Which Ethernet Cable to Use for Your Network Needs?

We all use ethernet cables in our homes and workplaces. Whether you're running your own media server or simply want to share files between computers, it's important to understand the differences between popular LAN cables.

Ethernet Cable Types

Ethernet cables are classified into various categories, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. These categories offer different data transmission speeds, electromagnetic shielding, frequency ranges, and gauge sizes.

1. CAT 5 Ethernet Cable

Cat 5 ethernet cable succeeded Cat 3 and 4 and was designed to support higher speeds. It can handle data transfer speeds of either 10 or 100 Mbps. Cat 5 was the first ethernet cable to also support video and telephone signals. However, it has become obsolete in most countries and is no longer in use.

2. CAT 5e Ethernet Cable

Cat 5e was introduced to address the shortcomings of Cat 5 and enhance its functionalities. It can transmit data at speeds of up to 1000 Mbps and offers better control over speeds by utilizing all four twisted pairs of wires. Cat 5e is backward compatible with Cat 5 and is recognized by industry standards.

3. CAT 6 Ethernet Cable

Cat 6 was developed to handle more data at faster speeds. It offers a bandwidth of 250 MHz and improved insulation to handle electromagnetic interference. Cat 6 ethernet cables are available in both UTP and STP forms and are backward compatible with Cat 5 and Cat 5e. While Cat 6 is suitable for special purposes, Cat 5e is more affordable and commonly used in households and small businesses.

4. CAT 6a Ethernet Cable

Cat 6a offers minor enhancements such as a bandwidth frequency of up to 500 MHz and data transmission speeds of up to 10,000 Mbps. It requires a special connector and is not readily available in UTP form. Cat 6a is shielded and offers improved performance.

5. CAT 7 Ethernet Cable

Cat 7 offers the same speed as Cat 6a but increases bandwidth to 600 MHz. It is fully shielded with SSTP wires and layers of insulation. Cat 7 cables are thick and less flexible. They are suitable for LAN and modem connections and work at a range of up to 15 meters.

How to Choose an Ethernet Cable

Your choice of ethernet cable will depend on your internet connection and network speeds. For home usage, Cat 5e should suffice, while Cat 6 is recommended for office settings. Cat 7 is unnecessary for most users and not yet a recognized standard.

In conclusion, the higher the category, the more shielding and faster speeds you get. Consider factors such as electromagnetic disturbance, required speeds, and cost when choosing an ethernet cable for your network needs.