What Is an Ethernet Cable?

Ryan Bennion

An Ethernet cable establishes an Internet connection through either your modem or router. This cable can link your modem directly with one device — like your computer — though that is not the most secure way to access the Internet. Instead, use Ethernet cables to connect multiple devices to a router for added Internet security and to form a local area network (LAN) that allows file and Internet sharing.

Whether you are setting up a network for your home or business, you need an Ethernet cable to provide the connection between your router and modem — unless you have a modem and router in one. You can then either use another Ethernet cable to connect your devices with your router, or access the Internet through your router’s Wi-Fi signal.

Are there different types of Ethernet cables?

As with most technology, several versions of Ethernet cables evolved over time to suit changing consumer needs. While any Ethernet cable will likely be able to connect you to the Internet, newer cables are built to handle faster communication of more data.

Ethernet cables fall into four different categories (“Cats”): Cat-5, Cat-5e, Cat-6, and Cat-6a. These categories were created in that order, and with each new model comes faster speed and less crosstalk (interference from different channels). Cat-5 and Cat-6 are the two most important categories for customers to know, and either one will likely work for a home network. Both of these cables are about 300 feet long and fit into the same Ethernet port on computers, modems, and routers. Cat-5 cables can provide speeds up to 1 Gbps and Cat-6 cables are designed for speeds up to 10 Gbps. There is a category above the Cat-6, but home Internet speeds and hardware capability aren’t quite ready for the Cat-7.

Just because Ethernet cables can handle lightning-fast speeds doesn’t mean users will notice a faster Internet connection. To maximize the capability of the cables, the user needs to have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that guarantees 1 Gbps or higher speeds as well as high-speed modems and new computer equipment.

Should I upgrade my Ethernet cable?

Depending on your Internet speed, either a Cat-5 or Cat-6 cable should work for your needs. However, a new Ethernet cable will not guarantee you faster Internet speeds if your other devices you use aren’t up to date. Your hardware and software work together with your ISP to provide you with the fastest Internet speed possible.

There are reasons other than speed to upgrade your Ethernet cable. For users who transfer large amounts of data between computers on a local area network (LAN), an upgrade may be essential. If you are setting up a new network, you may want to use the latest Ethernet cable technology to avoid needing to upgrade in the near future.

Does an Ethernet cable produce Wi-Fi?

An Ethernet cable itself does not produce Wi-Fi, though it does provide the connection between your modem and wireless router. To set up a wireless network, plug the Ethernet cable into the Wireless Area Network (WAN) port on the router. A wireless router establishes a Wi-Fi network by sending out a signal that nearby computers and other Wi-Fi enabled devices can use to connect to the Internet.

The right Ethernet cable will contribute to your home’s high-speed Internet. Find out how to make the most of your home Internet connection by contacting CenturyLink Internet at 855-640-4510.

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