What Is An Ethernet Cable? Its Types, And What Does It Do?

Most people use wireless devices like laptops and phones to access the internet. Wi-Fi provides fast connections that broadcast in your house, but if you’re using a desktop computer then an Ethernet cable is necessary for physical connectivity to this network.

Ethernet cables are the original way to connect your PC with routers and modems. They typically look clunky, but they will provide faster speeds than WiFi networks can offer so it’s worth considering them!

What is an Ethernet Cable?

Ethernet cables are what you use to connect your PC or gaming console (or any device) to what’s known as a router. Routers help distribute the internet connection around Local Area Networks, and in order for that to happen, they need this type of cable.

The length and quality of ethernet cable determine how fast data gets transmitted at both ends – too long; old wires may cause poor connections with major packet loss!

The reason why it’s used when wifi isn’t perfect is that wireless connections can be unreliable.

You might find out that the Wifi signal could go down due to some interfering factors such as distance from a network location, objects like a brick wall that would mess up its connection, and whatever affects its connection capacity.

Wi-Fi or Ethernet Cable: Which one is Best?

Ethernet cables may be old tech, but they have their advantages as well. For one, the speeds on a wired network are typically faster than what you can achieve wirelessly.

While on the other hand, wifi is what most people use these days, because they are more convenient, but it can get slower sometimes due to interference that may block the wireless signal.

However, the majority of the users use wireless devices like smartphones and laptops which use wireless technology to connect to the internet.

But if you’re using a desktop computer, then you’re gonna need ethernet cables that help you build a stable, faster, and more secure internet connection.

The Different Types of Ethernet Cables and What They’re Used For

An ethernet cable is what allows a device to connect to the internet or a network. There are various types of cables, each used in different areas depending on the internet speed.

If you need to purchase a new one, it can be confusing which kind you should get. This guide will help you pick out what’s right for your needs and what some of the more common types are.

The eight main types, each with their own name represented by “CAT” which simply means category, and the number which represents the version of the specific ethernet cord.

CategoryShieldingMaximum FrequencyTransfer Rates (at 100m)
Cat 1No10kHz1Mbps
Cat 2No1Mhz4Mbps
Cat 3No16Mhz10Mbps
Cat 4No16Mhz10Mbps
Cat 5No100MHz100Mbps
Cat 5eNo100MHz1Gbps
Cat 6Sometimes250Mhz1Gbps
Cat 6aSometimes500MHz10Gbps
Cat 7Yes600Mhz10Gbps
Cat 8Yes2GHz (2,000MHz)40Gbps

Cat 3

CAT3 was the third version of the internet cables developed way back in the 1990s. It is only capable of running at 16 Mbit/s but was used for the first few decades of the internet as it was better than what people had at the time.

It is now entirely obsolete, but if you have some old computers or something around from that era and want to connect them to your home network, CAT3 cable will do just that.

Just don’t try running anything on it that’s more advanced than what was around in the 1990s since it can’t support anything.

Cat 5

CAT5 was the first generation of what is considered high-speed. This cable can support speeds up to 100 Mbit/s but isn’t as popular because newer and better cables are now available.

The original CAT5 is not used anymore, there’s an enhanced version of this cable which is mostly used in today’s connections.

Cat 5e

This version of cable is what most people who are building a new network at home will use. It can handle speeds of up to 1000 Mbit/s, but it doesn’t come with shielded insulation that can cause electromagnetic interference.

If there’s no risk of interference, then the CAT5e is what you want to go with because it’ll provide better performance overall than old versions.

Cat 6

CAT6 is what you want to go with if you have a lot of interference and need the best performance that cat6 cable can provide. It can handle speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s, and it also has shielded insulation which helps prevent electromagnetic interference.

Unfortunately, 10Gbit/s transfer rates are possible as long as the cable is no more than 55 meters in length, but if you want to use it over 100m then speeds drop down close to 1 Gbit/s. Since there’s no practical use for a cable over 100m, this isn’t a big problem.

Cat 6a

Cat 6a cables are the next step up from Cat 6. They can handle higher bandwidths and longer distances, making them perfect for use in large buildings like office complexes or factories with many floors that require a lot of cable running throughout their halls.

The shielding prevents interference between adjacent wires while its reinforced sheathing makes it more durable than other types of wire-based cabling. When installed correctly using approved cable management products, CAT6a can be expected to last indefinitely.

Cat 7

The newest version of ethernet available is the CAT7 cable. It was developed in 2014 and has a data transfer rate of 10GBit/s over 100 meters (328 feet). This cable also offers speeds up to 100 Gbps within 15 meters.

Cat 7 is always come shielded which makes it one of the safest options available for network connections. It uses the GigaGate 45 connector which is just like an RJ45 connector.

This connector will work with RJ45 ports from previous versions making it possible to use older hardware with newer technology.

Unfortunately, the Cat 7 standard was a failed project to make Ethernet more efficient. Why? Because the GG45 connector is a proprietary component that has caused some difficulty in following previous Ethernet standards.

The Cat 7 standard was difficult to follow for most manufacturers, so they avoided it and developed the older Cat 6a instead. That’s the reason why most people use cat6 instead of cat7 cables, but now cat7 cables are also available with RJ45 connectors.

Cat 8

Cat 8 cables are popular among gamers who want the most out of their hardware. These new Cat 8 cables offer high frequencies and speeds to support the best gaming experience at the lowest ping possible, but they require shielding in order for them to work properly.

You’ll never find an unshielded Cat8 cable because it would interfere with other electronics – even nearby power lines!

With a frequency of 2000 MHz (2GHz), this cable provides you with a transfer rate of up to 40Gbps. This means you can transfer files at a speed of 40GB per second over a 100 meters long Cat8 cable.

This cable also offers backward compatibility with the older versions, so what makes it stand out from its predecessors is the shielding and connectors. It skips the connector mess of Cat 7, which benefits both the users and the cable manufacturers.

Understanding Electromagnetic Shielding

Ethernet cables might seem like a simple and straightforward purchase, but there are still many considerations to be made.

One aspect that you have to take into account when choosing an ethernet cable is the electromagnetic shielding of the copper wires inside it.

The shield protects your wiring from interference in electrical conduits by providing stability for good transmission speeds; without this protection, performance will suffer greatly!

The types of shielding that an ethernet cable uses are as follows:

UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair): A UTP cable is the most popular type available on the market. It has 4 pairs of wiring, capable of transmitting 10 Mbps or 100Mbit/s, which we mostly find in Cat 5, Cat 5e, and Cat 6 cables.

Because it doesn’t contain any shielding, this is what’s known as an unshielded twisted pair (UTP). This means that you shouldn’t plug your UTP ethernet cable into a wall or floor outlet.

FTP (Foiled Twisted Pair): An FTP cable is an advanced version of UTP, which comes equipped with shielding. This type of cable can support speeds up to 1000 Mbps or more.

However, you should note that it’s not recommended for use in residential areas because it tends to produce a lot of interference.

STP (Shielded Twisted Pair): An STP cable is what’s known as a shielded twisted pair (STP), which offers superior performance over UTPs.

Furthermore, you should note that it will produce less interference because of its shielding. The STP cable, however, has a tendency to become less flexible due to the extra layers of shielding.

SFTP (Shield Foiled Twisted Pair): An SFTP cable is what’s known as a shielded foiled twisted pair (SFTP), which offers superior performance over both UTP and STP cables. It has an extra layer of shielding that makes it immune to interference from external factors.

STP & SFTP are what we usually see used in industrial settings because they offer better protection against signal degradation due to electromagnetic interference than what other types can provide.

As such, they’re what you’d want to keep on your computer or device if you live in an area where there’s a lot of radio frequency pollution.

Flat cable or Round cable: Which is Better?

When it comes to Ethernet cables, the type you choose is more of a personal preference.

Flat cables are much easier to run along the floor and walls while round ones might seem a bit less messy if you have tighter spaces in your home.

They’re also more ergonomic, able to adapt when space gets tight but they do come with one major weakness: their shields offer weaker protection for copper wires against electromagnetic waves than those of round cable which means that this type can’t be used in high-risk situations where these EMF’s may pose danger.

Whereas rounded cables are bulkier and not able to be hidden easily. It has a more robust shield that provides better protection for the copper wires against electromagnetic waves, which makes it perfect if you need it in buildings or when running through walls.

Ethernet Connectors

A typical Ethernet connector has eight pins, which fit into a small metal socket. To plug in the cord correctly, you must push on these connectors until they lock together and stay firm: this is what makes them more secure so that they can’t be easily pulled off by mistake.

Ethernet cables have different types of 8P8C connectors and knowing this will help you understand Ethernet categories more clearly!

RJ45: The “Registered Jack 45” connector was invented in 1962 by James H. Burton, who is also responsible for Ethernet cables and the RJ45 connectors they use today.

This style of connection can be seen on nearly every type of cable from Cat 1 to Cat 8 with two variations: T568B or less common T568A (not particularly important unless you are doing detailed wiring).

GG45: Ethernet Cat 7 cables came with a new connector called GigaGate45, or GG45. It was a connector that came with an additional conductor for some frequency versatility.

Though it is backward compatible, the new connector never took off and Cat 8 switched back to RJ45 connectors due to this reason.

Wrapping Up!

Ethernet cables have been used for decades to connect a network. How do you know which type of cable is best?

Here’s what you need to know about the different types of ethernet cables and how they compare when it comes to speed, shielding quality, flexibility, electromagnetic interference protection (EMI), and more!

You’ll also learn what exactly each type of Ethernet Cable offers so that you can make sure your internet connection stays fast and reliable no matter where life takes you!