Homes and businesses today operate on either a wired network connection or a wireless (Wi-Fi) connection. Wired connections are typically faster than Wi-Fi and have lower latency. Both types of network hardware continue to advance, allowing users to benefit from faster speeds.
This may not be a big deal for the home network where the internet connection speed is usually the bottleneck. But businesses need to consider what kind of cables they are using. There is a big difference between the network speeds of the different Ethernet cables.
Let’s start with the most standard types of Ethernet cables. Most of the new ones that are purchased in stores or bundled with equipment are probably recent enough that you do not need to worry. Companies that are still using older Ethernet cables they’ve had for a long time more than likely need to upgrade to a newer version.
Cables are not a brand name or generic; they are separated into different standard categories. The most common include Category 5, Category 5e, Category 6 and Category 6a. The newest cable category is 7. Each cable is backward compatible – meaning, you can plug a newer cable into a device created for a slower cable, and you will not have any compatibility problems.
Each newer cable standard allows the user to get higher possible speeds with lower crosstalk. This enables the user to get those fast speeds, even with longer cables. When compared at lengths of 100 meters of cable, the following numbers show the difference in Ethernet cable categories:
The Cat5 cable was the standard in 1995, Cat5e was standard in 2001 and Cat6 came out in 2002. The Cat6a has been around since 2008. Most businesses still have no need for updating their hardware to Cat7 ethernet cable, much less the Cat7a or Cat8 cables that were first released in 2010 and 2013.
Cable can only allow the power and speeds of whatever equipment and internet type it is working with. Getting a faster cable will not change the internet speed if the equipment is set for a slower speed or the internet speed package is slower.
Most Cat5 and Cat5e cable should be changed out for a business set up. Our in-house tech gurus believe that upgrading as high as Cat6a ethernet cable will be necessary for quite some time. Until companies need the speed, have the equipment to handle the speed and get an internet package that requires faster channels, the Cat7 ethernet cable’s full potential will simply not be used. This makes it an expensive, unnecessary upgrade. Purchasing and running cable is not a small expense, so companies should try to pick their cable in line with what they need currently and will need in the near future.
Another difference in the cables will be the way the wires are used within the cable. The solid cable uses one single piece of copper for an electrical conductor. The stranded cable uses multiple (and thinner) copper cables twisted together for the electrical conductor. This makes the stranded cable more flexible, perfect for navigating a complex space. The solid cable is far less flexible making it ideal for permanent installation in the walls or outdoor.
Now that you have more data, do you need to update your cables or router? Hopefully, this guide gives you a better idea of what you need to get your network operating at faster speeds.