What is an Ethernet Cable?

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An Ethernet cable is one of the most popular forms of network cable used on wired networks. Ethernet cables connect devices on local area networks such as PCs, routers, and switches.

Types of Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables normally support one or more industry standards including Category 5 (CAT5) and Category 6 (CAT6).

A crossover cable is a special type of Ethernet cable specially designed for connecting two computers to each other.

By contrast, most Ethernet cables are designed to connect one computer to a router or switch.

Ethernet cables are physically manufactured in two basic forms called solid and stranded. Solid Ethernet cables:

  • Offer slightly better performance plus improved protection against electrical interference
  • Are more commonly used on business networks, wiring inside office walls or under lab floors to fixed locations

Stranded Ethernet cables

  • Are less prone to physical cracks and breaks making them more suitable for travelers and
  • Are more commonly used in home networking and by travelers

Limitations of Ethernet Cables

A single Ethernet cable, like an electric power cord, can extend only limited distances due to their electrical transmission characteristics.

Several different types of RJ-45 connectors exist. One type, designed for use with stranded cables, generally is incompatible with solid cable. Other types of RJ-45 connectors may work with both stranded and solid cables.

Alternatives to Ethernet Cables for Computer Networking

Wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have replaced Ethernet on many home and business networks.