Which Ethernet Cable Do I Choose?

One Stop Cables

Posted on December 06 2019

Which Ethernet Cable Do I Choose?

 

Looking for Ethernet cables? They come in different shapes and sizes and it is upon you to pick the most suitable one as per your need. However, the majority of buyers struggle to choose the right one, as they lack the ability to understand their technical specifications. It is not easy to comprehend the modern networking language and identify the type, range, and performance of these cables in the market. Here we have made things simple for you to understand and identify their exact needs and know varied specifications of each Ethernet cable.

How Should You Choose Ethernet cable

The range and performance are two essential parameters to select any type of Ethernet cable. It is something you can find convenient to discern and select. All that you need to know is the internet speed at your home or office. Check if you have a gigabit or megabit internet speed. A Cat 5 or lower cable is fine for slower internet connections in the range of 10-20 megabits per second. However, those in the gigabit range need Cat 6 or above cables. Using older ones may cause the speed to choke.

It is also important to pay attention to network speed you require while choosing an Ethernet cable. Though network speed holds no significance for the most home users, those working from home or frequently sharing big files or videos need a higher need. This calls for a more powerful and better Ethernet cable able to sustain and stream high-bandwidth data transfer.

Your router’s capacity is another important element to factor in. If you have a router able to transmit data up to 100 megabits per second, an Ethernet cable below Cat 5 is surely going to hold up the speed and stop the optimum internet use. However, rarely any home has an internet speed above 1 gbps and buying a Cat 6a or Cat 7 cable is of no significant benefit. You may opt for Cat 5, Cat 5e, or Cat 6 Ethernet cables as the optimum choice for your home internet.

What is the “Cat” Classification?

Ethernet cables are available with different specs that range from Cat 3 to Cat 7. The word “Cat” refers to the category while the number tells about specifications the cable is made to comply with. The higher is the number, the faster is the speed the cable able to stream. An Ethernet cable able to support higher bandwidths allows you to download and send files quicker. However, it is important to avoid Ethernet cables longer than 100 meters, as these reduce the transmission speed.

Here is a detailed view of different categories of Ethernet cables and their bandwidth capability.

Category

Max Speed

Bandwidth

Cat 3

10 Mbps

16 MHz

Cat 5

100 Mbps

100 MHz

Cat 5e

1 Gbps

100 MHz

Cat 6

1 Gbps

250 MHz

Cat 6a

10 Gbps

500 MHz

Cat 7

10 Gbps

600 MHz

Cat 7a

10 Gbps

1,000MHz

Cat 8

40 Gbps

2,000 MHz

 

  • Cat3 Ethernet Cable

This class of Ethernet cables has become obsolete. Their maximum speed transmission is limited to below 10 mbps. If you have an internet connection with a bandwidth less than 16 MHz, go for this cable. It is also difficult to find this category cable in the market, as it is not manufactured anymore.

  • Cat5 Ethernet Cable

Able to transmit data up to a speed of 100 mbps, Cat 5 Ethernet cables are fast fading away from the market. Limited to 100MHz bandwidth, these cables are only used in homes with internet connections providing a reduced speed. It is not suitable for those using the high-speed internet at offices or business establishments.

With the ability to carry data at a speed of 1,000 mbps or 1 gbps, Cat 5 “enhanced” is the latest standard Ethernet cable in use. It is optimized to exclude crosstalk or signals between communication channels while transferring high-speed data. It can support up to 100MHz bandwidth. Because of its low production cost and higher speed streaming capability, the cable has made Cat 5 virtually redundant in the market.

Though Cat 6 is a bit on the higher side as far as its price is concerned, it can carry more than double the bandwidth of Cat 5e. Its streaming ability stands at 1 gbps with a distance not exceeding 55 meters while the cable can sustain up to 250 MHz frequency. The Ethernet cable has a braided shielding design that makes it more tightly twined compared to any of its predecessors. This allows it to significantly reduce crosstalk and noise interference while improving the data streaming.

Cat 6 “augmented” is an enhanced version of Cat 6 and has two-time more bandwidth capacity than the regular one. It works at 500MHz frequency. This allows it to stream data at 10 gbps, which is 10-fold faster than a Cat 6 cable. The shielded design allows the complete elimination of crosstalk. However, this also makes it much denser, less flexible.

  • Cat7 Ethernet Cable

A premium category Ethernet cable, Cat 7 is based on the latest technology invented to facilitate higher bandwidths and faster data streaming. You can use them with internet connections allowing up to 100 Gbps at a range of 15 meters. A bandwidth frequency of up to 600 MHz enables significantly faster transmission speeds.

The newest introduction in the world of Ethernet cable, Cat 7 “augmented” provides a speed of up to 10 gbps with a frequency of 1,000 MHz. Though the maximum speed limit continues to be the same as Cat 7, this cable offers a 50% upgrading as far as the bandwidth is concerned. However, it is an expensive option and hardware options are limited as of now.

Introduced recently, Cat 8 Ethernet cable can transmit data at a speed ranging from between 25 gbps and 40 gbps. It has a frequency rated at 2 GHz. However, the availability is very limited and hardware is yet to take full shape.

Ethernet glossary

  • Cat: Category – Classification of Ethernet cables based on their speed and frequency limits.
  • TP: Twisted Pairs – A design that keeps wires twisted inside the cable.
  • UTP: Unshielded Twisted Pairs – A design that avoid twisted cabling. It is cheaper to make compared TP cables. However, this increases crosstalk and noise issues inhibiting the speed.
  • STP: Shielded Twisted Pairs – This design covers cables with braided shielding and this improves transmission quality.
  • FTP: Foiled Twisted Pairs – This design covers cables with foiled shielding.

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