Your Guide to Cat Ethernet Cables

Equal Optics

Local networks rely on the speed and efficiency of Ethernet cables. Whether you’re connecting devices in a new facility or researching ways to update your existing network, ordering optimal Cat Ethernet cables is an essential step. Find out how these cables work, the benefits of choosing the right cable type, and where you can turn for high-performance network solutions.

Cat Ethernet Cables, Explained

Xerox PARC researcher Bob Metcalfe first invented Ethernet as a high-speed networking system in 1973. Since then, it has become the industry standard for transferring data for homes, data centers, and commercial facilities. The materials and capabilities of Cat Ethernet cable have increased over the years, providing modern businesses with extremely efficient cable solutions.

These iterations of Ethernet cables are organized into categories. Understanding the category, or Cat, of your cables helps you make informed decisions on the best options for your organization.

Your Guide to Cat Ethernet Cables | Equal Optics

Key Features of Ethernet Cables

Regardless of the Ethernet cable you choose, there are a few key features to consider. These features are what you’ll compare to determine the best type of Ethernet cable to choose for your network solution.

Cable Material

Most Ethernet cables are made with either solid or stranded copper conductors. Some cables, known as Copper Clad Ethernet, are manufactured with a copper coating over an aluminum core.

Shielding Material

Within the cable jacket, which is the outer layer of Cat Ethernet cables, some cables also include a shielding material. This is either foil or braided wire strands designed to reduce interference. It’s not required for all Ethernet cable applications but can be a critical addition in certain atmospheres.


The cables you purchase will have a maximum transmission length based on the Cat of the cable. You’ll also be able to select various cable lengths within that range to avoid purchasing an unnecessarily long cable for short connections.


Each of these factors affects the total price of your Cat Ethernet cables. In general, the longer and higher Cat number cables tend to be more of an investment than shorter ones, though shielding materials and brand names are also factors.

Types of Ethernet Cables

There are currently eight different categories of Ethernet cables. In general, the higher categories of cables tend to offer increased bandwidth, maximum distance, and cost, though there are other features to consider when selecting Cat Ethernet cables:

  • Cat 1 through Cat 4: These categories are outdated and are generally discontinued. If you’re purchasing new Ethernet cables you’re unlikely to consider any of these categories.
  • Cat 5: Cat 5, particularly Cat 5e, is a common cable option due to its low cost and reasonable speed capabilities.
  • Cat 6: Generally shielded and tightly wound, Cat 6 cable offers higher bandwidth capabilities than Cat 5. It’s also available in an improved, Cat 6a alternative.
  • Cat 7: This specialized category isn’t as widespread as others due to a lack of standards and support, though it does offer increased speeds when compared to Cat 6 cables.
  • Cat 8: Data center-level bandwidth capabilities are the hallmark of Cat 8. It’s a great option for switch-to-switch communications and 40 Gbps solutions.

How to Select the Best Cat Ethernet Cable

Each category of Ethernet cables offers an advantage in a specific situation, so you need to compare Ethernet cables based on your use case to find the best option. From small business solutions to data center connections, use the following factors to see which Ethernet cable works best for your IT network.

Consider the Speed You Need

In general, expect to invest more in Ethernet cables with increased bandwidth capabilities. The fastest solutions are essential for data centers and some IT departments, but small business owners may receive the speed they need using Cat 6, for example.

Review your network speed and the length of cable required to make a particular connection. Compare this information with the specifications of each Ethernet cable category. Be sure you select a cable at or above the performance requirements needed to maintain a reliably high-speed connection.

Shielding Requirements

Ethernet cables can also include shielding to protect your data transmission from interference. There are two types of interferences that can exist within a data center or IT network environment:

  • Radio frequency interference
  • Electromagnetic interference

Interference can come from fluorescent lights, nearby power lines, or heavy machinery. Shielding can be either aluminum foil, braided copper wire, or a combination of the two. While neither shielding option ensures total protection from interference, they can reduce the risks of interference.

Length of Connection

In most applications, Cat Ethernet cables can only be used in lengths up to 295 feet. In many situations, however, you’ll be able to connect your devices with smaller lengths. Order the minimum cable length needed for a connection to reduce the cost of your Ethernet cable investment.

Armor Cable Options

Exterior applications or areas where heavy abrasion is a possibility can compromise typical Ethernet cable. To avoid this, manufacturers have created thermoplastic polyurethane outer jackets to wrap Ethernet cables. These armored cables maintain reasonable flexibility but can withstand more potentially hazardous environments.

Connector Considerations

Finally, be sure your connectors match the devices you’re connecting. Ethernet cables connect using an 8P8C connector, though there are several types to choose from:

  • RJ45: This common connector is used in most Cat 1 through Cat 6, and Cat 8, cables.
  • EtherCON RJ45: Durable and dependable, this rugged alternative reduces the risk of damage when compared with a typical RJ45 connector.
  • M12: These connectors are specialized waterproof options that are generally used in industrial settings.
  • GG45: Cat 7 cables use this connector. While there are some benefits to it, the lack of versatility and support from the industry makes it difficult to use in many settings.

Learn More About Ethernet Cables With Equal Optics

Are you still wondering, “What Cat Ethernet cable do I need?” At Equal Optics, we offer industry expertise alongside high-quality Cat Ethernet cables. Request a quote today to learn more about our high-speed networking solutions for your industry. Work with our team to install a new network, update your existing system, and plan for your future.


Reach out to us for a consultation today.

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