Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What are the different network cables available and what are they used for?

Network Cables are used to connect switches to computers and/or routers. They are produced in a variety of colors so they are easily distinguishable to identify their purpose. Types of cables may serve as microphone cables, headphone extension cables, XLR connectors, RCA connectors and TRS connector cables, modular Ethernet cables, as well as snake cables which carry video or amplified signals. The most common types of network cables are: Ethernet, Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 cables.

Ethernet ethernet cable
Ethernet is a computer networking technology for local area networks (LANs) which has been used almost 30 years, largely replacing other competing LAN standards such as the token ring, FDDI, and ARCNET. It is the most commonly used network cable for Windows and Macs and necessary for network setup. This type of network cable defines a number of wiring and signaling standards for a physical layer, through means of access at the Media Access Center (MAC)/DLL, and a common addressing format.

Category 5 Ethernet cables, or commonly known as Cat5s or “Cable and Telephone”, are twisted pairs of cables used for high signal networks. A regular Cat5 cable is identified as being unshielded and a Cat5e specification incorporates a shield. This general type of cable is used in structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet, and is also able to carry basic voice signals, token rings, and ATM.

Cat 5 Network Cable is the standard type of cable for networking your computers and other network devices such as printers, copiers, cameras, etc. These cables can support frequencies of up to 100 MHZ. This cable includes four twisted pairs of cable in one and uses balanced lines to preserve a high signal-to-noise ratio despite interference from both external sources and other pairs, otherwise known as crosstalk. It is most commonly used for 100 Mbit/s networks, such as a 100BASE-TX Ethernet.
network cable
A Cat5e cable is a more advanced form of the Cat5 cable in that it adds specifications for far end crosstalk. A far end cross talk is an electromagnetic interference (EMI) which runs in parallel with the FEXT induced wire. In simpler terms it is the unwanted coupling of energy between two circuits or channels occurring at the far end of the link. The Cat5e cable has tighter specifications to avoid such occurrences. The downfall of a Cat5e cable is its distance limitation of only 100 meters.

Category 6 Cable
A Cat6 cable is a standard for Gigabit Ethernet as well as other network protocols that is also backward compatible with the Category 5/5e and Category 3 cable standards. A Cat-6 features even more stringent specifications than a Cat5e for crosstalk and system noise. It provides performance of up to 250 MHZ and is also suitable for 10 Gigabit Ethernet standards, although with limitations on the length if unshielded.

Composed of four twisted copper wire pairs, a Cat6 is normally terminated in 8P8C modular connectors. One of its best attribute is the noise reduction caused by crosstalk and system noise. Near End Crosstalk and PSNEXT are also significantly lowered by use of this cable.

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