Ethernet cables are thick and flexible cables commonly used to connect a modem to a router as well to connect a router to a computer. These cables have been in market since 1985 and from there on many different types of Ethernet cables have been developed, and each type contain different specifications such as shielding from electromagnet interface, data transmission speed and possible bandwidth frequency range necessary to achieve the speed.
When setting up an internet connection, a proper Ethernet cables to attach your computer to a modem will be needed. While connecting the cable can be considered a simple task, finding the right one may be a more complex one. Although these cables may all look similar, their specifications can vary. The different types of Ethernet cables are divided in categories and a few of the most common of them are:
Category 3 (Cat 3) – one of the oldest form of Ethernet cables which still in use today. Its capable of carrying 10 megabits per second of data or voice transmission. Its maximum possible bandwidth is 16 MHz.
Category 5 (Cat 5) – the next in line to the cat 3, able to carry data at a higher transfer rate. Cat 5 introduced the 10/100 Mbps speed to the Ethernet, meaning that it can support either 10 MBPS or 100MBPS speeds, which is known as fast Ethernet. It can also be used for telephone signals and video. Cat 5 was the first capable Fast Ethernet cables introduced, displaced by the newer 5e categories.
Category 5e (Cat 5e) – an increased version of Cat5, optimized to reduce crosstalk and unwanted transmission of signals between data channels. Cat 5e works for 10/100 Mbps and 100 Mbps Ethernet, and these cables become the most widely used category of Ethernet cables available on the market and can be used in any modern network installation.
Category 6 (Cat 6)– The biggest difference between Cat 5e and Cat 6 is the transmission performance. Cat 6 are certified to handle Gigabit Ethernet with a bandwidth of up to 250 MHz. Improvements such as better insulation and thinner wires, are responsible to provide a higher signal and is better suited for higher electromagnet interference environments.
Category 6a (Cat 6a) – Improves the Cat 6 cable by allowing 10,000 Mbps data transmission rates and effectively doubling the maximum bandwidth to 500 MHz. These cables require specialized connectors that ground the cable.
Category 7 (Cat 7 or Class F) – a fully shielded cable able to support speeds of up to 10 Gbps and bandwidths of up to 600 MHz. These shielded cables are thicker, more bulky and also difficult to bend. Additionally, it has to be grounded, otherwise reduction of the performance may occur and there will be no improvement over Cat 6, and performance may be worse than Cat 5.
It you are looking to buy Ethernet cables, it is important to research what type of cable will work better with your equipment. Price and quality of the Ethernet cables, as well type and the number of device will be connected to the network is also important to be considered.