There were 3.74 billion internet users in the world as of March 2017. Read that again:
3.74 billion internet users, which is more than half of the current world population.
When a typical business professional or home network user hears internet, they think cables, connections and computer-to-computer communications. But how exactly do computers interact with one another across internet lines, whether in a professional/IT setting or during a home theater installation?
Ethernet is a standard communications protocol used to connect devices including computers, routers, and switches in a wired or wireless network. Ethernet connects large business sites, various branches, data centers, and local or smaller remote locations as well.
The very first fiber optic cable to be used connected the U.S. to France and Britain in 1988. Since then, hundreds of network Ethernet cables have been installed all over the globe. So given that there are several uses and categories of Ethernet cables and connections, what can you do with an Ethernet network/Ethernet connection, and how do you distinguish the cables necessary for your network’s particular needs?
Ethernet is a proven networking choice that delivers speed, productivity, and high-quality control of your network connection. Each new release of Ethernet supports increasingly faster bandwidth speeds and maintains copper pairs with tighter twists and complex sheathing, which is reflected in bandwidth performance. Each category of Ethernet is referred to as a Cat cable and labeled with a different ending to reflect the iteration.
Simply put, Cat cables are Ethernet cables, the colorful cables that connect various devices in a local computer network. At the most basic level, they connect your computer to your router. In more high tech settings, they carry broadband signals between a huge number of computers, routers, servers, modems, switches, and various other devices. Each type of Cat cable use an RJ-45 end, the part you plug into the Ethernet jack on your computer, laptop, routers, and switches.
– Cat5 Cables: Category 5 cables aren’t exactly the newest “Cat” in town, but they’ll still get the job done — often even better than a WiFi connection. They’re fast and durable. In fact, a quality-constructed Cat5 cable can easily last through five to 10 years of use. They’re perfect for the person who wants a little bit more juice but doesn’t need all of the bells and whistles.
– Cat5e Cables: For those who need a little something more, Cat5e Ethernet cables can provide up to 1Gb/second speeds at 100MHz frequencies. The “e” stands for enhanced, so you know you’re getting more quality than a Cat5 but still don’t have to spend the extra money on a 6. This cable was designed for 1000 Mbps “gigabit” speeds. These enhanced cables should also diminish “crosstalk,” the interference between wires inside the cables.
– Cat6 Cables Cat6 Ethernet cables provide more speed and higher frequencies than either of the other two, but they’re also more expensive and, according to some, a bit fussier to install. A CAT 6 cable contains four pairs of copper wire and uses all the pairs for signaling in order to obtain its highest level of performance.
It’s a lot of information to consider when researching your specific Ethernet needs. Wi-Fi will always be slower than a cabled connection. In most homes, you will have multiple wireless networks competing for space on the spectrum. And between the solid walls and separation of floors, there may be “dead spaces” where the signal just won’t reach. We’ve all experienced that at one point or another. If you’re looking for a solid network connection in your home, trying Cat5e is adequate for general home/private network use. Or, if you’re wanting to connect each floor together, Cat6 might be your Ethernet cable of choice for higher speeds and efficient bandwidth.
Having specifications for your desired Ethernet connection in mind when going in for a purchase is important to consider.
Will the cables be within 6 inches of power lines?
Will the cables be in walls? In between floors? Long connection?
Is flame resistance cabling required for the installation?
There’s no one answer to all questions, but the answers to these questions should help you decide based on your connection requirements/needs.