CablesRadar is reader-supported. We may earn commissions if you buy through our links.



What Is Ethernet Cables

What Is Ethernet Cable: Features, Benefits, and Categories

Ethernet cables have prevailed for over four decades, but their power is underestimated and obscured. In all these years, they continue to evolve with the aim to meet the demands of even the most challenging enterprises.

However, the actual worth of Ethernet is not explored to the fullest even by professionals. They are not getting optimal performance and high-end capabilities from Ethernet.

Sometimes, minor tweaks, software updates, and configuration modifications make significant performance advancements to the network.

What Is an Ethernet Cable?

An Ethernet cable, also called a network cable, is a cable that connects the laptop, computer, game console, and other devices directly to the router. Connecting the device to the network router via a wired connection is often referred to as hard wiring.

Ethernet cables were the most prevalent way to access the internet before Wi-Fi connection became a standard and devices started connecting wirelessly.

The Ethernet cable comes with the same connectors at both ends that allow connecting to the device at one end and the router at another.

Even today, when you find problems in the Wi-Fi module preventing you from accessing the web, you can use the Ethernet cable to connect to the internet.

What Are the Advantages of Ethernet Cable?

There are multiple advantages or benefits of using an Ethernet than other connections. The most practical advantages are:

1. Higher Speed

Ethernet cables are faster than Wi-Fi connections because the information travels along a consistent line. It’s also more efficient as it sends wireless signals uninterruptedly in all four directions. Data travels faster via wired connection in comparison to Wi-Fi.

2. Greater Bandwidth

Ethernet cables come in different categories ranging from Cat1 to Cat 8. The categories are based on specific parameters such as bandwidth, maximum data transfer rate, and shielding. Cat 6 is an ideal option as it gives greater bandwidth and a higher data transfer rate.

3. Better Security

The wired connection provides complete control over who is using the internet and is considered safer and more secure than wireless signals. The Ethernet cable connectivity does not require encryption as the information is not vulnerable to unauthorized access.

4. Less Interference

When your Wi-Fi signal is not working, most of the time, the reason is the interference caused due to surrounding elements. Since Ethernet cables are shielded, they protect the integrated conductors from the electromagnetic interference caused by lightning or power lines.

5. Wider Options

Not many users know that there are around 8 categories of Ethernet cables available to select from. You can pick one based on the speed and data transfer rate you expect as well as the budget. Although Cat1 to Cat4 is based on older technology, Cat5 and Cat6 can be ideal options for home users.

Ethernet Cable Basics

Talking about the basics of Ethernet cable, there are different methods to shield Ethernet cables. The most common is twisted-pair shields; they provide shielding for cables externally and reduce crosstalk between the internal twisted pair.

Adding shielding to all the wires in the cable just under the cable sheath can further enhance performance. There are different types of codes used to indicate the different types of shielding:

TP = twisted pair, U = unshielded, F = foil shielded, S = braided shielding.

  • U/UTP – Unshielded cable, unshielded twisted pairs
  • F/UTP – Foil shielded cable, unshielded twisted pairs
  • U/FTP – Unshielded cable, foil shielded twisted pairs
  • S/FTP – braided shielded cable, foil shielded twisted pairs

A further bifurcation of Ethernet cables is Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6e, or Cat 7, which can be solid or stranded wires used within the cable.

The electrical conductor of a solid cable is a single piece of copper, whereas the conductor of stranded wire is a series of copper strands twisted together.

Categories of Ethernet Cables

A wide range of cables is available for Ethernet, telecommunications, and networking applications. These cable networks are described as different Ethernet cable categories. Let’s have a look:

  • Cat-1: This cable is not recognized by the TIA/EIA (Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronic Industries Alliance). It is the form of wiring used for POTS, the standard telephone wiring, or for ISDN.
  • Cat-2: This cable is also not recognized by the TIA/EIA, a form of wiring used for 4Mbit/s token ring networks.
  • Cat-3: This cable is defined within TIA/EIA-568-B. This cable is used for data networks employing frequencies up to 16 MHz, and it is famous for use with 10 Mbps Ethernet networks, but now has surpassed by Cat-5 cable. It is mainly used for Phone cables.
  • Cat-4: This cable can carry frequencies up to 20 MHz; it was often used on 16Mbps token ring networks.
  • Cat-5: This is one of the most widely used for 100Base-t and 1000Base-T networks as it provides good performance, which allows data up to 100 Mbps and slightly more (125 MHz for 1000Base-T). Cat 5 cable uses twisted pairs to prevent internal crosstalk, XT, and external crosstalk, AXT. As of now, Cat-5 is obsolete, so it is not recommended for new installations.
  • Cat-5e: This is the latest cable recognized by the TIA/EIA and is defined in TIA/EIA-568; it was revised in 2001. It has a slight high-frequency specification that Cat-5 cable has the performance that can extend up to 125 Mbps.
  • Cat 6: This cable provides a significant improvement in performance compared with Cat5 and Cat5e cable; this cable has twisted pairs of wires inside it, which helps prevent noise interference. Cat-6 can support up to 10 Gbps, but only up to 55 metres.
  • Cat-6a: You might be wondering what makes the “a” make a difference in Cat-6 & Cat6a the “a” here stands for “Augmented”, and the standard was revised in 2008. The 6a cables can support twice the maximum bandwidth and are capable of maintaining the transmission speed at the highest over an extended network length. Cat-6a cables use shielded cables, which are sufficient to eliminate crosstalk virtually but not as flexible as Cat 6 cable.
  • Cat-7: The shield consists of four shielded pairs enclosed within an overall shield. The shield is designed to transmit up to 600 Mbps.
  • Cat-8: Cat 8 cables are available and provide significant data rate/bandwidth increases. The only catch is Cat 8 cables are generally more costly than Cat 6, or even Cat 7.
CategoryShieldingMax Transmission Speed (100 Meters)Max Bandwidth
Cat 3Unshielded10 Mbps16 MHz
Cat 5Unshielded10/100 Mbps100 MHz
Cat 5eUnshielded1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps100 MHz
Cat 6Shielded or Unshielded1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps>250 MHz
Cat 6aShielded10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps500 MHz
Cat 7Shielded10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps600 MHz
Cat 8Shielded25 Gbps or 40Gbps *2000 MHz
electronics-notes.com

Ethernet Cable Connectors

RJ45, a registered jack 45 connector, is considered almost universally the physical connector used for Ethernet cables and networking.

Right from Ethernet category 3 to Cat 6, the RJ45 is the format used. Cat 7 Ethernet cables can be terminated with RJ45 connectors, but GigaGate45 (GG45) is more common.

Ethernet cables have RJ45 connectors at the ends, small plastic plugs with retaining clips that can be released when the cable needs to be removed. The term “Plug” here refers to the male end of connection on the network cable, and the jack refers to port.

The RJ45 connector has around right pins spaced around me 1 mm apart, and the wires are inserted. An 8P8C connector is known as 8P8C – eight position – eight contacts.

Ethernet Cable Maximum Length

Sometimes it is necessary to use long Ethernet cables, but there are limits to the distance over which data can be reliably transmitted.

Data becomes distorted by long Ethernet cables when additional noise is picked up by the cable, which is why a fix length is specified.

SPECIFICATIONCABLE TYPEMAXIMUM LENGTH
10BaseTUnshielded Twisted Pair100 metres
10Base2Thin coaxial cable180 metres
10Base5Thick coaxial cable500 metres
10BaseFFibre optic cable2000 metres
100BaseTUnshielded twisted pair100 metres
100BaseTXUnshielded twisted pair220 metres

There is a wide variety of Ethernet cables connecting different Ethernet elements- Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6 cables and the Ethernet switches, routers, computers, network servers etc.

These Ethernet cables can be linked or patched to multiple items of Ethernet-based equipment, and the cables are also cost-efficient and effective RJ45 connectors.

Sometimes you may require specialized connectivity for crossover cables; apart from this, Cat 5, Cat5e, Cat 6, Cat 7 and now Cat 8 Ethernet cables are all straightforward to use, and there is usually little to no trouble.

How To Connect Ethernet In macOS & Windows Computers?

How To Connect Ethernet In macOS & Windows Computers

Several devices such as MacBooks or Nintendo Switch do not have an Ethernet port, so if you want to connect to the internet via a wired connection, buy a USB to Ethernet adapter.

In MacBooks, you can connect it through a USB-C port and use the USB-A port to connect Switch.

On macOS:

To manage Ethernet connection on MacBook, go to Network Preferences and tap on the Ethernet pane. To tweak these preferences, click on the Apple menu, tap on System Preferences, and select Network. Next, select Ethernet service from the list displayed on the left.

On Windows:

To use Ethernet on a Windows computer, connect the RJ45 connector in the port, and tweak the settings as mentioned here. Click on the Start menu and go to Settings. Tap on Network & Internet, select the Status tab from the left pane and then click Network and Sharing Center.

Choose the Change adapter setting option displayed on the left side, right-click Ethernet, and select Properties. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click Properties. Configure IP and click OK to complete the process.

More About Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables are usually known as RJ45, where RJ stands for Registered Jack, and 45 indicates the number of interfaces in standard configuration. They are available in two different connector styles that include molded connectors and snagless connectors.

You can use online speed test tools such as Speedtest.net to test the internet speed by connecting the laptop with an Ethernet cable and then via Wi-Fi signal.

You will get better speed with the wired connection, and it will be closer to what your internet service provider claims to offer in your particular net plan.

Since Ethernet cables restrict mobility, users are less likely to use them for browsing the web or other internet-related tasks. However, they are faster, more reliable, and more secure than Wi-Fi connectivity.

Lower latency is another benefit that makes them one of the best ways to access the internet, preferably while making transactions or shopping online.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethernet

https://www.electronics-notes.com/articles/connectivity/ethernet-ieee-802-3/cables-types-pinout-cat-5-5e-6.php