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How to Choose The Right Network Cable For Your Needs

April 30, 2024 No Comments

by Jeff Caplinger

A lot of people rely on their mobile phones and laptops, which means that all they worry about is getting the router to their house, and the rest is done by Wi-Fi. The problem with this, however, lies in the fact that you may also have a desktop computer or a console and that you may want a more reliable approach to connecting it to the network via cable. So, how do you choose the right network cable for your needs?

To answer this question, we need to start from the beginning. Here are some considerations you have to make. 

1. What is the cable for

First, when it comes to the network cable, it’s important that we specify what kind of network we’re talking about. In order to establish a network, you have to connect the external internet to your home’s grid, which means that you first need a cable that goes from the grid to your router.

More often than not, we’re talking about a coax cable. This is the cable that’s part of an infrastructure that cable televisions use, and since the majority of people nowadays use cable internet, their broadband uses the same equipment.

If the system is a bit older, it’s possible that it uses a standard copper cable used by phone companies. This is the so-called DSL internet, which is a direct successor of dial-up, and it uses the infrastructure of a phone company. 

In the case where you actually have the privilege to get fiber internet, you’ll get it via optic cable. This is a cable that sends light instead of sound waves, which makes the internet a lot faster. The biggest downside of fiber internet is that it’s not present everywhere.

One more thing worth mentioning is that while the cable getting to your home is new, the external infrastructure may not be. Sure, fiber infrastructure is brand new, but even cable companies’ infrastructure is noticeably newer than that of phone lines. 

Once you figure out how the internet gets to your home, you need to connect it to your home network of computers. This means that you need a cable that will bring the internet from the router to the first device in the system. 

So, in the next segment, we’ll talk about ethernet cables.

2. Ethernet cable types

Ethernet cable is also known as LAN cable because it’s used to create a local area network. This is also probably what you imagined the entire article would be when you first read the title. 

The thing is that ethernet cables can be used even without the internet. They just connect all the devices into a joint system and, in the past, a lot of organizations used them to create intranet networks (for greater security). Today, when all the work is done on cloud-based platforms, this no longer makes that much sense.

Still, there are a few types of ethernet cables you should know about. 

Cat 5: This is the oldest of the ethernet cables, and it supports speeds up to 100 Mbps. Because people don’t always upgrade, it can still be found in many homes, but it’s usually not done with newer installations. 

Cat 5e: This is the enhanced version of the category five cable (as the name suggests), and it can handle speeds up to 1Gbps. This makes it far more common in office spaces, but you can also see it in a lot of residential homes.

Cat 6: This type of cable supports speeds of 10 Gbps over distances of about 50 meters. These operate on different frequencies, which makes them ideal for circumstances where there are other active devices, so to avoid interference. 

Cat 6a:  This type of ethernet cable is quite similar to its standard alternative, with the difference that it supports distances of over 100 meters.

Cat 7: This cable, along with Cat 7a and Cat 8, is incredibly powerful and supports incredibly high speeds. This is why it’s used almost exclusively in data centers. 

Just assess your needs before picking a cable.

3. Length and cable management

Choosing the length of cable is not as easy as you think. You see, the layout of your home and cable management will seriously disrupt any potential equations that you currently may have. This means that you’ll have to get more cable than originally intended. 

At the same time, cable is a tripping hazard, which means that if you take too much, you’re in for a world of trouble regarding your cable management. Not only that. In order to organize it, you’ll have to fold it (even cram it) into all sorts of structures. This will ensure that you break it over and over again, which will, as a result, damage your cables.

The best way to handle this is to measure the distance that the cable has to travel (real measurement, not an estimate, because you’ll be way off). However, make sure to understand that you need to follow the path that the cable will take and that you need to give it some wiggle room.

After all, a cable is not a string, and it can’t assume an optimally tight position. So, even if you optimally fold it, it will need a bit more wiggle room than you would originally expect. 

Also, keep in mind that if you need a cable that’s not standard length (1m, 2m, 3m, 5m, 10m, 15m, etc.), you’ll have to look around since most stores won’t have them. In practice, however, this comes down to you taking measurements and picking the cable length that’s the closest to what you’re looking for. 

Wrap up

The last thing you need to understand is that every home is different and every network is different. For instance, a larger household with a more complex layout will require more cable, as well home with more than one device. The key thing is that you understand what kind of cable you need, that you do the right measurement technique and that you get a bit more cable than you believe you need. 

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