What is an Ethernet Cable and How Does It Work?

ethernet cables plugged into ethernet ports

Last Updated on July 19, 2022 by Josh Mahan

Ethernet cables are a vital part of networking but can be confusing. You’ve probably heard the term ethernet before, but what does it mean? This article will explain what an ethernet cable is and how it works.

What is an Ethernet Cable?

The ethernet cable is a networking cable that connects computer systems, routers, and laptops in a local area network. Ethernet cables are made of copper wire and have a plastic jacket that protects the wire.

Related: What is a KVM Switch? 4 Category Buyers Guide

How Does an Ethernet Cable Work?

They work by transmitting data through the wires inside the ethernet cable. The wires are twisted together to minimize interference from other devices. The data is transmitted in electrical signals that travel through the wire. These signals are then converted into bits that a computer can read. 

Types of Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables come in two different types that are commonly used: stranded cables and solid cables

Stranded Cable

Stranded Ethernet cables are more flexible than solid cables and are less likely to kink. They’re also more resistant to interference. However, they’re less durable than solid cables and are more expensive.

Solid Cable

Solid cables are less flexible but have faster connections. They are more durable and also less expensive. Solid cables are less likely to experience interference from other devices.

Related: Data Center Cabling Best Practices Guide

Categories of Ethernet Cables

Cat 6 ethernet cable

Ethernet cables are categorized by their speed and bandwidth.

  • Category 5 (Cat 5) ethernet cable. Cat 5 ethernet cables can support data rates up to 100 Mbps and have a bandwidth of 100 MHz. You can use them for 100BaseT Ethernet.
  • Category 5e (Cat 5e) ethernet cable. An improved version of Cat 5 cable. Cat 5e Ethernet cables can support data rates up to Gbps and have a bandwidth of 100 MHz. You can use them for 100BaseT Ethernet in residential homes.
  • Category 6 (Cat 6) ethernet cable. Cat 6 ethernet cables can support data rates up to 1 Gbps and have a bandwidth of 250 MHz. You can use them for Gigabit Ethernet in commercial buildings.
  • Category 6a (Cat 6a) ethernet cable. Cat 6a ethernet cables can support data rates up to 10 Gbps and have a bandwidth of 500 MHz. You can use them for Gigabit Ethernet in commercial buildings and data centers.
  • Category 7 (Cat 7) ethernet cable. Cat 7 ethernet cables can support data rates up to 10 Gbps and have a bandwidth of 600 MHz. You can use them for 10 Gbps Core Infrastructure.
  • Category 7a (Cat 7a) ethernet cable. Cat 7a ethernet cables can support data rates up to 10 Gbps and have a bandwidth of 1000 MHz. You can use them for 10 Gbps Core Infrastructure.
  • Category 8 (Cat 8) ethernet cable. The newest type of ethernet cable. Cat 8 ethernet cables can support data rates up to 40 Gigabits per second and have a bandwidth of 2000 MHz. You can use them for 40 Gbps Core Infrastructure in data centers.

Do you need help deciding how much power you need? Alterum Technologies can help you plan and design a power system that is perfect for your needs.

Ethernet Cables vs. Wireless Networks

Ethernet cables have many benefits, but they also have some drawbacks. You should consider the pros and cons of ethernet before deciding if it is compatible with your in-home network or office.

The Benefits of Ethernet Cables

Here are some benefits of using ethernet cables over wireless networks: 

  • Speed. Ethernet connections usually have faster speeds than other networking cables and wi-fi types.
  • Reliability. Ethernet is more reliable than wi-fi connections because it is not affected by interference from walls or other objects. 
  • Security. Ethernet cables offer more protection than wireless networks because unauthorized devices cannot access them.
  • Installation. Ethernet cables are easier to install than wireless networks.
  • Cost. Ethernet is less expensive than other types of cables, such as fiber-optic cables

The Drawbacks of Ethernet Cables

There are also some disadvantages of using ethernet cables: 

  • Limitations. You can only use ethernet cables to connect devices with ethernet ports within a specific range. Wireless networks have a more extended range and can be used to connect far apart devices.
  • Clutter. Ethernet cables can create clutter in your home or office because you need to route them through walls and ceilings. Wireless networks do not have this problem.

Related: On-Premise Data Centers vs. Colocation Guide

How to Choose the Right Ethernet Cable

ethernet ports on an electronic device

When choosing an ethernet cable, you need to consider the cable’s speed, type, and length.

Ethernet Cable Speed

Ethernet cables are categorized by their speed and bandwidth. The higher the speed, generally, the more expensive the cable. If you are only using your cable for internet browsing and email, then a Cat 5 or Cat 5e cable will be sufficient. However, if you are using your cable for gaming or streaming video, you will need a Cat 6 or Cat 7 cable. 

Ethernet Cable Type

The cable you choose will depend on your internet connection speed and how far you need the cable to run. If you need a cable to run for more than 100 meters, you’ll have to use Cat 6a or Cat 7a. Fiber-optic cables are more expensive but can handle higher data speeds and longer distances. 

Ethernet Cable Length

The length of an ethernet cable also affects the speed of the connection. When using long Ethernet cables, it is crucial to remember that there are limits to how far the data can travel without becoming distorted. The cable picks up additional noise, which eventually interferes with the data. The maximum length for a 10BaseT cable is 100 meters, while the maximum length for a 10BaseF is 2000 meters.

Final Thoughts on Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables are an excellent choice for home and office networks because they are fast, reliable, and secure. However, when choosing one for your network, you need to consider the cable’s speed, type, and length.

If you need help planning your next data center, contact Alterum Technologies to schedule a free consultation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five × two =

Scroll to Top