As we all know, in telecommunication networking field, fiber and copper have been competing for many years. Although in recently years, Fiber cable, which takes the advantages of high bandwidth, reliable performance, has dominated the main market, there are still copper-based cables, like Ethernet cable, deployed in many applications. Ethernet cable is one of the most popular forms of network cable used to connect devices on local area networks, such as PCs, routers, and switches. There are dozens of Ethernet cables in different types, thickness, and options, which may seem excessive, especially for those who do not know the specific information about them. This post aims to provide some useful suggestions which should take into consideration when you choose Ethernet cables.
Depending on whether has shielding or not (shielding is one of the common methods applied to decrease or avoid EMI, protecting the whole cabling system), twisted pair comes in two versions: shielded twisted pair (STP) and unshielded twisted pair (UTP). When you choose Ethernet cables, you should also consider this factor. Here shows different structure of STP and UTP.
- STP: In a STP cable, cable pairs (not individual wires) are shielded by a metallic substance, and then all four pairs (here we take an eight-strand cable as an example, though there are many other options and strand counts available) are wrapped in another metallic protector. This is done with the intention of preventing interference via the usage of three techniques known as shielding, cancellation and wire twisting. But one problem with STP is that if it is not installed and grounded properly, the shielding will act as an antenna and pick up signals. The best use for STP cables is industrial settings with high amounts of electromagnetic interference (EMI), such as a factory with large electronic equipment.
- UTP: As its name implies, UTP does not have shielding serving them to reduce interference, but it relies on the twisted pair inside the cable to cancel electromagnetic interference(EMI). Since UTP has no shielding, it is easy to install and less expensive than STP. Though the benefits of STP are valid, many people still follow the cost rule and opt for UTP purely for budgetary reasons. Besides, UTP cable does not require as much maintenance, since they do not rely on an outer shield, and can transmit data as fast as STP cable. However, it is more prone to noise than properly installed and maintained STP cable. UTP cable is best used for domestic and office Ethernet connections, and in any area where there is not a high degree of EMI.
Both solid and stranded cables as shown below refer to the actual copper conductor in the pairs. But there are some differences between them.
- Solid Cable: Solid cable consists of a single strand or core of wires that is insulated with non-conductive materials. This type of cable is used for home electrical wiring, wiring for breadboards and other situations where wires are not required to be constantly flexed. Solid cable is often favored because they usually more affordable than the stranded variety due to its cheaper production cost. However, solid cable also has a few flaws. One of the main problem with solid cable is that it is usually only sold in small gauges. Besides, if the cable must be bent into awkward shapes, the solid cable won’t have the appropriate amount of malleability and fortitude to remain fully intact.
- Strand Cable: Unlike solid cable, stranded cable is made up of a collection of small gauge wires that is insulated and compressed with non-conductive. Stranded cable is typically used in situations where wire must be routed into cramped spaces. It is also used in ares where there is considerable flexing or vibrations. Stranded cable is easier to route and extremely flexible in comparison to solid cable. But it is far from perfect. It is more expensive as its complicated production process. Also, stranded cable is much more likely to falter as a result of corrosion from capillary action.
For practical applications, cable that is going to be permanently fixed should be solid. Solid cable has better transmission over long distances, while stranded cable should only usually be used for patch cables from device to device and be under 20 feet in length.
I have noticed that many people feel puzzled whether to choose a CCA or full-copper Ethernet cable? So I’d like to explain it here.
CCA cable is an acronym for copper clad aluminum cable, which uses an aluminum conductor that is coated with copper as shown in the following image. CCA was often applied in high-quality coils, such as the voice coils in headphones or portable loudspeakers; high frequency coaxial applications, like RF antennas, and cable television distribution cables. It is also can be seen in unshielded twisted pair networking cables. This cable type is often less expensive than their pure-copper counterparts. But experts advice against the use of CCA cables in networking, because it has higher attenuation than pure copper cables, which will result in a greater loss of data, as packets have to be transmitted. The more data that is re-transmitted, the slower your network performs. Plus, these problems are compounded by every foot of cable you use; the longer the cable, the worse the performance. Therefore, when you choose Ethernet cables, you’d better choose a pure-copper one.
As the core and backbone of any network, Ethernet cable matters to overall communication and efficiency. Choose the suitable Ethernet cable can improve your network performance and extend life span of your equipment.