You may have heard about Ethernet cables in relation to an Internet connection, but you might be scratching your head about what they are, what they do, and why they are useful in the first place.
In short, an Ethernet cable is something that will connect your electronic device (computer, tablet, gaming console, etc.) to a network, which, in turn, will allow you to have internet access and interact with shared network resources. Think of it like getting Wi-Fi to your device by manually connecting to the network instead of connecting wirelessly.
The reason that Ethernet cables are used is because wireless connections are not infallible. You may have found that the Wi-Fi can be down or damaged by some interfering factor. It could be something related to the distance between you and the network, an interfering object such as a brick wall, something that is messing up the connection speed, and a host of other problems.
The Ethernet cable gives you the guarantee of being connected to the network (short of an internal problem within the cable’s wiring). Some people swear that being directly connected gives them a faster and more reliable experience. It also provides as a useful backup option when the Wi-Fi is down.
Some networks will allow you the option to connect wirelessly or through Ethernet cable. Other networks, such as local area networks (LANs), require this cable if you want to have access to the router.
One of the great things about Ethernet is that it is an internationally recognized standard in internet technology. Thus, it is supported by all manufacturers of network equipment and it can be used with any piece of hardware.
Another great feature is that Ethernet cables are fairly long, so you will never run out of room when it comes to creating a setup. Between 0 and 100 meters in length, you are not going to see any loss in data. This is useful, given that most safety standards for cables set 100 meters as the maximum permitted length for any kind of network cable.
You should also know that there are different types of Ethernet cables that exist, all of them will fit into the Ethernet port, yet each one is designed to support different network standards and speeds.
For example, Category 5 (Cat5) will support 10-100 Mbps and is considered to be the older (and slower) type of Ethernet cable that is available. You will see this cabling with network systems that have been around for some time. Category 5 enhanced (Cat5e) can support 1000 Mbps and cuts down on intra-wire interference within the cable. Category 6 (Cat6) is the fastest type of Ethernet cable you can purchase, capable of handling 10-gigabit speeds. Cat6 isn’t necessary unless you are dealing with a high power network that requires this kind of speed on a daily basis for regular tasks. If you look at the cables used by most network systems and home users, Cat5/Cat5e is the standard choice.
There are also categories that go beyond this! There’s the augmented Category 6 (Cat6a) that will push the data transmission rate limit to 10 gigabits per second and provide twice the maximum bandwidth that Cat6 does.
Want to go a step further? You can even use Category 7, a fully shielded cable that provides the same speeds as Cat6 but has even more bandwidth. In terms of design, they are the thickest out all the categories and are far more difficult to build. Both Cat6a and Cat7 need to be grounded in order to avoid performance losses that would make them no better than Cat6.
No matter which Ethernet cable you choose, it is important to remember that you have the network cards and the router that are compatible with the cable. The cable is only one part of the system, and it must fit in with all of the existing elements. Contact your local professional and see which one is the best fit for you.