Network Cable Types

There are several different types of Ethernet network cable types to choose from, cat-5, cat5-e, cat-6, cat6a but what do all of these mean and does it really make a difference which one you get.

First of all does the Cat rating mean?  The Cat stands for category and the different numbers represent different standards and specifications for each type of cable, just think of them like different versions all the categories are backward compatible.

The first type is really common which you’ve probably already heard of it’s called cat 5, however these days when someone says cat-5 they’re probably referring to the newer version of cat-5e, cat- 5 cable is actually obsolete and you probably can’t even buy them anymore, cat-5 cable is only rated for up to 100 megabits per second at 100 meter maximum length.

Cat-5e is the enhanced version and is very common these days and it’s rated for one gigabit speeds at 100 meter maximum length, this is due to the improved specs regarding twisting of the wire pairs inside the shielding which reduce cross-talk or the interference the different signals which would reduce the speed, this is the case going forward with the other categories, also a regular cat-5 cable only required two twisted pairs of wires inside while cat5e uses four.

Cat-6 bumped the spec from one gigabit to 10 gigabit at 55 meter length and with a bandwidth of 250 megahertz up from 100, the way the bandwidth refers to the range of frequencies that the cable can reliably use, this explains why it would improve the speed as it’s got more space to fit the data in a way and cat6 further reduces cross-talk, that’s kind of the main way to improve the speed and in addition to the bandwidth using tighter wound wire pairs and may also use things like a plastic core through the middle of the cable to better separate the internal wire.

Its worth a mention that with a 2metre Cat-5 you will probably get one gigabit speeds, its only when you start getting into the cable’s maximum 100 metre run that you will see the speeds drop off.

The next image will show the maximum transmission over 100 metres of network cable types

Cable Performance

The image below shows the pin-outs for all the above cables, because they all use a standard RJ45; all cables are backwards compatible.

cross v straight

Fibre Network Cable Types

Multimode Core Sizes 50um and 62.5um

OM1
cable typically comes with an orange jacket.
Has a core size of 62.5 micrometres (µm).
It can support 1 Gigabit up 300 meters/990 feet
Ideal for LANS

OM2
suggested jacket colour of orange.
Its core size is 50µm instead of 62.5µm.
It supports 10Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 600 meters/1,968 feet
Ideal for LANS

OM3
suggested jacket colour of aqua.
Its core size is 50µm
Capable of running 10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up to 300 meters/900 feet
Ideal for larger private networks

OM4
Suggested jacket colour of aqua.
It too uses a 50µm core
10 Gigabit Ethernet at lengths up 550 meters /1808 feet
Ideal for high speed networks and Data Centres

Single Mode Fiber Core Size: 8 – 9um

OS1
Jacket colour Yellow
Indoor use
Distance 2km/1.24 miles

OS2
Jacket colour Yellow
Outdoor use
Distance 10 km/6.21 miles

The image below shows the fibre connector type along with the modules/panels they connect to

fiber connectors

Make sure you get the right module for your cable type, the link below to Cisco should help you chose the correct one.

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/support/docs/interfaces-modules/cwdm-gbic-sfp/72370-sfp-trcvr-mods.html

Hopefully this gives you an understanding of the different network cable types that can be found in all Data Centres and smaller Data Closets (MDF’s) that you will come across.

This concludes the Network Cable Types