Ethernet cables are standard cables commonly used to connect devices to networks like a modem to a LAN or a router. You can see them connected to the back of your computer equipment. They comprise of a pair of RJ45 connectors and a set of four twisted pair cables.
Even though all Ethernet cables look the same, they differ because of the change in the construction of cabling. The type of cabling used, the way they are bundled and terminated with a connector is what makes one Ethernet cable different from other.
Broadly speaking, there are 6 varieties of these cables. So, if you’re planning to buy Ethernet cables, it’s necessary to understand the different types and their features. Here’s a guide to help you that describes the most common categories of Ethernet cables.
Category 3 or Cat-3 cables are the older version of Ethernet cables with a maximum transmission speed of 10 Mbps. Also known as Station Wire, they are unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables with a maximum possible bandwidth of 16 MHz. They were mostly used for Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) and other voice solutions. But, due to problems with cross-talk and interference, they are no longer used.
Cat-5 cables were introduced after Cat-3. They are also a UTP cable but with a faster transfer speed of 10/ 100 Mbps and a maximum bandwidth of 100 MHz. These cables were the first Fast Ethernet-capable cables to be introduced. The cables of Cat-5 were wrapped with fewer twists per foot, thus reducing the amount of interference. Apart from Ethernet data, these cables were used for video and telephone signals.
The Cat-5e cables are the upgraded version of Category 5 cables. This optimized version was introduced to reduce the unwanted transmission of signals between channels. With a transmission speed of 1000 Mbps and a maximum bandwidth of 100 MHz, these cables completely replaced its predecessor. Cat-5e cables contain four twisted pairs of cables and utilise all of them for Fast Ethernet, unlike Cat-5 cables which utilised only two. These features make these cables the most widely used Ethernet cable in the market. They are mostly used in homes and small business network installations.
The Cat-6 Ethernet cables are very similar to Category 5e. With a bandwidth of 250 MHz, these cables were designed to give a maximum transmission speed of 1000 Mbps. These cables were introduced with several improvements such as thinner wires and better insulation. They are available in both Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) and UTP forms. They are tightly bundled and outfitted with foil or braided shielding to prevent crosstalk and noise interference. They mostly work best for building and commercial applications.
The Cat-6a cables or ‘Augmented’ Category 6 cables allow transmission speed of 10000 Mbps over longer cable lengths and supports 500 MHz of bandwidth. They are always shielded that enables them to eliminate crosstalk and interference. The sheathing of these cables makes them thicker and less flexible compared to other Ethernet cables.
The Cat-7 cables, also known as Class F cables, are the newest and most widely-available variety of Ethernet cables. They support a speed of up to 10000 Mbps and bandwidths up to 600 MHz. These fully shielded cables have layers of insulation within them with a twisted pair of wires. They are the best choice for connecting routers or modem directly to a device as they are cable of reaching 100 Gbps at a range of 15 meters.
The next time you plan to purchase an Ethernet cable for your home, consider checking the transmission speed and supported bandwidth and choose the one that best suits your device. To learn more about Ethernet cables, visit a reliable electronic store near you.