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Do Different Ethernet Cables Have Different Speeds?

Oct 18, 2023

Ethernet cables come in different types. Known as "ethernet cable categories," these cables come with varying speeds as well. Generally speaking, for faster network speed, your best bet is to choose the newest ethernet cable released, but it isn't as simple as it sounds.

Ethernet cables aren't a new invention. They’ve been around since 1973, but their continuous development has led the way to faster and more efficient network connections. Ethernet cables are responsible for connecting millions of devices at home and in businesses worldwide today.

Read up on the different ethernet cables and why you just can't "upgrade" to the latest one just yet.

Different Types of Ethernet Cables

All the types of ethernet cables fit into a standard ethernet port, but different cables mean they’re designed for supporting different network speeds.

Ethernet cables are divided into categories (cat=categories) based on bandwidth (MHz), maximum data rate (megabits per second/Mbps), and shielding (the cover material used for that cable).

If you look at the cables used by most network systems and home users, Cat5/Cat5e (and some cat6) continue to be the standard choice in 2022.

Using the Wrong Cables

Knowing the type of ethernet cables available makes it easier to avoid using the wrong ones. You also need to know where the ethernet cables will be located. Here's why:

Other types of ethernet cables, such as "direct burial cables" and "plenum cables" are very specific in how you’re going to use them. In this case, direct burial is for burying the cable underground, while plenum cables (required depending on either local or state safety codes) let off a milder non-toxic smoke than cables with PVC jackets.

Of course, when choosing between ethernet cables, not only should you decide based on the category above, you should also focus on speed/data rate, shielding (cable protection), cable length, and installation location.