There are three types of ethernet cables: coaxial, twisted pair, and fiber-optic cabling. In modern Local Area Networks, twisted pair cable cabling is the most popular type of cabling, but fiber-optic cabling usage is increasing, especially in high-end networks. Coaxial cabling is usually used for cable over the Internet. Let’s explain all three Types of Ethernet Cables in detail.


Ethernet Cables Basics:

The most common network cable is called Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat7 all have different functions, so it is necessary to buy or select the right cable for the right application.

These network cables are used to connect various network components through switches and Ethernet routers to computers, servers, and other network devices – if there is an Ethernet interface, they can be connected via using an Ethernet cable.

The Ethernet cables for connection in most office and home environments rely on the twisted pair cable – Cat 5, Cat 6, and Cat 7 all used this format. By twisting the wires together the currents flow will be a balance for example, in one wire the current moves in one direction, and in the other wire, the current flows in the other direction, allowing the entire external fields around the twisted pair to cancel off.

In this way, data can be transmitted over long distances without the need for undue precautions.

types of ethernet cables

Types of Ethernet Cables:

1: Coaxial Cabling

A coaxial cable has an internal conductor that runs down the middle of the cable. The conductor is surrounded by a layer of insulation which is then surrounded by another carrying conductor shield, which makes this type of cable resistant to external obstruction. This type of cable comes in two types – thinnet and thicknet. Each type has a maximum transmission speed of 10 Mbps. Coaxial cables were previously used in computer networks, but are now replaced by twisted pair cables.

  • Sheath: This is the outer cover of the coaxial cable. It protects the cable from physical damage.
  • Braided Shield: This shield protects signals from external interference and noise. This shield is made of the same metal used to make the core.
  • Insulation:  Insulation protects the core. It also lays the groundwork for separation from the braided-shield. Since both the base and the covered shield use the same metal, without this layer, they will come in contact and form a short circuit on the wire.
  • Conductor: The conductor carries electronic signals. On the basis of conductor coaxial cable can be divided into two types; single-core coaxial cable and multi-core coaxial cable.

single-core coaxial cable uses a single central metal (usually copper) conductor, while a multi-core coaxial cable uses multiple thin strands of metal wires. The following image shows both types of cable.

2: Twisted-pair Cabling

The twisted-room has four pairs of wires. These wires are twisted almost to each other to reduce crosstalk and external interference. This type of cabling is common in current LANs.

Twisted pair cables can be used for telephone and network cables. It comes in two versions: UTP (Unshielded Twisted-Pair) and STP (Shielded Twisted-Pair). The difference between these is that the STP cable has an additional layer of protection to protect the data from external interference.

Similarities and differences between STP and UTP cables

  • Both STP and UTP can transmit data over 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps, and 10Gbps.
  • STP cables are more expensive than UTP cables because they contain more material.
  • Both cables use the same RJ-45 (registered slot) module connector.
  • STP provides more noise and EMI resistance than UTP cable.
  • The maximum length of the two cable segments is 100 meters or 328 feet.
  • The two cables can accommodate a maximum of 1,024 nodes per segment.

The following image shows both types of twisted-pair cable.

3: Fiber-optic Cabling

This type of cable uses optical fibers to transmit data in the form of a light signal. The cables have fiberglass strands surrounded by cladding material.

The core is wrapped in cladding; The cladding is wrapped in a buffer, and the buffer is wrapped in a jacket.

  1. The key is to transmit information signals in the form of light.
  2. The cladding reflects light back into the core.
  3. The buffer prevents light from leaking.
  4. This jacket protects the cable from physical damage.

Fiber optic cables are fully immune to EMI and RFI. This cable can transmit data over long distances at maximum speed. It can transmit 40 km of data at 100Gbps.

Fiber optic cables use light to transmit data. It reflects light from one point to another. There are two types of fiber optic cables based on how much light they transmit at a given time; SMF to MMF.

This type of cable can support longer cable lengths than other cable types (a few miles). The cable has no electromagnetic interference. As you can see, this cable method has many advantages over other methods, but its main disadvantage is that it is more expensive.

There are two types of fiber-optic cables:

  • Single-mode fiber (SMF) – uses only one light beam to transmit information. Used for longer distances.
  • Multi-mode fiber (MMF) – uses multiple light beams to transmit data. Less expensive than SMF.

Four types of connectors are commonly used:

  1. ST (Straight-tip connector)
  2. SC (Subscriber Connector)
  3. FC (Fiber Channel)
  4. LC (Lucent Connector)

Categories for Ethernet cables

A variety of different cables are available for Ethernet and other telecommunications and networking applications. These network cables that are described by their different categories, e.g. Cat 5 cables, Cat-6 cables, etc, which are often recognized by the TIA (Telecommunications Industries Association) and they are summarised below:

  • Cat-1:     This is not recognized by the TIA/EIA. It is the form of wiring that is used for standard telephone (POTS) wiring, or for ISDN.
  • Cat-2:     This is not recognized by theTIA/EIA. It was the form of wiring that was used for 4Mbit/s token ring networks.
  • Cat-3:     This cable is defined in TIA/EIA-568-B. It is used for data networks employing frequencies up to 16 MHz. It was popular for use with 10 Mbps Ethernet networks (100Base-T), but has now been superseded by Cat-5 cable.
  • Cat-4:     This cable is not recognized by the TIA/EIA. However, it can be used for networks carrying frequencies up to 20 MHz. It was often used on 16Mbps token ring networks.
  • Cat-5:     This is not accepted by the TIA / PTA. It is a widely used network cable for 100Base-T and 1000Base-T networks and allows data transmission over Ethernet at 100 Mbit/s and above (125 MHz for 1000Base-T). The Cat 5 cable replaced the Cat 3 version and became the standard for Ethernet cable for several years. Cat 5 cables are now obsolete and are not recommended for new installations.

Cat 5 cable uses twisted pairs to prevent internal crosstalk, XT, and also crosstalk to external wires, AXT. Although not standardized, the Cat 5 cable normally uses 1.5 – 2 twists per centimeter.

The Cat 5 cable uses a twisted pair to prevent internal crosstalk. Although not standardized, Cat 5 cables are typically used every 1.5 to 2 twists per centimeter.

  • Cat-5e:     This cable type is recognized by TIA / EIA and defined in TIA / EIA-568 and was updated in 2001. This has slightly higher frequency specification, as it increases the performance of the Cat-5 cable to 125 Mbps.

Cat-5e can be used for 100Base-T and 1000Base-t (Gigabit Ethernet). Cat 5e standard for Cat 5 enhanced and it is a form of Cat 5 cable manufactured to higher specifications although physically the same as Cat 5. It is tested to a higher specification to ensure it can perform at the higher data speeds. The twisted pairs within the network cables tend to have the same level of twisting as the Cat 5 cables.

Cat-5e can be used with 100Base-T and 1000Base-t (Gigabit Ethernet). The Cat 5e standard has been improved, it is a form of Cat 5 cable that is manufactured at a higher performance than the Cat 5, and it is tested at higher specifications to make it more capable of transmitting data.

  • Cat-6:     This cable is defined in TIA / EIA-568-B, which greatly improves the performance of Cat-6. During cat production, the 6 cables adhere more tightly than Cat 5 or Cat 5e, and they have an outer foil or braided shield. Shield protection protects the twisted pair wires inside the Ethernet cable and helps prevent corrosion and noise interference. Cat-6 cables can technically support speeds of up to 10 Gbps, but only up to 55 meters.
  • Cat-6a:     The “a” in Cat 6a stands for “Augmented” and the standard was revised in 2008. The Cat 6a cables are able to support twice the maximum bandwidth and are capable of maintaining higher transmission speeds over longer network cable lengths. Cat 6a cables are well protected as a whole, so it is possible to eliminate the repellent path. However, this makes them less flexible than Cat 6 cables.
  • Cat-7:     This is an informal number for ISO/IEC 11801 Class F cabling. It comprises four individually shielded pairs inside an overall shield. It is aimed at applications where transmission of frequencies up to 600 Mbps is required.
  • Cat-8:   These cables are still under development, but will improve speed and overall performance in the near future.

Further details of the Cat-5 and Cat-5e cables are provided below. They are now widely used in Ethernet networks.

Ethernet Cable Performance Summary

Category Shielding Max Transmission Speed (at 100 meters) Max Bandwidth
Cat 3 Unshielded 10 Mbps 16 MHz
Cat 5 Unshielded 10/100 Mbps 100 MHz
Cat 5e Unshielded 1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps 100 MHz
Cat 6 Shielded or Unshielded 1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps >250 MHz
Cat 6a Shielded 10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps 500 MHz
Cat 7 Shielded 10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps 600 MHz
Cat 8 Details to be released later

Ethernet Cable Connectors

The RJ45, a registered Jack 45 connector, is a physical connector used by Ethernet cables and is generally used as a network cable. From Ethernet Category 3 to Cats 6, RJ45 is the format used. Cat 7 Ethernet cables can be connected to an RJ45 connector, but a special version called GigaGate45 (GG45) is commonly used. Fortunately, these are backward compatible with the RJ45, so there is no need for a completely new installation to move to the Cat 7.

The RJ45 connector used at the end of the Ethernet cable is a small plastic plug with a small attachment that can be released when the cable needs to be removed. The term plug refers to the male end of the connection on the network cable, and the slot is usually located on the port or female device.

The RJ45 connector has eight pins spaced 1 mm apart and the wire is inserted and clamped to ensure a secure connection. The actual connector type is called 8P8C – eight positions – eight contacts.

Strictly speaking, the actual connector type should be increased to 8P8C, and the wiring model is RJ45, but in reality, the term RJ45 is almost universally used for Ethernet cables.