Everyone loves a good, neat workspace: no cables in sight, a singular computer with a pretty little keyboard, and a piece of barely noticeable output equipment for sound. Or a laptop. People appreciate and rely on wireless connections. It's difficult to buy any technology that is not enabled for wireless connectivity. But there was a time, many moons ago, when wired connections were the new kids on the block. If you wanted to connect to the internet, you had to plug it in via a cable, called an Ethernet cable.
Let me take you back in time and introduce you to Ethernet cables.
Ethernet cables are a common type of network cable used with wired networks. They help connect your device (computer, tablet, gaming console) to a network. This, in turn, connects you to the internet and allows you to interact with resources that share the network.
Contrary to popular belief, ethernet network cables are not a thing of the past; they are very much in vogue today. Wireless connections are not infallible. Wifi can get spotty and disappear if you take one step out of range. That’s not to say that wired connections are the best because they are also limited by the length of the cable and durability. If the cable is of poor quality or too long, it is unable to carry a good signal.
Now, there are numerous types of Ethernet cables, depending on what they are used for. Let’s take a look at them.
When one comes across the different types of Ethernet cables, they find one word being used everywhere: Cat. What is “cat”? Simply put, "Cat" means category. “Cat” is always followed by a number. This number implies the specific version supported by that cable. The standard rule here is that the higher the number, the faster the speed and higher the frequencies, all measured in megahertz (MHz). The advanced number could also indicate steadier performance.
Following are the different types of Cats:
Cat1s are unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables that are most commonly used for telephone systems in offices and homes. It consists of two insulated copper wires that are twisted around each other and are designed for analog voice communications.
Cat2 cables are capable of voice as well as data communications. They were originally used during the 1980s for IBM Token Ring networks. They were able to support a data transmission rate of up to 4 Mbps.
Cat3 cables have four twisted pairs and were the first to support 10BaseT Ethernet networks, along with digital voice transmissions.
Cat4 cables consisted of eight copper wires that were arranged in four unshielded twisted pairs, which supported signals up to 20 MHz. They were used in telephone networks that transmitted voice and data.
Cat5 cables are network cables that consist of four twisted pairs of copper wires that end with an RJ-45 connector. They are also known as Ethernet cables or LAN cables. These are used in homes and businesses as they provide transmission speeds of upto 100 Mbps.
The above-mentioned cables are not used much these days. You may find them in old establishments where they either do not need to modify them or the cost of the modifications far exceed the requirements.
These are the enhanced versions of the Cat5. That’s what the “e” stands for. You won’t find any physical differences between the Cat5 and Cat5e. Manufacturers built the Cat5e cables under more rigorous testing conditions so as to eliminate unwanted signal transfers between different communication channels. Cat5e ethernet cables are the most commonly used cables these days because of their low production cost.
The Cat 6 ethernet cables support a higher bandwidth than the Cat5 and Cat5e. These cables are tightly wound and generally furnished with foil or braided shielding. This shielding protects the cables inside the ethernet cable, preventing crosstalk (unwanted signal transfers between different communication channels) and noise interference. These cables provide speeds up to 10Gbps, which obviously comes at a price, as they are more expensive than Cat5 and Cat5e cables.
The “a” in Cat6a means “augmented.” These cables are a step above the Cat6 cables as they support twice the maximum bandwidth. Additionally, they are capable of keeping up higher transmission speeds over a long cable length. Cat6a cables are shielded, and the sheathing is made up of a thick material that cancels out crosstalk, which makes for a denser cable that is less flexible than Cat6.
Cat7 cables support higher frequencies of signals than Cat5e and Cat6 cables. They are shielded twisted pairs that are used in high-speed ethernet-based networks of 1 Gbps and higher between directly connected servers, computer networks, and switches. These cables can reach up to 100 Gbps. They use modified GigaGate45 connectors, which are backward compatible with RJ45 ethernet ports. The GG45 connectors are proprietary items, so most manufacturers avoid them, making them rare today.
Cat7a is the highest specification ethernet cable money can buy. The only snag is that they are not easily available, in addition to only supporting a few networking hardware options. They were designed to support 40 GB ethernet connections, similar to the Cat7, but with improved overall bandwidth. This improvement was very useful, but they are more expensive than any other cable out there.
The Cat 8 ethernet cables guarantee a maximum frequency of 2000MHz and speeds upto 40 Gbps. This kind of high frequency requires shielding. Cat 8 cables support two connectors. This allows for three connected cables with a linked length of 30 meters. They do cost more than other options, but they have become economical nowadays.
All in all, your requirements will decide which one you should get. SF Cable stocks them all so you can take a look at all of them and contact us if you have any questions.