Your beginner’s guide to knowing nearly everything about Ethernet cables

Wi-Fi has come an extremely long way in providing users a flexible way to browse the internet at unbelievably fast speeds. With no strings attached in using Wi-Fi (in simple terms, that would mean the Ethernet wires) you will never have to worry about a damaged lead that leads in to the Ethernet port of your computer. The latest wireless standard, which is called the 802.11 ac, is the fastest wireless standard available to the general public. While wireless internet has come a long way in the age of technology, in terms of speed, Wi-Fi will always be slower compared to Ethernet cable or in simple terms, wired solutions. Even if your router and all mobile devices support the 802.11 ac wireless standard, chances that you will be able to experience the same speed as that when you plug in an Ethernet cable in to a compatible port are extremely limited. That being said, here is a breakdown of nearly everything you need to know about Ethernet cables. Let us get started.

1. There isn’t just one type of Ethernet cable available in the market

Before jumping straight in to debriefing you on the different types of Ethernet cables available in the market, there are a couple of terms that you need to be told about. They are as follows:

  • UTP: UTP stands for Unshielded twisted pair
  • STP: STP stands for Shielded twisted pair

Your beginner’s guide to knowing nearly everything about Ethernet cables

UTP is by far, the most common of all pairs found. The wires wrapped around inside the protective insulation in UTP have no other form of protection when it comes to protecting the signal against electrical interference (electrical interference affects the internet’s speed). STP is quite uncommon, and this is because the wires are wrapped around a layer of foil that protect the signals from electrical interference. While this is a plus point for users using cables with STP, this form of insulation will also require compatible equipment with grounded ports.

Since the extra protection in STP obviously means that this form of cabling is far more expensive than UTP, there are a few benefits that you will gain when using STP cables. One of them is:

  • The signal will not degrade as much over longer distances compared to UTP and this form of shielding is commonly used in areas surrounded by heavy machinery or other interference.

UTP cables will be able to deliver their said performance up to 100 meters in cable length. In order to keep the performance from degrading, you will need switches between cables. Now that we have edified you on the different types of shielding available on cables, let us move on to the different types of Ethernet cables that available in the market.

2. Different Types Of Ethernet Cables

Currently, your only concern with Ethernet cables lies in three types:

  • Cat 5
  • Cat 5e
  • Cat 6

Since Cat 5 is the most terrible of all of the aforementioned cables in terms of performance (making it the most cheapest solution as well), you should only choose this type of Ethernet cable if your main concern is getting considerable savings. Furthermore, Cat 5 uses only 2 of 4 pairs of wires (compared to other cables which use 8 wires), which means that maximum theoretical speed that you can hope to achieve on this type of cable is 10 Mbps (Mega bits per second).

Cat 5e is an echelon higher in performance compared to its predecessor (with the letter ‘e’ in Cat 5e indicating enhanced). This type of Ethernet cable can deliver speeds of up to 1000 Mbps, which is more commonly known as Gigabit Ethernet. Cat 5e is the most common kind of cable being sold in the market and you would do well to procure a large amount of length of this form of cable.

Cat 6 is the most expensive, the most advanced and the most powerful type of Ethernet cable that you can purchase with your hard earned money. Theoretically, this kind of Ethernet cable can deliver speeds of up to 10,000 Mbps for a total length of 37 meters. In short, this kind of Ethernet cable will be a complete overkill for your home network because your household network won’t even come close to having those speeds circulating through the cable (thanks to your internet service provider). However, if you need to future proof yourself and prevent networking speeds degrading in your home, then using these cables on each floor will be extremely expedient. Another advantage of using Cat 6 is that it is backwards compatible with Cat 5e and Cat 5 devices, so you do not have to worry about compatibility issues if you purchase this cable. The Cat 6 cable is also able to reduce interference because its cabling comprises of more twists in each pair, and possesses a plastic separator spine running through the center, which reduces interference enables higher speeds.

Your beginner’s guide to knowing nearly everything about Ethernet cables

If you want something even faster than the Cat 6 variant Ethernet cable, then we recommend the Cat 6a, which is a new standard that supports speeds of up to 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second) over 100 meters.

If your main desire is achieving uncompromising amounts of speed on your network, then we highly recommend that you purchase a Cat 5e type Ethernet cable. As mentioned before, if you decide to future proof yourself and prevent networking speeds degradation, then purchasing Cat 6 will be your best bet, although it will set you and your wallet quite a long way back. The only thing that you will have to worry about is neatness, but if that does not concern you, then a wired solution will do your bidding effectively.

Ali Moin

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