this cable is sufficient in home installations, because the operators do not have more than 600 Mbps Internet speed at home, so using the Ethernet CAT 5E can take full advantage of the service.

Increasingly, however, CAT 6 Ethernet cables are being chosen for domestic installations in order to further improve the quality of data transmission.

In cases where more advanced networks are available, with several gigabit network devices, it may be necessary to opt for higher categories such as CAT 6A or CAT 7. Thus, the cable supports increased data transmission from several devices, such as a computer and a NAS simultaneously.

What should we consider when choosing a cable for an Ethernet connection?

The first thing you should keep in mind when choosing a cable for an Ethernet connection is what you will be using it for. For example, if you need it for home use, we have already explained that the most recommended cables are CAT 5E or 6, and they are usually included when you buy a router.

If on the other hand you need to have a greater support in data transmission from various devices, then it is best to lean towards the use of cables with higher categories such as CAT 6A or 7. In short, there are certain points that will help you choose the cable that works best for you. These are:

  • Check your Internet connection: if your connection is 1 Gb, an old Ethernet cable will not help you get the most out of your plan. But if your connection is slower, a category 5E or 6 will work fine.
  • Keep in mind the speed you need: many users don’t consider this point, but it’s really important. If you move large files between several devices, a good Ethernet cable can make a difference.
  • Study your router: some routers only support one Ethernet cable up to 100 megabits per second, so any cable below CAT 5 will not work well for you.

This post is also available in: Português (Portuguese (Brazil))

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