Choosing the Right Ethernet Cable in 2024

Ethernet Cable Guide 2024 Article Banner iFeeltech

Last Updated on February 15, 2024

Think of your network as a highway and ethernet cables as the lanes on that highway. Like with a physical highway, wider lanes and better overall construction create a faster and smoother traffic flow. The same concept applies to your network – the cable you choose has a significant impact on your speed, reliability, and the overall performance of your network.

When selecting an ethernet cable, consider three fundamental factors:

  • Category (Speed): How fast do you want your lanes to be?
  • Jacket Type (Environment): Where will this “highway” be built?
  • Shielding (Protection): Do your lanes need extra protection from “hazards”?

Let's explore these aspects to ensure you choose the perfect ethernet cable for your setup.

Key Takeaways – Choosing the Right Ethernet Cable

Decision Factor Key Points When It Matters Most
Category (Speed) Cat 5e is sufficient for basic home use. Cat 6 offers future-proofing and faster speeds. Cat 6A is best for 10 Gbps needs and large networks. Home networks, businesses, large file transfers
Jacket Type (Environment) Riser (CMR) for most indoor uses.  Plenum (CMP) for commercial spaces above ceilings. Outdoor-rated for harsh conditions and potential burial. Indoor vs. outdoor projects, meeting commercial building codes
Shielding (Protection) Not usually needed for homes. Consider shielded cables (STP) if running near power lines or other sources of interference. Noisy environments, industrial locations

Category: Demystifying the Speed Factor

The category of an ethernet cable (Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6A, etc.) reveals its capability for data transmission speeds and bandwidth. It's like comparing a two-lane country road to an eight-lane expressway. Here's a breakdown of common categories:

  • Cat 5e: The workhorse of many networks, Cat 5e supports up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) speeds, making it perfect for most homes and small offices.
  • Cat 6: Offers increased bandwidth with support for up to 10 Gbps speeds at shorter distances (approximately 164 feet). It's a solid choice for businesses or larger homes demanding faster speeds.
  • Cat 6A: An augmented version of Cat 6, ideal for future-proofing with 10 Gbps speeds possible up to 328 feet. If you envision your network supporting more devices or heavy data transfers, Cat 6A is a solid investment.
  • Cat 8: Designed for data centers and specialized setups, supporting super-fast speeds of up to 40 Gbps across shorter distances (about 98 feet).

Important takeaway: For the average home network, Cat 5e or Cat 6 delivers enough speed for streaming, gaming, and general internet use.

Category Max. Supported Speed Max. Bandwidth Max. Full-Duplex Distance* Common Applications
Cat 5e 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) 100 MHz 100 meters (328 ft) Home networks, small offices
Cat 6 10 Gbps 250 MHz 55 meters (180 ft) for 10 Gbps Larger homes, businesses, demanding users
Cat 6A 10 Gbps 500 MHz 100 meters (328 ft) Future-proofing, data-intensive networks
Cat 8 25 Gbps / 40 Gbps 2000 MHz 30 meters (98 ft) Data centers, specialized high-speed setups

With technology steadily advancing, relying on old standards risks limiting your network's capabilities. While Cat 5e is still widely used and adequate for many home networks, Cat 6 is rapidly becoming the undisputed champion for future-proofing homes and businesses in 2024. Here's why:

  • Affordability: The cost difference between Cat 5e and Cat 6 has closed significantly. Opting for Cat 6 ensures your network infrastructure won't become a bottleneck as internet speeds and bandwidth demands increase in the coming years.
  • 10 Gbps Support (at shorter distances): While ideal for home use, 1 Gbps can feel limiting for businesses, power users, or enthusiasts wanting faster local file transfers. Cat 6 supports up to 10 Gbps (at distances up to 164ft), offering far greater headroom to grow into.
  • Versatility: Whether you're streaming 4K videos, setting up multiple smart devices, or working with data-intensive applications, Cat 6 delivers reliability and speed in situations where Cat 5e might start to show strain.

Bottom line: Unless you have a particularly tight budget or absolutely basic needs, investing in Cat 6 is a future-proof move in 2024

This quick video (from True Cable) breaks down the key factors to consider and even has tips for selecting the perfect cable based on your needs.

The Case of Cat 7: Why It's Rarely Mentioned

You may have heard about Cat 7 and wondered why it doesn't come up often when selecting ethernet cables. There are a few reasons behind this:

  • No Official Recognition: Unlike the familiar Cat 5e, Cat 6, and Cat 8, Cat 7 never received official standardization from major industry bodies. This created uncertainty and compatibility concerns.
  • Unique Connector: Cat 7 typically uses a connector (GG45 or TERA) different from the standard RJ45 found on most devices, adding cost and inconvenience.
  • Made Redundant by Advances: The improvements Cat 7 offered were quickly matched or surpassed by the development of officially recognized Cat 6A and Cat 8 cables.

Jacket Type: Adapting to Your Environment

Picture the ethernet cable's jacket as armor, defending the wires inside from physical and environmental hazards. Different settings demand different types of armor:

  • Riser-rated (CMR): The standard go-to for indoor locations, CMR cables possess a flame-retardant jacket. This type can safely route through walls and between floors in your home or office building.
  • Plenum-rated (CMP): Created for air circulation spaces like the areas above drop ceilings or under raised floors. These cables have a special coating designed to release less smoke and toxic fumes in case of fire, making them crucial for safety in commercial buildings.
  • Outdoor-rated: Made from materials tougher than indoor variations, outdoor cables can withstand exposure to sunlight (UV resistance), moisture, and temperature changes. Some offer a direct burial rating, allowing you to bury them underground without a conduit.

Fact: Incorrectly using an indoor cable outdoors could result in cable degradation and a compromised network. For instance, the cables used to wire inside your house for network connectivity should never be used to run a line to an outdoor security camera.

Important Note: Always check local building codes for your specific region – sometimes, plenum-rated cables might be mandated even within residences. If you're unsure, it's best to consult an electrician or a networking professional.

Shielding: When Your Cables Need Extra Protection

Ethernet cables aren't defenseless! Their twisted-pair wires cleverly create natural interference cancellation. Shielding typically isn't a top priority for most home networks. However, specific situations warrant the added layer of protection:

Running Cable Near Sources of Interference: Power lines, fluorescent lights, and certain machinery emit Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) that can disrupt data signals. Shielded cables, often denoted as STP (Shielded Twisted Pair), use an extra foil or braided wire barrier to minimize this effect.

Types of Shielding:

  • U/FTP: Individual pairs are foiled, but there's no overall shield.
  • F/UTP: Overall foil shield, but individual pairs aren't shielded.
  • S/FTP (or SSTP): Combines an overall shield plus individual pair shielding for maximum protection.

Additional Considerations: Beyond the Basics

We've tackled the ‘big three' for choosing your ethernet cable, but let's not overlook these points:

  • Length Matters: Ethernet categories have maximum distance limitations for their top speeds. For example, while the Cat 6 cable supports 10 Gbps, a performance decline is expected after about 164 feet. If you need to cover longer distances, consider Cat 6A or fiber optic cable solutions.
  • Helpful Resources: Don't get overwhelmed! Call iFeeltech to receive tailored recommendations based on your specific requirements.


Regarding your network, remember it's worth taking a little extra time to choose the right tools; ethernet cables are high on that list.

  • Category Determines Speed: Cat 5e or Cat 6 are usually fine for the home, but larger spaces or advanced setups might favor Cat 6A.
  • Jacket Dictates Location: Indoor cables stay inside, and outdoor cables resist the elements.
  • Shielding Offers Extra Defense: In noisy environments, it can be vital, but it adds cost and complexity.

If you're ever unsure about complex network cabling setups, it's always wise to consult an electrician or networking specialist.

Do you have any lingering questions about selecting the optimal ethernet cable? Leave a comment below, and let's get the conversation started!


When you choose an ethernet cable, consider your internet speed requirements, the length of cable needed, and the environment where it will be used. For example, a cable with a robust cable jacket is advisable in areas with high foot traffic. Also, consider if you need a shielded (FTP cable) to protect against electromagnetic interference.

Ethernet cable categories directly influence the support speeds your internet connection can achieve. For instance, Cat 5e cables support speeds up to 1 Gbps, while Cat 6 can support 10 Gbps under certain conditions. Cat 7 and Cat 8 cables are designed for even higher speeds, making them suitable for multi-gigabit ethernet and beyond.

The main difference between Cat 6 and Cat 7 cables is their performance capabilities and construction. Cat 6 cables support frequencies up to 250 MHz and are suitable for gigabit ethernet. In contrast, Cat 7 cables offer a higher frequency support of up to 600 MHz and are shielded, allowing for better performance over longer distances.

Cat 8 cables are backward compatible with older ethernet devices. However, to fully benefit from the high-performance capabilities of a Cat 8 cable, including support speeds of up to 40 Gbps, all components of your ethernet setup, such as the router, switch, and ethernet port, should support these higher speeds.

The cable jacket type is crucial for determining the cable's durability and the environment it is best suited for. For instance, plenum-rated jackets are flame retardant and emit less smoke, making them ideal for use in air plenums. This can impact both the safety and the longevity of the ethernet cable in specific installations.

Shielded ethernet cables, like the FTP cable, are beneficial in an environment with high electromagnetic interference (EMI) levels. Signs you might need a shielded cable include erratic internet connection speeds or connection loss near heavy-duty electrical equipment. Choosing a shielded cable can mitigate these issues by protecting the integrity of the data transmitted.

Yes, while Cat 5e cables are sufficient for most home internet connections, offering speeds up to 1 Gbps, Cat 6 cables are designed to handle higher speeds up to 10 Gbps in certain conditions. This makes Cat 6 a better option for more demanding internet use, such as streaming high-quality video or gaming online, where higher bandwidth and reduced crosstalk are beneficial.

The maximum recommended length for ethernet cables without signal quality loss is 100 meters (about 328 feet) for Cat 5e, Cat 6, and Cat 7 cables. Cat 8 cables, given their higher frequency and shielded design, also adhere to this limit but are optimized for higher speeds within data centers or short-range applications.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.