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Choosing the right Ethernet Cable

Choosing the right cable for your home or office setup can be confusing and overwhelming. The different categories and sheathing types can often leave you feeling like you have less of an idea than when you started looking; but it doesn't have to be that hard!

The two main things you need to consider are the speed of your network and the intended usage as your end goal.

What does this mean for you?

You need to first determine the speed of your network or the speed that is required for what you are connecting via the cable you are buying. To check your network speed you can use this simple speed test linked below:

Test Speed

With the speed of your available network you can decide what cabling solution will work for you in your environment.

CategoryShieldingMax. Trasmission Speed
CAT5Unshielded10 - 100Mbps
CAT5eUnshielded1000Mbps - 1Gbps
CAT6Unshielded10Gbps up to 55m
CAT6AShielded10Gbps up to 100m
CAT7Shielded100Gbps up to 15m
CAT7AShielded100Gbps up to 15m
CAT8Shielded40Gbps up to 30m

Ethernet Cable Categories Explained

"CAT" means category and is used to determine the version of cable that it represents. These different versions are more akin to revisions or upgrades in the capabilities for data transfer and have changed over time due to the increasing needs for more robust transfer speeds and higher frequencies. 

These cables are now considered the lower limit of what can be used and when their capabilities are weighed against the cost difference for CAT6 of the same length we choose not to stock them. The price difference for a CAT6 cable of the same length is a small price to pay for the additional capabilities. In the next few years these cables will become obsolete as the hardware we rely on becomes more demanding.

Whilst slightly more expensive than a CAT5e cable, these are what we recommend as an entry level cable for copper data networking.  The main difference between the two is the bandwidth capabilities; CAT5e can handle 100MHz and CAT6 can handle 250MHz. What this means is that CAT6 cables can process more data at the same time.

We sell both cable rolls and pre-terminated patch leads that come in a variety of colours and supported lengths. However keep in mind that if you require 10Gbps transfer speeds and you plan on running lengths of cable longer than 55 metres you may be better off using CAT6A for your backbone cabling and CAT6 patch leads!

The "A" stands for augmented and is a step up from CAT6 in that it is capable of supporting 500MHz bandwidth or twice as much as CAT6. The additional bandwidth and more stringent manufacturing specifications mean that this type of backbone cabling allows data transfer of 10gbps up to 100m whereas CAT6 can only achieve this up to 55m. CAT6A is heavier and more expensive, however if you are running backbone cabling (through your walls and flooring) it is better to over-engineer your network in order to future proof it.

We sell both cable rolls and pre-terminated patch leads that come in a variety of colours and supported lengths. Our patch leads come in slim versions for higher density environments or to make hiding cables easier. We have shielded and unshielded options with the shielded option being slightly more expensive depending on your needs!

CAT7 and higher are the next generation in speed and frequency boasting significantly higher data transfer rates but this also comes with an increased price tag. The main reason to use these cables is for significant future proofing or for high end internal networks at an enterprise level. At present we don't offer these cables for our customers - we'll wait until they're a bit cheaper and make more sense to the market!

CAT6 Unshielded (U/UTP)

250Mhz  | 1000Mbps

24AWG | 5.6mmØ 

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CAT6A Shielded (S/FTP)

500Mhz | 10Gbps 

26AWG | 5.8mmØ 

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 CAT6A Thin (U/UTP)

500Mhz | 10Gbps 

30AWG | 3.1mmØ

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 CAT6A Thin (S/FTP)

500Mhz | 10Gbps

34AWG | 4.0mmØ

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