How to choose an Ethernet Cable
What is an Ethernet Cable?
An Ethernet cable is a four-pair network cable utilised in wired networks. Ethernet cables readily connect devices such as PCs, printers, wireless access points (WAPs) and security cameras to switches and routers within a local area network (LAN). Put simply, an Ethernet cable allows a user to physically connect their computer or device to the internet.
There are a number of considerations when choosing an ethernet cable. The standards state that a network cable cannot exceed 90 metres per device. This is because beyond 90 metres, the quality of the network signal cannot be guaranteed. The type of ethernet cable selected must also directly correlate to the speed the network is designed to operate at.
How does it work?
Ethernet cables are used to connect devices to a local area network in order to provide a reliable internet connection. The installation is usually done by a qualified data technician or electrician holding the appropriate licence.
Once the devices are connected to the LAN, the WiFi router or modem is connected to the internet via a telephone line. You can also use it to connect devices such as TVs and gaming devices that need stable internet or a network to operate smoothly.
Types of Ethernet Cable
Each type of Ethernet cable is assigned a different category, which are essentially version numbers. The higher numbers mean the cable is more modern and will run higher data rates. The types of Ethernet Cables are described below.
An upgrade from the initial outdated Cat5 cable, Cat5e is currently being phased out in favour of Cat6. Whilst a Cat5e network will still run 1 Gbps, most networks require a more robust cabling infrastructure.
Cat6 is now the base-level for ethernet cabling and will ultimately replace Cat5e as the new norm. These cables readily support speeds up to 1 Gbps, and 10 Gbps up to 55 metres.
Cat6A is an upgraded version of the standard Cat6, but in most cases has shielding to block EMI and RFI. Cat6A is a good choice where interference from other equipment such as a radio tower or electrical substations could cause signal issues. Now widely used in hospitals, data centres and any building with LAN speeds of 10 Gbps.
Cat7 is a proprietary shielded system that has not been accepted by the market due to high cost and little advantage over Cat6A.
Cat8 is currently capable of running up to 40 Gbps (over reduced distances) but is currently too cost-prohibitive when compared to the price and reliability of a fibre network.
Does the length of the Ethernet Cable matter?
The length does not affect performance as long as the cabled network complies with local and international standards. All trained and licenced installers will be aware of the standards relating to installation and performance. These standards state that the cable run cannot exceed 90 metres plus 10 metres of patch cord.
AS/NZS 11801.1:2019 is the standard that directly relates to Australia and New Zealand network cabling.
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