What are the Ethernet Standards

Ethernet, developed by the Electrical and Electronic Engineers Institute, IEEE Standard 802, is the most popular LAN (local area network) technology used today.  It defined the number of conductors that are required for a connection, the performance thresholds that can be expected, and provides the framework for data transmission. 

Category Shielding Maximum Transmission Speec (at 100m) Maximum Bandwidth
Cat 3 cable unshielded 10 Mbps 16 MHz
Cat 5 cable unshielded> 10/100 Mbps 100 MHz
Cat 5e cable unshielded 1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps 100 MHz
Cat 6 cable shielded or unshielded 1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps 250 MHz
Cat 6a cable shielded 10000 Mbps/ 10 Gbps 500 MHz
Cat 7 cable shielded 10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps 600 MHz

Cat 3 and Cat 5 cables are increasingly obsolete as they are too slow for most devices they are connected to.

Cat 5e cables

Cat5e cables (with the 'e' standing for 'enhanced') are identical in construction to Cat5 but are built under strict standards in order to reduce crosstalk issues. This is the most common Ethernet cable type used.

Cat 6 cables

Cat6 cables support higher bandwidths than Cat5 or Cat5e and have a different construction. Cat 6 cables are wound tighter than those of their predecessors and are often outfitted with foil or braided shielding. This shielding protects the twisted pairs, helping to prevent crosstalk and noise interference. Cat-6 cables can technically support speeds up to 10 Gbps, but can only do so for distances of up to 55 meters.

Cat 6a cables

The 'a' in Cat 6a stands for Augmented. In comparison to regular Cat 6 cables, Cat6a cables support twice the maximum bandwidth and are capable of maintaining higher transmission speeds over longer cable lengths. Cat 6a cables are always shielded, and their sheathing - which is thick enough to eliminate crosstalk completely - makes for a much denser, less flexible cable than Cat 6.

Cat 7 cables

Cat7 cables utilise the newest widely-available Ethernet technology, and support higher bandwidths and significantly faster transmission speeds than Cat 6 cables. They’re proportionally more expensive than other Ethernet cables, though their performance reflects their premium price tag. Cat 7 cables are capable of reaching up to 100 Gbps at a range of 15 meters, making them an excellent choice for connecting modems or routers directly to devices. Cat 7 cables are always shielded, and use a modified GigaGate45 connector, which is backwards compatible with regular Ethernet ports.

Cat 8 cables

Cat8 cables are still in development. They are expected to be released to market relatively soon, with faster maximum speeds and higher bandwidths than Cat 7 cables.


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