Ethernet is one of the most common types of cables, used to connect devices like computers and routers to the Internet. The end of an ethernet cable, an RJ45 connector, looks similar to the end of a phone cable, an RJ12, but bigger. While phone cables have four to six wires on the inside, ethernet cables use eight. Ethernet cables come in both solid and stranded variants.

Ethernet Categories

There are a few different variations of ethernet, the foremost being the cable category. This type of cable is abbreviated as “Cat#”, with higher numbers being newer versions of ethernet capable of faster signal speeds. These categories are defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).

Cat5e

Cat5e is an upgraded version of the original Cat5 cable and the current standard version of ethernet. It is capable of data speeds up to 1 Gbps (gigabyte per second) with a bandwidth of 350 MHz (MegaHertz).

Cat6

Cat6 is the next step up and will become the new standard once Cat5e is inevitably phased out. These can support speeds up to 10 Gbps, ten times faster than Cat5e, with bandwidth of 550 MHz. Currently, this level of speed is overkill for at-home use. They are more common in facilities setting up basic networks, like small businesses or schools.

Cat6a

Cat6a (“a” meaning “augmented”) have the same 10 Gbps maximum speed as Cat6 but better overall performance, including a

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