The term ‘Ethernet’ is widely used, but what does it mean exactly? Find out more about Ethernet cables, the different types, what they’re used for, and how to connect them.
What is an Ethernet cable?
Put simply, an Ethernet cable is a type of network cable which is used to connect devices within a local area network (LAN). It’s used to carry broadband signals between your computer, router and modem, as well as any other wired, internet-ready devices that you may have in your home (gaming consoles and laptops, for example). Ethernet cables resemble landline phone cables (although they are thicker and have more wires) and plug into Ethernet ports, which are slightly larger than phone ports.
As an internationally recognized piece of internet technology, Ethernet cables are supported by all computer manufacturers and can be used with virtually any piece of hardware, apart from a small selection of ultra-modern laptops. However, you can still connect these devices to an Ethernet cable if you want – you’ll just need to get an Ethernet adapter which can work with your laptop.
But with convenient and flexible WI-fi available, does Ethernet offer any advantages? If your computer is always based in one place, try connecting an Ethernet cable to your network directly to see how much of a difference it can make. Because it won’t be affected by factors that can interfere with WI-fi – such as the weather, distance from the router, and things in the way of the signal – an Ethernet cable can provide a faster and more reliable internet experience.
There are three main types of Ethernet cables to choose from:
- Category 5 (CAT5): The fifth generation of Ethernet network cable, CAT5 can support speeds of 100Mbps. At this point, it is generally considered to be an outdated version of the technology, as it is relatively old and slow. Individual users will rarely need the speed provided by CAT6, however, so it’s a standard choice for most home users.
- Category 6 (CAT6): The sixth generation of Ethernet network cable, CAT6 can support a gigabit of internet speed (1000Mbps).
- Category 7 (CAT7): The seventh generation of Ethernet network cable, CAT7 is more durable than CAT5 and CAT6, while it also has a longer lifespan. One of its main benefits is the fact that it shields its twisted pairs, which can help to significantly improve noise resistance.
How to connect an Ethernet cable?
Connecting an Ethernet cable is easy. Here’s how simple it is:
- Plug an Ethernet cable into your computer.
- Plug the other end of the Ethernet cable into one of your hub’s Ethernet ports.
- You should now have established an Ethernet connection, and your computer is now ready to start surfing the internet.