Episode 03

Ethernet Cables Segment 1 of 4


If you’re going to be using Ethernet, you’ll need to get to know about Ethernet cables. There are many different variables and variations in these Ethernet cables. They have differing lengths, and there are two important electrical criteria that you need to know about.

This is an Ethernet cable of the most common type in use today. It has two identical connectors, one on each end, and the connectors look a lot like the modular telephone jacks with which all North Americans became familiar during the 1960s and 1970s as our telephones were all installed. However, a close examination of this connector will reveal it’s a little wider than a standard telephone jack, and it has eight pins for connection.

For comparison, here’s a regular telephone jack which has four conductors. This telephone jack has been well known as an RJ11 jack, where RJ stands for “registered jack.” And these newer ones are called RJ45 connectors. A close examination of the cable with its connectors and wire will reveal some interesting details with which you should be familiar if you’re going to be purchasing and using and installing Ethernet, and wish it to work optimally.

Notice that the wire has printing on it. There are various categories of this wire, and the printing can tell you what kind you have got. If you can read this label, you can see that it says, “Twist pair 4P standard 24-gauge 75 inches CEIATIA T568A cat5E UTP cable.” The important parts of this label include the “cat5” designations, meaning it’s going to be fast enough to handle 100 megabits per second Ethernet, as opposed to earlier cables with lower numbers that could only handle 10 megabits or thereabouts, and “UTP,” which stands for “unshielded twisted pair.”

If you look at the connector at the end, you’ll see it’s made of clear acrylic that allows you to peer inside, and if you have really good eyesight, you can see a pattern in the colors of those wires. These color codes have been standardized, and it’s not necessary for you to know the arrangements of those colors, but it is useful to lay the two ends side-by-side, and look at them closely enough, so that you can determine whether they are both wired the same way.


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