Q

The best cable for Gigabit Ethernet

I would like to know about the different types of cable and if essential CAT5e cable can support Gigabit Ethernet. ANSI/EIA (American National Standards Institute/Electronic Industries Association) Standard 568 is one of several standards that specify "categories" (the singular is commonly referred to as "CAT") of twisted pair cabling systems (wires, junctions, and connectors) in terms of the data rates that they can sustain. The specifications...

describe the cable material as well as the types of connectors and junction blocks to be used in order to conform to a category. These categories are:

Category Maximum data rate Usual application
CAT 1 Less than 1 Mbps analog voice (POTS)
Integrated Services Digital Network
Basic Rate Interface in ISDN
Doorbell wiring
CAT 2 4 Mbps Mainly used in the IBM Cabling System for token ring networks
CAT 3 16 Mbps Voice and data on 10BASE-T Ethernet
CAT 4 20 Mbps Used in 16 Mbps Token Ring
Otherwise not used much
CAT 5 100 Mbps
1000 Mbps (4 pair)
100 Mbps TPDDI
155 Mbps ATM
Gigabit Ethernet
CAT 5E 100 Mbps 100 Mbps TPDDI
155 Mbps ATM
CAT 6 200-250 MHz Super-fast broadband applications

While longer connections for Gigabit Ethernet use optical fiber, the goal is to leverage the CAT 5 twisted-pair wiring most organizations already have in place for connections out to the desktop. (Four pairs of twisted pair are used.)

The two most popular specifications are CAT 3 and CAT 5. While the two cables may look identical, CAT 3 is tested to a lower set of specifications and can cause transmission errors if pushed to faster speeds. CAT 3 cabling is near-end crosstalk-certified for only a 16 MHz signal, while CAT 5 cable must pass a 100 MHz test.

The CAT 6 specification was not yet formally approved by the EIA as of March, 2001, although products are being offered that conform to a proposed specification. A CAT 7 specification is reportedly being considered.

This was first published in September 2002

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