What To Look For In An Ethernet Cable?
With the vast amount of ethernet cables and types in the market today it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one is right for me. From cables in your home to data centers to new stadiums each place can have a different requirement, You might find that it kind of tricky to sort through all the cables to know which one I should choose and that's okay! We're her to make this journey as simple as possible for you. From the very beginning we've always put an emphasis on quality. While you look for your cables there many different things you need to look for and we've compiled a list to help. In this article we will help guide you on what to look for in an ethernet cable?
As we created our list for this blog post we put quality at it's core. Putting price aside there's many factors that are often overlooked. Jumping at the lowest priced cable can be a mistake if you aren't looking for the right attributes which show you a quality cable. Not only can it hurt you in the long run but it can even be non compliant hurting your wallet and time. Here's what to look for in an ethernet cable:
First and foremost is cable certification. When looking for ethernet cable to purchase it's important to look for ethernet cable that has all the correct certification. Here in the United States there are many different testing laboratories and standards that oversee all the products we use. For ethernet cables some of the most popular safety testing laboratories are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) and ETL (Intertek). These are two of the top safety standards your cables can through for safety testing. This is the first place you want to start.
Does this cable have either of these certifications?
You might wonder if these two differ and the reality is that they do. Putting quality as a top priority having your ethernet cable certified by UL is the top achievement in safety standards. You can recognize a cable that is UL certified by its Bronze sticker. Not only will the cable box or reel have a sticker but the certification control number will be on the cables jacket.
What sets UL apart from the rest is the level of testing standards. All other laboratories test to UL standards which UL created. UL is the highest safety testing achievement you can go through with ethernet cable. Getting your cables certified by UL is a costly process which not every manufacture wants to do. This shows you the seriousness of the company in regards to safety. By having your cables certified by UL they are routinely checked for quality control. This is done routinely throughout the year and is not done by other testing laboratories. Another bonus of using UL cable.
You might find ETL only cables and while these cables have gone through safety standards they do not pass UL testing standards.
This portion of the list is a little long but we want to emphasize the importance of cable safety. It's not always about pricing, especially if you plan on having these cables for many years. It's recommend to go with the highest safety rated cables and in this case it is UL.
Markings On Jacket
Another thing to look for on ethernet cable is a marking of all the attributes of the cable on the cables jacket. Look for ethernet cables that have all the specifications of the cable on the outside jacket. This helps identify what type of cable you have. Common things to look for are:
- Category type
- What its tested to
- Safety certification laboratory control number
- Structure of cable
- Safety standards
- EIA/TIA Standards
- Length count (mostly found on bulk cables)
Pure Copper / Bare Copper Conductors
Another very important quality measure is the amount of copper that is used in the Ethernet cable. For optimal signal strength you have want your cable to have pure copper / bare copper conductors. Pure and Bare are interchangeable and mean the same thing. Conductors are the wires inside the cables that are used to form pairs.
Copper is great conductor of electricity and is why you you find it in the majority of Ethernet cable. It's a great cost effective solution for the amount of performance you get out of it. The thing you need to look for is the amount of copper that is used. Pure copper cables will give you the best result over any distance compare to alternatives.
The most common alternative to pure copper cable is CCA (Copper clad aluminum). When looking for cables online you've probably come across a cable that is so low in price that you think you've struck gold. But looking closer in to the cable there's a good chance that it will be copper clad aluminum. Getting CCA cable hurts you in the long run for a couple of reasons:
- It's not safety certified and can not be: this means that putting this cable in to your walls can result in fines and having you to re do it
- Poses a fire risk. Copper clad aluminum poses a high fire risk and has been the reason for fires in the past.
- Does not meet EIA//TIA Standards
- Poor performance with PoE. Copper clad aluminum because of its ability to have lower conductivity compared to pure copper gives you poor performance in PoE applications. So much so that it will just not work.
Here's an example of our Cat6A plenum cables with Pure Copper conductors and Insulation.
We can add more to this but we'll try to keep this part brief. We recommend to never use CCA. It's just a method to reduce costs while not giving you the benefits of performance at all. Stick with Pure copper conductors for the best performance.
There's many different kinds of ethernet cables in the market and different brands. Keeping these couple tips in mind can help when deciding what to look for in an ethernet cable. Proper certification goes a long way in getting a quality ethernet cable. Not only can you trust that the cable you are getting is actually what it is but it will hold up in various scenarios. We here at Infinity Cable Products pride ourselves on offering quality products at affordable prices. We do the testing for you so you know what to expect. Feel free to contact us with any questions about which cable is right for your next installation.