How Long Can an Ethernet Cable Be?

Have you ever wondered why Ethernet cables vary in length? Or, what if the length of an Ethernet cable affects its connectivity? 

Well, the length of an Ethernet cable does affect its connectivity, and it is called attenuation.

Attenuation is the maximum length an Ethernet cable can get before signal loss. Attenuation usually occurs due to the effect of electric resistance on the performance of a long cable. 

This article discusses how long an Ethernet cable can be.

What is an Ethernet Cable?

Cat8 Ethernet Cable

An Ethernet cable is used mainly to connect computers and devices in a local area network or LAN. 

An Ethernet cable links devices on an Ethernet network, making it easier for computers and other devices to share files, information, and data. 

The Ethernet was released in 1980. All Ethernet cable manufacturers must follow the standards set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and these standards ensure the quality and safety of Ethernet cables.

Ethernet cables are designed to work with Ethernet ports, and you can find these ports on most internet or network devices. 

How Long can an Ethernet Cable Be?

Due to attenuation, an Ethernet cable has a maximum distance capacity. 

The maximum distance capacity of a long cable refers to the upper limit on how long a cable can be before there is a loss of signal.

When placing an Ethernet cable, you should ensure that both ends of the cable are far enough away from outside electrical interference that could affect the function of the cable. 

The distance between two cables connected on the Ethernet network is called the Network diameter.

The Category 5 cable has a maximum length of about 100m or 328ft before attenuation occurs. 

The Category 6 cable can go up to 700ft. Ethernet cables can exceed their maximum length, but they become prone to signal loss which is more pronounced if they pass near large electrical appliances. 

It is also important to note that even short Ethernet cables may also suffer from signal reflection. 

Categories of Ethernet Cables

There are different categories for Ethernet cables, and each category is recommended for a specific function. Discussed below are the Ethernet categories.

Category 1

This category of Ethernet cables is recommended for standard telephone wiring. 

Category 2

The second category of Ethernet cable is commonly used for the 4Mbps (Megabytes per second) network ring.

Category 3

The category three Ethernet cable employs networking frequencies of up to 16Mhz.

Category 4

The Ethernet cable category 4 is significant for networks that carry frequencies of up to 20Mhz.

Category 5

The frequency in a category 5 Ethernet cable is up to 100Mbps, a maximum length of 100 meters, and a 100 Mhz bandwidth. 

Its speed is usually slower and less reliable compared to the new types. The Cat 5 Ethernet cable is now considered obsolete and is not recommended for new network installations. 

Category 5e

This is a subtype of the category 5 Ethernet cable. The frequency of this subtype is at 1Gbps (Gigabytes per second), 100 meters, and 100 Mhz. 

This subtype was developed due to improved specifications regarding twisting of wire shielding to reduce crosstalk.

Category 6

The category 6 cable has a rating of 10 Gbps, 250 Mhz at 55m, making it a relatively long Ethernet cable. 

The unique feature of the Cat 6 is that it has tighter cabling than the Cat 5 and the Cat 5e. It also has braided shielding designed to protect wires inside the Ethernet cabling. 

Category 6a

This sub-category is also capable of 10Gbps. However, its distance is 100m, and it has a frequency of 500Mhz.

Category 7 

Category 7 has 10Gbps with 600 MHz.

Category 8

The Cat 8 is more expensive than the other versions discussed above. This Ethernet cable provides a fast Ethernet to access points. 

Conclusion

Using an Ethernet cable for your computers and other devices provides you with internet access while sharing files comfortably within your local area network (LAN). 

Learning about the effect of attenuation and the categories of Ethernet cables can also help you make the right choice when purchasing your Ethernet cable about the category and length you want yours to be.  

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