The Basics of Ethernet Cables

Depending on your lifestyle, you may not deal with Ethernet cables on a day to day basis. Most people rely on Wi-Fi for internet connectivity in today’s age. However, the Ethernet cable is a cornerstone for everything from home use to corporate servers.

Ethernet started out very modestly, as a means to connect a series of printers to a computer. It has since transitioned into supplying internet to a countless number of people around the world.

When looking at Ethernet cables, you’ll encounter “Cat” on each cable. This is an abbreviation for the word “Category,” and is commonly followed by a number, which can be followed by a letter in some cases. In general, the higher the number, the faster the speeds and the higher the frequencies. The most common categories include Cat5e and Cat6, with Cat8 being defined for use in the server rack and/or datacenter.

The Ethernet cables used for home and work are most likely made up of pairs of wires that are twisted together inside of the cable. Both Cat5 and Cat6 cables use this. By doing this, the wires in each pair balance the surrounding electrical field, as one wire’s current is moving in one direction, and the other wire’s is moving the opposite way. In some cables, a shield is placed around each pair in order to prevent cross-talk between pairs and reduce other sources of outside interference. This helps maintain the base level of performance regardless of what electrical forces may be at play.

Going even further inside of the cable, the individual wires themselves might be different from cable to cable. For the wires, there are two different types: solid and stranded. A solid wire uses one single piece of copper. It isn’t the most flexible, however, it is more durable than a stranded wire. Solid wires are used for “permanent” runs, while stranded wires are used patch cables that bridge devices to permanent links and vice-versa. A stranded wire uses a series of copper strands that are twisted together, allowing the wire itself to be more flexible, being much more conducive to moving.

Whether you connect your desktop at home for faster speeds or use Ethernet at your business to stay reliably connected, these cables have become one of the keystones of internet connectivity. With this knowledge, buying Ethernet cables will be a lot less daunting, and you’re better equipped to understand which will be the best for your needs.

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