If you are in school, enjoy gaming, work in an office of any form, or simply own a router or desktop commuter, utilizing an ethernet cable is truly just standard practice. They are so common you might not even be aware of how much they are actually used. But, what is an ethernet cable? What is its actual function? And does the type of cable you get matter?
Ethernet cables are incredibly versatile cables that might seem old school but are actually incredibly valuable even though they were invented nearly 40 years ago. It is a cable and technology that has withstood the test of time despite all of the other incredible technological advancements since the 1980s when it was first released.
So, what is an ethernet cable? In its simplest form, an ethernet cable connects two physical devices, such as a router and a computer or TV which will then provide direct access, or hard-wired internet to said device. While Wi-Fi is a truly amazing way to connect to the internet on the go, for a home computer or entertainment system, utilizing an ethernet cable can usually provide faster, more reliable internet.
Why Do I Need an Ethernet Cable?
Ethernet cables are fairly versatile and can be used in a home or office setting. The port is not only standard across all of the cable categories, but also internationally recognized so if you travel, you will likely be able to find or utilize an ethernet connection.
In your home, an ethernet cable would connect directly from your router to a device such as a tv, gaming system, or computer. Some laptops are equipped with ethernet ports so they can be hardwired in when used in a single location.
In businesses, most desktop computers are hardwired in as ethernet provides faster and more consistent internet. Imagine if an entire office was attempting to use wifi at the same time, it would likely be a very slow connection. Having equipment and computers hardwired into the internet utilizing an ethernet cable frees up the wifi connection for visitors or smaller devices such as laptops or phones.
Unfortunately, like most things in this world, there is not just one type of ethernet cable. There are a handful of categories that are common but have slight differences which primarily deal with the speed of which information passes through the cable.
Category 5 (Cat5) is one of the original categories of ethernet cable and will process and transfer information at a speed of 100 megabits per second.
Category 5e (Cat5e) is slightly faster than a standard Cat5 and also is designed so there is little interference with other electrical cables or devices.
Category 6 (Cat6) transfers information at a speed of up to 10 gigabits per second, significantly faster than a Cat5 or Cat 5e. It is known for being a bit stiffer though which can be challenging if you have to pull the wire through walls or around corners.
Category 6a (Cat6a) is simply a newer Cat6 cable. It can handle up to twice the bandwidth of a standard Cat6 while providing the same speed. The design also protects against electrical noise interferences as well as electromagnetic radiation.
Category 7 (Cat7) cables are meant for long-distance. This is not necessarily a cable you would use to run from your tv to your router a few feet away, but one that offers 100 gigabits per second of speed across distances up to 15 meters. It also is considered shielded which means there is almost no possibility of electrical interference with the cable.
Category 8 (Cat8) Ethernet cables are quite expensive as they are meant for data centers or businesses that have a large volume of technologies that need to be wired in. They are some of the fastest cables that provide the largest amount of bandwidth.
The Benefits of Hard-Wiring your Devices
There are a few key benefits of utilizing ethernet cables to hard-wire your devices.
- It frees up your wifi. If you are a gamer or stream a lot of television, it can slow down your wifi. By wiring in your big devices that take up a lot of bandwidth, you free up your wifi for your smaller devices like tablets or phones.
- The port is universal and does not change based on the category of cable or device you have.
- An ethernet connection is more stable and faster than standard wifi
Ethernet is incredibly versatile and is used pretty much everywhere for wired internet connections. It's got many benefits which improve overall network reliability and performance. Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better understanding of what is an ethernet cable is and how it can improve your internet experience.