Network Cabling Comparison

stranded twisted pair

All network cables are not created equal. Before running the lines for your home network or office environment, you will want to take into consideration what types of cabling you will need to use for certain runs. Sure, in most cases you will be able to grab a box of Cat 5e UTP from your local supply store and be fine. But is Cat 5e UTP really ideal for every occasion? The following network cable comparison will offer explanation and suggestions for each type of cable so you can decide which network cabling is right for you.

Different Types Of Network Cabling

The most common type of network cables are Cat 5e and Cat 6 UTP. While CAT 5e (e for enhanced) is also capable for the gigabit network speeds people want, you might want to future-proof your network with Cat 6 cables. UTP stands for Unshielded Twisted Pair and is fine for most runs. If you will be crossing a lot of florescent lights or electrical wires, you should opt to use the more expensive Shielded Twisted Pair cable.

You will also have a choice in the composition of the network cabling. The choices are solid and stranded.

Solid cable is most common, meaning each of the 4 pairs of wires has a solid core. Solid cable is not very flexible and breaks easily. It is best used in long, straight runs through walls or ceilings.

stranded twisted pair
Stranded Twisted Pair Cabling

The four pairs of a stranded cable consist of very small wires twisted together to make a single wire, making the stranded cable very flexible. If you plan on making a lot of 90-degree turns with your cable run, you will want to use stranded core. Stranded cable is more expensive and tends not to have the same transmission range as solid core cabling. In most cases, a stranded core cable will be more ideally used as a patch cable in your wiring closet or connecting your PC to the jack in the wall.

Network cabling Summary

It’s much cheaper to make your own network cabling, but a lot more convenient to buy prefabricated cables. It’s likely your network will consist of a combination of homemade, prefab, Unshielded Twisted Pair, Shielded Twisted pair, solid core and stranded core cables. Each network presents its own challenges, and there are cables available for all of those circumstances. You can use the less expensive solid core cable on runs that have a lot turns now that you understand you must be careful when making those turns. You should really only use the more expensive cables like stranded core and shielded twisted pair when you have no other choice.

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