What Is an Ethernet Cable?

Deyan G.
Deyan G.

Updated · May 10, 2022

SHARE:

Techjury is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

There’s no way to discuss high-speed internet connectivity without mentioning Ethernet cables. However, many people don’t even know what they are, let alone their uses. 

So, let's dig into what is an Ethernet cable and further explore your Ethernet cable connection.  

What Is an Ethernet Cable?

Ethernet wires connect your desktop or laptop computer to your internet modem or router. This line transfers internet broadband signals from the Local Area Network (LAN) to your router or modem. Without this signal, you can't browse the internet.

These cables insert into the corresponding port of your computer. This port is slightly larger than a landline’s, and it links directly to your computer’s motherboard. Most ports are usually located either on the device's side or back.

While wired network connections are faster, they have limitations due to their inherent physical restrictions. So sit tight as you don’t have the flexibility that WiFi offers.

With that said, Ethernet wire connectivity is preferred for gamers requiring the fastest speeds and in locations with restricted wireless internet, like thick walls, iron doors, or other impediments.  

Being hardwired means that your internet will not suffer interruptions unless your service goes down or your cable is unplugged. There is no need to reset wireless routers.  Many people often prefer using an Ethernet short cable instead of a long one to reduce attenuation and signal depletion.  

Remember, be careful not to accidentally unplug the Ethernet cord as it will disconnect your device from the internet immediately. 

Let's learn more about the different types of wiring options below.

Ethernet Cable Types

Ethernet cabling comes in two categories related to physical specifications. 

  • Solid Ethernet wiring - a single copper wire provides conductivity. While not flexible, you can expect it to be very durable. You use this type for wall or floor installation of fixed location computers. 
  • Stranded Ethernet wiring - multiple smaller copper wires are twisted together inside an insulated cord for signal transfer. They are more flexible and better suited for moveable installations. Offices commonly use this type due to regular changes to their setup. 

Ethernet short cables are usually made of solid wires, while longer lines are stranded. And while all Ethernet network cables are reliable, not all are the same. 

Let's break down their categories

Cat-1: 

This type is only for standard telephone connections (POTS) or ISDNs that transmit data and voice over digital lines. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) does not define this kind of wiring.

Cat-2: 

This one supports 4Mbits/s token ring networks. It is also not TIA-defined.

Cat-3: 

Most commonly exploited for 10 Mbps data networks with a minimum of 16 MHz frequency. It is TIA defined.  

Cat-4: 

Best suited for networks with a minimum of 20 MHz frequency and on 16Mbps token ring networks. TIA recognizes it.

Cat-5:

This type is the standard for 100BasẹT and 1000Base-T networks because it allows data at 100 Mpbs and even a little more. The Cat-5 cable was an upgrade from the Cat-3 type. 

Cat-5e: 

Allows for connections of up to 125 MPs and is used for 100Base-T. Physically, it looks like the Cat-5 but has a higher frequency. Its design is for optimal Ethernet cable internet speed. It is stranded similarly to the Cat-5 type.

Cat-6: 

It provides significant improvements over the Cat-5e type. The wire strands inside have a special shield to minimize crosstalk or noise interference. Its design supports up to 10 Gbps. It cannot extend further than 55 meters.

Cat-6a: 

As the name suggests, this is an upgrade to the Cat-6. The ‘a’ means augmented, and it supports twice the bandwidth supported by the Cat-6. These Ethernet cables support faster transmission speed and longer network cable distances. They are, however, less flexible than their predecessor.

Cat-7: 

Applications with a required frequency of 600 Mbps use this type. It has four shielded wire pairs inside an overall shield.

Cat-8: 

This is the latest cable type released and is unbeatable in terms of data rate and bandwidth. Such wiring is expectantly more expensive than any other type on this list.

Alternatives to Ethernet Cables for Computer Networking

So, what happens if this type of connection is not available? Does that mean you can’t access the LAN or internet? Not necessarily, there are viable alternatives.

Wifi Router 

Modern PCs have built-in Wifi because of the ease of internet connectivity. They are not hardwired, which means there is the freedom to move around the home as long as you are within range of the Wifi router. However, this alternative may not be as stable as a cable.

Switch on a router or put your mobile hotspot on your primary internet device to get started. On your PC, enable Wifi and search for the name of your device. Click accordingly to establish an internet connection.

Bluetooth 

This alternative to an Ethernet connection works similarly to the WiFi option. However, you use Bluetooth instead of WiFi. It, too, allows you to move around freely while remaining connected to your network.

On your primary internet device, go to settings and select Bluetooth tethering. On your PC, enable your Bluetooth and search for available devices. When you see your device on the list, click on it to establish a connection.

USB tethering

As the name suggests, you will need a USB cable. On the one end, you connect to your mobile device, your primary internet device. On the other, you link up with your computer’s USB port. 

Go to settings on your mobile device and select USB tethering for activation - the internet on your phone networks with your PC.

Wrap Up

Ethernet cables have the most stable connection due to their direct link to the LAN. They guarantee faster internet speeds and are affordable.

We have examined the various Ethernet cabling types, their purpose, and alternative internet connectivity options.

If you don’t know where to get an Ethernet cable, don’t worry, as they are readily available online and in the stores. 

After reading this article, we are confident that what an Ethernet cable is will no longer be a mystery to you.

FAQ.


Do I need an Ethernet cable for WiFi?

No, you don’t. WiFi allows you to connect through wireless connections. You don’t need any cables. On the other hand, an Ethernet connection uses specialized lines for faster network access.

Is there a difference between internet and Ethernet cable?

Yes, there is. The internet cabling allows anyone from anywhere to access a global network. While Ethernet connects users in a local area network (LAN). Remember, the internet is worldwide, and Ethernet is local.

How do I know if it's an Ethernet cable?

Apart from the peculiar connector ends, you will find printed info on the wiring. And, if you find the abbreviation “cat,” it is for sure one.

How do I connect an Ethernet cable?

Since you already know what an Ethernet cable is, follow these steps:

  • Plug one end of the line into your computer’s LAN port. 
  • Plug the other end into your router’s corresponding port. 

Immediately, you’ll know if you establish a connection.

SHARE:

Deyan G.

Deyan G.

Techjury.net's manager. Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published.