If you are familiar with the use of technology, especially the Internet, you have probably heard about the “Ethernet cable”. Thanks to the advent of high-speed connections provided by fiber optics, users have begun to improve networks at home.
Within this improvement, the change of the router is included so that the speed and coverage increase. But, in general, people leave aside another very important element, what is the replacement of network cabling. This is where the use of the cable comes into play Ethernet.
Not all network cables offer the same performance, nor do they take full advantage of routers, so it is really important to take them into consideration when you want to improve your connection by changing all the equipment. In this post, we will explain what is an ethernet cable, its characteristics and other details.
What is an Ethernet cable and what is it used for in computing?
It is a network cable used especially for 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.
Your job is to transport data that travels on a network from one device to another. Ethernet is the most used for standard installations called “crossed” and they are very effective as they avoid interference and can be used over long distances.
There are different classifications of Ethernet cables and each of them has a specific function. By taking advantage of the right cable for your local network, you can certainly achieve amazing data transmission speeds and even shorten waiting times when copying files or movies from a NAS disk to a computer.
What are the characteristics and parts of an Ethernet cable?
Ethernet has been very successful in the technology world because it is easy to maintain, reliable and easy to install. Other than that, there are some features very interesting that make them stand out from others in the competition. These are:
- Offer connection stability, because they do not suffer interference.
- They provide control and security to those who use them.
- Have flexibility to transfer data up to 100 meters.
- exist different categories for specific functions.
- They allow a Transfer speed up to 40,000 Mbps on CAT 8 cables.
On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that the quality of the cable is determined by some important factors and one of the main ones is the shielding. Shielded cable is understood to be that electrical cable that is covered by a common conductive layer.
The purpose of this is to avoid noise, interference and other factors that affect its operation. Each cable includes the letters “TP” (Twisted Pairs, or twisted pairs). This terminology refers to the way the lines within the cable twist together. Twisted pairs have been an industry standard for years, second only to fiber optic cabling in terms of maximum length and speed.
Consequently, there are mainly UTP, STP and FTP cables:
- UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair or Unshielded Twisted Pairs): The cables designated for UTP do not have braided shielding or aluminum, which makes the cable cheaper to produce and more flexible. However, this will sacrifice signal quality and increase vulnerability to interference.
- STP (Shielded Twisted Pairs, or shielded twisted pairs) – Cables with STP or SSTP designations are shielded with braided shield, which is generally made of copper or another conductive polymer. Shielding reduces interference and improves connection quality.
- FTP (Foiled Twisted Pairs): Cables with FTP or SFTP designation are protected with foil shielding, which helps reduce interference and improves connection quality.
Each of the points indicated above refer only to the internal composition of the cable. But to know the type of ethernet that we are looking for, is done through its category, which is indicated with the term “CAT”.
What types of Ethernet network cables are there and how do they affect the data transfer speed?
At first glance, it may appear that all cables are the same. However, this is not so. There are 7 categories available in the market and each one fulfills a specific function in terms of transmission speed and transmission frequency.
To know 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 speeds and transmission frequency:
- 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: speed of 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) and frequency of 250 MHz.
- CAT 6A: speed of 10,000 Mbps (10 gigabits) and frequency of 500 MHz.
- CAT 7: speed of 10,000 Mbps (10 gigabits) and frequency of 600 MHz.
- CAT 7A: speed of 10,000 Mbps (10 gigabits) and frequency of 1,000 MHz.
- CAT 8: speed of 40,000 Mbps (40 gigabits) and frequency of 2,000 MHz.
Of all these categories, the most used for domestic use is the 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, since the operators do not have more than 600 Mbps of Internet speed at home, so using CAT 5E Ethernet, you can take full advantage of the service.
However, more and more people are opting for CAT 6 Ethernet cables for domestic installations, in order to further improve the quality of data transmission.
In cases where they have more advanced networksWith multiple gigabit network devices, you may need to opt for higher categories such as CAT 6A or CAT 7. Thus, the cable supports greater data transmission from various devices, such as a computer and a NAS simultaneously.
What should we consider when choosing a cable for an Ethernet connection?
The first thing to keep in mind when choosing a cable for an Ethernet connection is the use what you are going to give. For example, if you need it for domestic use, we already explained that the most recommended are CAT 5E or 6 cables, they even usually come included when you buy a router.
If you need to have a greater support in data transmission from various devices, then it is best that you lean towards the use of cables with higher categories such as CAT 6A or 7. In summary, there are certain points that will help you to choose the cable that works best for you. These are:
- Check your internet connection: If your connection is 1Gb, an old Ethernet cable won’t help you get the most out of your plan. But if your connection is slower, one of categories 5E or 6 will definitely work fine.
- Take into account the speed you need: many users do not consider this point, but it is really important. If you move large files between multiple devices, a good Ethernet cable can make a difference.
- Study your router: some routers only support an Ethernet cable up to 100 megabits per second, so any cable that is below CAT 5 will not work well for you.