What are the Different Types of Ethernet Cables?

Ethernet cables are classified into different categories. Each category of bulk ethernet cables is further classified into sub-categories. Let’s dive a bit deeper and learn more about these connectivity marvels.

There are different types of ethernet cables i.e. Cat6 Cable, Cat6a Cable, Cat5e cable and Bulk Ethernet cables.

Types of ethernet cables are as follow:

1. Cat5e Cable

It is a 5th generation ethernet cable designed to render maximum data transfer rates of 1 Gbps over a length of 50 meters and minimum data transfer rates of 100 Mbps up to a distance of 100 meters. The cable comes with a bandwidth capacity of up to 350 MHz and has 8 conductors. These 8 conductors are tightly bundled together to avoid interference (crosstalk and EMI). Also, these eight conductors are made up of Pure Copper and Copper-clad Aluminum.

Performance-wise, copper-clad aluminum conductors are no match to their pure-copper counterparts: the latter has less attenuation (loss of signal strength) and also suffers from less DC resistance. The end result is you enjoy the optimum performance as signal quality is not compromised.

Pure copper conductors are also called bare copper conductors and solid copper conductors. Therefore, there’s no need whatsoever to get yourself confused by these networking terminologies.

The cable is available in the following four jackets:

  1. Plenum:
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The plenum variant — irrespective of the category of the bulk Ethernet cables — is the premium variant as it comes with a CMP-rated jacket. This type of jacket enjoys the highest ratings of the set by regulators and is pretty expensive. A plenum variant of the Cat5e cable is UV-resistant and it halts fire-progression, too.

As the plenum jacket is thick, it also keeps electromagnetic interference and crosstalk at bay, thus, you enjoy optimum connectivity and performance. The plenum variant is designed to run cables in the vulnerable plenum or horizontal spaces of the buildings. You can also run in riser or outdoor spaces, but it is not a cost-efficient option.

  1. Riser

The riser variant of the bulk ethernet cables comes with a riser-rated or CMR-rated outer jacket. With UV and fire-resistant properties, the cable finds its usage in riser or vertical spaces of the buildings. Like plenum, you can use Cat5e Cable with riser jacket in outdoor spaces but it is not a cost-efficient option.

  1. PVC

The jackets of the PVC cables have resistance against sunlight and other harsh weather conditions. Also, the PVC variant has resistance against some chemicals. It is used for installation in outdoor spaces.

  1. Direct Burial:

These cables have LLDPE-rated jackets that provide protection against water and micro-organisms because these cables have to be installed in underground spaces.

2. Cat6 Cable

Yes, you guessed it right. A Cat6 Cable belongs to the 6th generation of the ethernet cables providing maximum data transfer rates of 10 Gbps over a length of 50 meters and 1 Gbps over a length of 100 meters. These rates are as much as 10 times higher than the previous generation.

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And it is not only the data transfer rate, but a Cat6 cable also surpasses its predecessor in bandwidth capacity, too; the former offers an excellent bandwidth capacity of 550 MHz. More bandwidth means more signals pass through the conductors and hence, optimum connectivity.

The cable is available in plenum, riser, PVC, and direct-burial variants. And the jackets of all these variants have the same properties as that of Cat5e ethernet cable.

3. Cat6a Cable

The Cat6a cable is an augmented class 6th generation cable specifically created to support data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps over an extended length of 100 meters or 328 feet. As this is an augmented 6 category cable, Cat6a Cable has a bandwidth capacity of 750 MHz that is much more than the previous 2 categories.

The number of conductors inside the cable are 8. Made up of either copper-clad aluminum or pure copper, these conductors are tightly bundled together to provide protection against external elements such as crosstalk and electromagnetic interference.

The cable is available in plenum variant for plenum installation, riser variant for riser installation, PVC variant for outdoor installation, and direct-burial variant for underground installations.

4. Bulk Ethernet Cables

The bulk ethernet cables meet TIA/EIA, ISO/IES, CE, and CSE standards. Also, in order to be declared fit for installation, an ethernet cable should be in compliance with RoHS. There are manufacturers out there who manufacture ethernet cables that exceed industry standards.

Bulk Ethernet cables are also categorized as shielded ethernet cables and unshielded Ethernet cables. Shielded Ethernet cables are designed for installation in harsh environments whereas unshielded Ethernet cables are designed for installation where crosstalk and EMI are not present. When it comes to price, shielded ethernet cables are much more expensive than unshielded ethernet cables.

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Also, there are Cat7 and Cat8 cables available on the market but they are not extensively used because of the price factor. Besides, Cat6 and Cat6a cables are sufficient to support all contemporary applications.

Also Read: 8 Best Tips for Setting Up Your Cat6a Ethernet Cable Network

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