The Main Components of an Ethernet Cable

The Main Components of an Ethernet Cable

Our networks have numerous cables and devices, such as the ethernet cable, that allow us to transfer data and connect to different machines. The ethernet cable is a complex piece of technology with multiple parts performing various operations within the system. Knowing these components is essential for repairing and replacing an ethernet cable and will enhance a network.

The Purpose of Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables function as a bridge between two devices that require data. The cable connects these devices and allows them to share data as a part of a network. Through an ethernet switch or router, multiple devices may connect with an ethernet cable and make a Limited Area Network (LAN).


We classify the metal materials in ethernet cables as conductors, which may consist of various metals and alloys. Conductors may include pure materials such as gold or aluminum or mixed materials such as cerium oxide. Aluminum and copper are the most commonly used materials for conductors due to their ability to transfer electricity at higher frequencies.

What Are Conductors For?

Many metals have an essential role in technology thanks to their durability and ability to conduct electricity. Conductors are indispensable to any cable that transfers electricity from one source to another. Conductors in ethernet cables are necessary to transfer data at higher speeds. More data may transfer depending on the materials the conductors are made from. Thicker conductors, like in Cat6 cables, transfer more data at greater distances due to the higher conductivity.


Outside the conductors is a layer of a plastic polymer called insulation. All ethernet cables have some form of insulation on each conductor, and the type of plastic polymer may vary, with some being more dense or flexible.

Why Does an Ethernet Cable Need Insulation?

Insulation is an important component of an ethernet cable as it prevents interference from electromagnetic waves of devices or other nearby cables. The interference may disrupt data transfer and lead to glitches or corrupt data in a system. The insulation also acts as a barrier to the conductors and protects them from blunt force damage. Insulating the wires in a cable will contain the signals the conductors transfer to prevent loss of signal strength.


Shielding is an important part of ethernet cables if you need more protection in your cables. Many ethernet cables have some form of shielding to protect them from the interference of incoming signals from radio or EM waves. Types of shielding, such as braided or foil, are the most common and offer quality coverage and flexibility in cables.

Cable Jacket

The cable jacket is the outermost layer of the ethernet cable and consists of another plastic polymer called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is a strong and flexible material that allows a cable to bend numerous ways without losing strength or breaking. The material is also moisture and weather-resistant, making ethernet cables a viable option in various settings.

What Does the Cable Jacket Do?

The cable jacket is responsible for two things: holding the conductors and their insulation together and protecting the conductors from outside forces. The conductors need to stay together as they transfer data between devices, and the strong material of the jacket will do that.

The PVC of the jacket is resistant to most forces, such as an object falling on the cable or a wheel rolling over it. The jacket will dampen the impact and remain intact and prevent anything from getting inside the cable.

RJ45 Connector

This plastic tip is a main component of the ethernet cable that differentiates it from other cables. The leads of the conductors are inserted into the RJ45 connector. A crimping tool clamps the conductors with the plastic connector and terminates the cable, creating a complete ethernet cable.

What Is the Purpose of the RJ45 Connector?

The purpose of an RJ45 is to establish a connection to the designated device with an ethernet port. The connector is easily the most essential piece of an ethernet cable, as the cable would not connect to anything without it. The connector also holds other parts, such as the metal plate and protective tab, that are essential to the cable’s ability to connect to other technology in a network.

Protective Tab

The protective tab is a prominent part of the ethernet cable and sits on the top of the RJ45 connector. The tab connects to the cable jacket and acts as the locking mechanism that holds an ethernet cable in place as it attaches to a device. Since data transfer is a continuous process, the cable end needs to remain plugged in to prevent disruption of the process. Protective tabs are simple to use and only require you to push them down as you plug in or unplug the cable, and then let go.

Metal Pins

A row of metal pins lies at the bottom of every ethernet cable RJ45 connector. These eight pins are responsible for connecting the conductors to the pins in the ethernet port to transfer and receive data. Pins 1 and 2 are twisted together and act as the positive and negative signal that transmits data, while pins 3 and 6 are the positive and negative signals that receive data. Both pairs of pins act as the input and output of the ethernet cable.

Crossover Cables

Another type of ethernet cable, a crossover cable, is similar in structure to an ethernet cable. Instead of connecting to different devices, it connects to similar devices, such as two computers or switches. A regular ethernet cable will use pins 1 and 2 to transmit data, which won’t work in a similar device that expects to receive data at pins 3 and 6. A crossover cable will work best for this scenario because it allows transmitting and receiving with the same pins, so pins 1 and 2 will match with other computers’ pins 1 and 2.

Multiple components allow an ethernet cable to function. Knowing these components will help you decide what ethernet cables work best for a network and how to troubleshoot them if a problem arises.

The Main Components of an Ethernet Cable

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