How to Select Ethernet Cables
Image credit: Automationdirect.com; Emerson Network Power; Mencom Corporation
Ethernet cables are designed to support Ethernet, a standard protocol for the connection of computers in a local area network (LAN). They use twisted pair cables and modular connectors, and are designed to run at 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1 Gbps.
How Ethernet Works
Ethernet cables transmit data in packets called frames, each of which contains the source address, the destination address, and error-checking functionality. Ethernet is standardized in IEEE 802.3, which describes the media access control (MAC) of both the physical layer and the data link layer.
Types of Ethernet Cables
The GlobalSpec SpecSearch database lets industrial buyers select four types of Ethernet cables.
- 10Base-T is a 10-Mbps standard implemented on twisted-pair cable with modular connectors. It uses pins 1 and 2, 3 and 6, in an 8 position modular plug / jack, typically called an RJ-45. Patch cables for 10Base-T Ethernet are usually pinned to the EIA / TIA 568A or 568B standard. This is the most popular type of Ethernet.
- 100Base-TX is the Fast Ethernet standard for 100-Mbps connections over Category 5 UTP / STP.
- 100Base-FX is the Fast Ethernet standard for 100-Mbps connections over fiber optic cabling.
- 1000Base-T is a specification for Gigabit Ethernet over copper wire (IEEE Standard 802.3ab). This standard defines 1-Gbps data transfers over distances of up to 100 meters using four pairs of CAT-5 balanced copper cabling and a 5-level coding scheme.
Intended application is an important specification to consider when selecting Ethernet cable.
Audio / visual (A/V) cables are used to connect audio and video equipment to a computer or display.
Computer cables connect hard drives, printers, monitors and other peripheral devices to a computer.
Extender cables are used to increase the length of another cable.
General communication cables provide data transmission and networking between computers, controllers and other devices.
- Telecommunications cables are used to extend or replace cables for telephones and handsets.
In addition to application and type, other important Ethernet cable specifications include connector type and gender.
BNC connectors are bayonet-style locking connectors. They are typically used for A/V applications, as well as older devices and third party monitors.
A BNC connector. Image credit: CONEC
DB connectors are used to connect computer peripherals. They are available with a variety of pin arrangements.
DB9 (9 pin) connectors. Image credit: APC by Schneider Electric
RJ connectors are modular connectors used for telecommunications and serial applications.
An RJ-11 connector. Image credit: Newark / element14
USB connectors are available in a various sizes and configurations.
A USB connector. Image credit: Samtec, Inc.
Ethernet cable connectors are available in multiple gender configurations. Male connectors, sometimes called plugs, consist of a protrusion which fits into the female connector, sometimes known as a receptacle.
A male (left) and female (right) connector. Image credit: Amphenol Alden Products Company
Common cable configurations include:
Male-Male: both ends of the cable terminate in a male connector.
Male-Female: the cable features a male connector on one end and a female on the other.
Female-Female: both ends of the cable terminate in a female connector.
Related Products & Services
Cable assemblies are collections of wires or cables banded into a single unit with connectors on at least one end.
Coaxial Cables and Triaxial Cables
Coaxial cables have an inner conductor insulated by a dielectric material and then surrounded by an outer conductor that is shielded with braid or foil. Triaxial cables add an extra layer of insulation and a second conductive sheath. They are commonly known as coax and triax, and are chosen because of their protection against external electromagnetic interference.
Flat cables are used in computers for internal connections to peripherals. They consist of highly stranded, individually-insulated conductors that are laid parallel and then fused in a flat, flexible ribbon form. Flat cables are also referred to as ribbon cables.
Multiconductor cables contain two or more conductors. Each conductor consists of a single wire or a combination of wires.
Serial cables are used for the serial transmission of data. They support communication standards such as RS232, RS422, and RS485, as well as Fibre Channel, IEEE 1394 or FireWire® (Apple Computer, Inc.), and universal serial bus (USB).
Video cables are used for the transmission of video signals, including monochrome, composite and component color video signals.
- Bulk Cable
- CE Marking
- CSA Mark
- Cable Assembly
- Camera / Imaging
- Cat 3
- Cat 5/Cat 5E
- Cat 6
- Computer Cable
- DIN / Mini-DIN
- Extender Cable
- Industrial / Instrumentation and Control
- Ethernet Type:Other
- Connector Type:Other