Ethernet Cables: Everything You Need to Know


Internet connections are everywhere, be it home or workplace. If you have a business, you are probably using some sort of internet connection. Now, if you want to build a stable network for yourself, you must have a basic understanding about the cables. There are various factors that go behind developing a network that is long lasting and you do not want to overspend while installing them. Thus, after reading this article, you will know which cable fits your requirements. First let us see what ethernet cables are.

What are Ethernet Cables?

Ethernet cables are the internet cables that connect networking components like routers, switches, computers, modems, etc. The cables carry traffic between the two nodes by giving access to the local area network (LAN). Even though nowadays we have Wifi connections, wired connections are still a  thing if you want stable and secure connections. Let us have a quick view at the history of the ethernet connections to know how and why it all started.

History of Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables were developed by Bob Metcalfe in 1974. It was created with the aim of connecting computers, printers, servers and sharing data with high-speed networking systems. Ethernet commercially entered the market in 1980 and IEEE standardized it in 1983. Let us know the types or categories of cables.

Categories of Ethernet Cables

There are different categories of ethernet cables and we usually call them by the short form Cat. The categories are based on the bandwidth, shielding and data rate of the cables. We will discuss them one by one.

Cat 1

These are the unshielded twisted pair of cables that were mostly useful for connecting telephones at homes or offices.

Cat 2

These cables are unshielded twisted pairs that were useful for communicating voice as well data at the transmission rate of 4 Mbps.

Cat 3

This unshielded twisted pair of cables has four twisted pairs. The purpose of these cables was to carry digital voice communications. They can carry data at the speed of 10 Mbps.

Cat 4

This UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) has eight copper wires twisted in 4 pairs. They can support data up to the speed of 16 Mbps.

Cat 5

These are the twisted pair of cables available in shielded and unshielded form. Their primary usage is for computer networking. It supports the data rate up to 100 Mbps. The updated version of these cables was launched in 2001 and was named as Cat5e network cables. These Cat5e network cables can carry data at the speed of 1 Gbps. They have shielding and are resistant to cross talk. If 1 Gbps speed fits your business requirements then they are the best affordable choice. Thus, these cables are useful for home and office internet connections.

Cat 6

Cat 6 ethernet cable is the standardized twisted pair. It is an upgrade of cat5e cables. The 4 twisted pairs inside the cable have a physical separator. Thus, this helps it in providing greater bandwidth without disturbance. Cat 6 ethernet cables have a data rate of 10 Gbps for shorter distances. It is a successor to cat 6 with enhanced performance standards.

Cat 7

Cat 7 has similar characteristics to cat 6a but has better shielding and connectors. The data rate is 40 Gbps up to a distance of 50 meters. The speed can be as high as 100 Gbps for a smaller distance up to 15 meters. However, these are not as popular as other cables as they were not approved by IEEE.

Cat 8

The next in the queue is Cat 8 ethernet cables. These cables have a layer of conductive material and its purpose is to protect the internal conductors from EMI (Electromagnetic Interference). They provide data rates up to 40 Gbps over the distance of 30 meters. These cables have additional shielding and a protective layer and due to this reason, there is almost no possibility of crosstalk. Hence, due to these reasons, these cables are thick and difficult to install in places with turns and corners.


Usually, the termination of ethernet cables is RJ45 connector, where RJ stands for Registered Jack. This is a standard physical network connection. These patch cables are usually shorter in length than standard cables. Here are some types of ethernet connectors.

  1. Molded: These are permanently attached to the cable from the manufacturing stage itself. We call this process a boot.  This way it can handle a high number of insertion and removal without breaking.
  2. Snagless: These connectors have  a boot like design that prevents connectors lock from snapping off. They are useful when the frequency of connecting and disconnecting cables is high.

Cable Styles

There are three types of cable styles. Let us have a look at them one by one.

  1. Slim Cables: These ethernet cables that have diameter almost 50% less than the Cat 6 cables.  They are lighter in weight and are easier to install. So, they are the best choice for high density racks with limited space and a space for airflow.
  2. Flat Cables: These cables have a specific usage due to properties like heat dissipation, ability to distribute load evenly, strong, lightweight and tangle free. They can run under carpets or for daily rough usages.
  3. Armored Cable: These cables have an outer layer made from thermoplastic polyurethane. Due to this, theta are strong, flexible and cut restaurants. All these features make it long lasting and suitable for outdoor locations where chances of the cable breaking are high.


While selecting an ethernet cable for your home or office, the first thing you will need to consider is Category of the ethernet cables. The data rate requirement varies depending on its purpose. Once you have that sorted you can consider other factors like you wish to have shielded or unshielded cables. Your budget may vary on what type of cables you want. Thus, having knowledge on types of cables will help you select the best for your connection. If you have a general usage then cat 5e network cable is the best. But, if you want a higher data rate and have a budget to spare then cat 8 ethernet cables will serve your purpose now and in future as well.

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