Network Cables Frequently Asked Questions  
CAT5, Enhanced CAT5 and CAT6 cables are widely used for connecting computer and communication networks. They support the very popular 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet installations as well as comparable alternatives such as ATM.
Network Cabling Common Questions
  1. What are the differences between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet?
  2. What are the differences between Category 5 (CAT5) and Category 6 (CAT6) Cables?
  3. So, which cable should I use from my Ethernet network?
  4. What is the maximum cable length for Ethernet?
  5. What is the difference between Stranded or Solid wire?
  6. Can I connect two computers directly with a network cable?
  7. Can I use a CAT6 cable with a CAT5 or 5e RJ45 jack?
  8. What are the 568A and 568B wiring schemes?

What are the differences between Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet?
Ethernet is an extremely popular physical and data link technology used for local area networks (LANs). It was originally designed to support a maximum data rate of 10Mbps. As the need for greater performance grew for universities and business, Ethernet technology was extended to provide speed of up to 100Mbps. It was accordingly named Fast Ethernet or 100 Mbps Ethernet. Similarly, Gigabit Ethernet further extends the Ethernet computer networking and communication standards by offering maximum data rates of 1000Mbps.

Today, Fast Ethernet installations outnumber the 1000 Mbps variety as it offers sufficient performance in many cases. A large number of network adapters now support all three Ethernet speeds and are commonly referred to as 10/100/1000 adapters. This ability to coexist with existing network installations simplifies the migration to 1000 Mbps Ethernet.
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What are the differences between Category 5 (CAT5) and Category 6 (CAT6) Cables?
CAT5 cable contains four twisted pairs of copper wire and supports voice and data transmission rates up to 100 Mbps. It is commonly used for Fast Ethernet installations. Although CAT5 cable contains four pairs of wire, Fast Ethernet only utilizes two of these pairs. A newer specification for CAT5 cable, referred to as CAT5 Enhanced (CAT5e) utilizes all four wire pairs. CAT5e improves the performance characteristics of the cable enabling it to support short-run Gigabit Ethernet (1000 Mbps) networking. CAT5e is backward-compatible with regular CAT5.

CAT6 cable contains four twisted pairs of copper wire and provides transmission rates of 1000 Mbps. CAT6 utilizes all four wire pairs and supports Gigabit Ethernet networking. CAT6 components have better transmission performance characteristics than CAT5e and as such can support higher communications speed requirements.
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So, which cable should I use from my Ethernet network?
Since today’s vast majority of applications cannot take advantage of CAT6’s better performance, CAT5e remains the most popular cable. However, if you are wiring a building or home for the long term, you may opt to use CAT6 cable.
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What is the maximum cable length for Ethernet?
The maximum cable length for an 100BaseT and 1000BaseT Ethernet unshielded twisted pair (UTP) copper cable is 100 Meters (slightly over 328 Feet). This is the total distance between and Ethernet Transmitter and Receiver at the absolute end points of the network. This limitation is due to the timing of Ethernet signals and not necessarily the cable characteristics.

Excluding patch cables, cross connects, etc., the maximum horizontal cable distance is 90 Meters (295 Feet). So if you are wiring a building this would be the maximum distance from the patch panel in the wiring closet to the wall jack using solid core cable.

When you need to go beyond the 100 Meters maximum length, you can use an Ethernet to fiber media converter at each end of the run and achieve distances of 40-60km.
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What is the difference between Stranded or Solid wire?
Unshielded twisted pair cables like CAT5e and CAT6 come in two main varieties: solid and stranded copper wire. A Solid core cable has each internal conductor made up of a single solid wire while a Stranded cable has each conductor made up of multiple smaller wires. Solid copper cable is best suited for fixed wiring configurations (e.g. building infrastructure) and supports longer runs. Stranded copper cable is more flexible and is more suited for shorter and movable “patch” cables.
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Can I connect two computers directly with a network cable?
Yes, but you would have to use a “crossover” network cable to ensure that the communication signals are properly transmitted and received. To connect three or more devices (PC, router, etc.) in a LAN, you should use an Ethernet switch with regular straight-through network cables.
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Can I use a CAT6 cable with a CAT5 or 5e RJ45 jack?
Yes, the physical dimensions of CAT6 plugs and jacks are identical to CAT5 and CAT5e plugs and jacks. They are backward-compatible with CAT3, CAT5, and CAT5e.
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What are the 568A and 568B wiring schemes?
In 1991, the EIA/TIA 568A standard was published to create a multi-product, multi-vendor set of minimum requirements for connectivity. Included in this standard were two category 5E cable wiring schemes known as 568A and 568B. The names of the wiring schemes are not to be confused with the name of the standard (568A) to which they both belong. These wiring schemes simply dictate the pin assignments of the pairs of CAT5e cable. Although there is no functional difference between the two, the most popular wiring method today is 568B.

T568A and T568B pin assignments
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