Ethernet Cable Types

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Ethernet Cable Types

Ethernet is defined by the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 802.3 standard, which is a set of protocols for LAN. Ethernet cables help connect computing hardware devices and transmit data using the Ethernet protocol.

Ethernet cables are used to connect devices like routers, modems, etc., and transmit data using the Ethernet protocol. This protocol sends data in the form of frames. The frame contains…

  • …header that contains sender and recipient’s address.
  • …data section which contains the information that is to be sent.
  • …checksum that takes care of the error detection.

Types of Cables

Ethernet cables are broadly of two types – crossover cables and twisted pair cables.

Crossover Cable

An Ethernet crossover cable is a type of cable that is used to connect computing devices together directly, i.e. without the use of a hub or switch. These cables have different pin points or plugs on each side. The wires within the Ethernet crossover cable can reverse the transmit and receive signals. Starting from the left, the 1st and 3rd wires and the 2nd and 6th wires are crossed, and can be seen through the RJ-45 connectors at each end of the crossover cable.

Twisted Pair

This is a straight-through cable, where the pins are connected in a sequential form, i.e. pin 1 to pin 2, pin 2 to pin 3, and so on. The commonly used ones are 10BASE-T (10 Mbit/s), 100BASE-TX (100 Mbit/s), and 1000BASE-T (1000 Mbit/s). The cables that are used have four pair of twisted cables. All the three cable types support full-duplex and half-duplex communication.


There are two types of topologies that are used when working with these cables. Bus topology is used when all the devices in the network are connected using a single cable. There is no central device like a hub used here. However, if the connection to one of the devices is broken, the entire network will collapse. The other topology that is widely used is the star topology. In this type of arrangement, the devices are connected to a central hub. There is no risk of the entire network collapsing even if connection from/to one of the devices fails. Even if the connection does fail, the network will still function normally.

Cable Categories

Cable Length (m) Speed (Mbit/s)
Cat 3 100 10
Cat 4 100 16
Cat 5 100 100
Cat 5e 100 1000 (1Gbps)
Cat 6 100 3000 (3Gbps)
Cat 6a 100 10 Gbps

Cat 3:This category was widely used as a voice cabling format among computer network administrators in the 1990s. It is an unshielded twisted pair (UTP), that can carry up to 10 Mbit/s, with a bandwidth performance of 16 MHz.

Cat 4: Cat 4 was mainly used in token ring networks, and the cable consists of four unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) wires, with a data rate of 16 Mbit/s, and a performance of up to 20 MHz.

Cat 5: This is a twisted pair high signal integrity cable. Within the cables, there are three twists per inch of each twisted pair of 24 gauge copper wires. Cat 5 is used for 10/100Mb Ethernet, and as a voice cabling format.

Cat 5e: This category is an enhanced version of Cat 5, that prevents interference between one unshielded twisted pair to another twisted pair, running in parallel within the same cable (Far End Crosstalk – FEXT). It works for 10/100Mb and 1000Mb Ethernet.

Cat 6: It is very similar to Cat 5e, and is a cable standard for Gigabit Ethernet (considered better than Cat 5e), and other network protocols that are backward compatible with the Cat 5/5e and Cat 3 cable standards. Cat 6 is made up of larger gauge wires, that work for 10/100/1000Mb Ethernet.

Cat 6a: This Ethernet cable type, known as the Augmented Category 6, works for frequencies up to 500MHz. Due to the higher frequency, alien crosstalk is eliminated. This cable type is backwards compatible with the previous versions like Cat 6 and Cat 5e.

Ethernet cables are also used to connect wireless routers to wireless antennas. The physical between the router and the cable delivers the Internet to that device.

The type of cable should be determined by your requirement, as there are many types and categories easily available all across. These cables are faster and take less processing from the CPU and other computer networking devices, which can save a lot of time during the transmission of data.

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