Network cable

 

In the current century, it feels like being eliminated from the society without internet. Every household needs the internet. Be it wired network or WLAN, both can’t do without ethernet cable.

However, there are a variety of ethernet cables in the market, Cat5(Category 5), Cat5e(Category 5 enhanced), Cat6, UTP, STP, how to find the appropriate cables?

In this article, it will guide you to the correct way to determine which cables suit you. Buy what is right, not what is expensive.

First, you need to determine the transmission rate in your household.

Is it Fast Ethernet(100Mb)?

If yes, rest assured, the only criteria needs to be considered is the durability, Cat6 or Cat5e, UTP or STP do not matter.

You must be curious and want to know why at this point. This is because Fast Ethernet needs only 4 wires, refer to example below.
4wires-cable

All the ethernet cables in the market can reach 8 wires. Don’t worry, dudes.

 

But, if it is a Gigabit ethernet(1000Mb),

it depends on the condition. Majority thinks that Cat6 cables are required, while some also think that Cat5 is sufficient.

Based on my personal experience, Cat5 can be used for short distance, but long distance still needs to use Cat6 or Cat5e. Fast Ethernet and Gigabit ethernet are different.

Gigabit needs to use 8 wires, which Cat5 can fulfill this requirement. But, the signal  frequency of Gigabit ethernet is much higher than Fast Ethernet. Hence, Cat6 cables are twisted far more tightly, and use the cross-bone separator to reduce interference among the 4 pairs of wires. Those are advantageous on long distance transmission.

Therefore, for Gigabit ethernet, it has no problem to use Cat5 or Cat5e cables at short distance (within 15 feet), as there will be no significant speed reduction. While for longer distance, it is recommended to use Cat6 cable.

So, how to distinguish between Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6 cables? They share the same end piece,konwn as an RJ45!

Generally, manufacturers will indicate the type on the jacket of the cable. If the jacket is worn and unrecognizable, then need to determine through the physical appearance of the cable.

Cat5(or Cat5e) and Cat6 cables are easier to be distinguished. The core of Cat6 cable has cross-bone separator to isolate each pair of wire, while Cat5 doesn’t have. Cat5 and Cat5e are difficult to identify directly. It will be easier to tell them apart by comparison: Cat5e is thicker, and the twisting is also tighter.

cat6

cat5e

 

Lastly the 10G ethernet.

It is generally believed that 10G ethernet needs Cat7 cables. But from my opinion, short distance transmission can still be replaced by Cat6 cables. While for long distance, it is better to choose cat6a or Cat7 cables to enjoy the high speed.

However, Cat7 cables are not officially recognized, the good and bad are intermingled. Furthermore, the type of Cat7 cables are shielded, which means the price is more expensive, and the equipment for 10G ethernet also cost more.

So for 10G, it is recommended to use optical fiber for transmission. You must have heard of FTTH (Fiber to the Home), and ISP’s(Internet service providers) are using fiber for transmission. Although ISP’s usually provides you with Fast Ethernet, they still use fiber due to the low price and large bandwidth of fiber.

What’s more, if there is an upgrade of the network, they don’t have to re-route, since the fiber transmission is still usable.

 

While for shielded and unshielded cables,

personally, I think, in the case of general households, unshielded cable can meet almost all requirements. If it is  using Cat7 cable or for data center, shielded cable needs to be considered.

data-center

Shielded cables are divided into many types. Common naming method including F/UTP, S/FTP, etc. The slash “/” front letter indicates the total shield wrapped around the 4 pairs of wires. The slash “/” followed by the letter refers to the independent shield of each pair. S means woven-wire shield, F stands for foil shield, and U indicates unshielded.

Aluminum foil is used for electromagnetic shielding, to reduce the high frequency interference from other wires or communication devices (mobile phones, WiFi, etc.), not necessary to connect to ground.

The woven mesh is required for electrostatic shielding. By connecting to ground, only can direct the electric charge into ground, which can be caused by electrical equipment (such as motor) or caused by weather factors.

cable-utp_ftp_sfp

By comparing with unshielded cable, shielded cable is larger in diameter, and more expensive. It is less likely to bend, so wiring is more difficult.

If you decided to use shielded cable, you need to ensure the entire system is shielded too, which including the keystone coupler, modular plug, patch panel. All this equipments are not cheap and all the system requires good grounding.

When you want to purchase a ethernet cable, you should consider your needs, whether a 1000Mb or even 10G ethernet, and the transmission distance. If you’re using it in household, do not consider shielding cable. Besides, try to choose a higher-level network cable (cat6a>cat6>cat5e>cat5) at the same price. Of course, considering the network upgrade in the future, the higher the level the better, depending on your budget.

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