Which Ethernet Patch Cable Do I Need?

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Ethernet patch cables are twisted-pair and optical fiber cables that are used to connect different devices or to connect a device with servers. As compared to bulk ethernet cables, patch cables are produced in smaller lengths. Your regular ethernet cable comes hundreds of feet in length whereas a patch cable can be as short as one or two inches.

There are multiple uses of patch cables. You can connect your laptop or computer with a router and have a fast and reliable internet connection. You can also use patch cables to connect your gaming consoles with your internet server. But which Ethernet Ptch cable should you use?

As we mentioned, there are plenty of choices when it comes to choosing an ethernet patch cable. First, you will have to decide whether you need an optical fiber patch cord or a twisted-pair patch cable. Then you will have to choose the right one with the right specifications. You can also make your patch cables if you are feeling particularly adventurous. Let’s find out how you should choose an ethernet patch cable and which one you need.

Twisted-pair or Optical fiber patch cables

Twisted-pair patch cables are made from 8 conductors that are twisted into pairs. Most of the time, the conductors are made from pure copper and are twisted into pairs to minimize EMI and crosstalk. Twisted-pair cables are also known as copper wires. These cables are the most popular solution for ethernet networking. There are many 3 main types of twisted pair ethernet patch cables. Namely, Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a are the most commonly used ethernet patch cables. The best thing about them is that you can use them with other cables as well.

Then comes the optical fiber patch cables. These are just like any other fiber ethernet cable but also produced in shorter lengths. Optical fiber patch cables are faster and offer greater bandwidths as compared to twisted pair cables. Compared to twisted-pair patch cables, optical fiber cables are more in variety and are also a bit more costly.

You can use either one of the two types of ethernet patch cables regardless of the type of network you have. For example, if your main link to your WiFi router is via twisted pair cables, you can still choose the optical fiber cables for patching. Similarly, if your router is connected via twisted pair cables, you can also choose a fiber optic patch cable for patching your device.

Types of Twisted Pair Patch Cables

You will choose a twisted pair ethernet patch cable if you are looking for a patch cable that is long lasting and easy to use. Twisted pair ethernet patch cords are tangle-free and last for a long time. Following are their types.

Cat5e Patch Cable

Cat5e patch cable is the basic option you can choose. It has 1 GBit/s data transfer speed with a 350 MHz bandwidth capacity. At its core, it features 24 AWG twisted-pair wires.

Cat6 Shielded Patch Cable

Cat6 shielded patch cable is one of the best twisted-pair ethernet patch cables. It offers a 10 GBit/s data transfer speed with a 550 MHz bandwidth capacity. Because the cable is shielded, it does not suffer from electromagnetic interference (EMI) which directly results in faster and better quality of signals.

Cat6 Unshielded Patch Cable

Now Cat6 unshielded patch cable is similar to the shielded Cat6 except that it does not have a shielding. But even without this shielding, the cable is able to perform smoothly in all types of applications. Because Patch cables are run at shorter lengths, you won’t have to worry about EMI in unshielded cables.

Cat6a Patch Cable

Cat6a patch cables offer a blazing 10 GBit/s data transfer speed with a mammoth 750 MHz bandwidth capacity. It comes in both shielded and unshielded variants which are almost equally good.

Types of Optical Fiber Patch Cables

Before you buy an optical fiber patch cable, you need to know what it is and how it performs its functions. So optical fiber cables have a tiny glass tube at their core. This glass tube is thinner than a single strand of human hair. It is protected by multiple layers or cladding and other materials. In single mode cables, only one beam of light carrying data can be transmitted.

SINGLEMODE 9/125 OS2

This is a single mode fiber optic patch cable. Singlemode or single-mode means that only one beam of light can be transmitted across it. It can transmit data at high speeds with minimum or no attenuation. For long distance transmissions, this is the most ideal cable.

MULTIMODE 50/125 OM4

Multimode means that more than one beam of light can be transmitted across the cable simultaneously. The glass or the fiber size of this cable is 50 microns. It transmits data at 10 gigabit speeds over long distances.

MULTIMODE 62.5/125 OM1

This fiber patch cable has a 62.5 micron glass size and is capable of delivering data at up to 10 GBit/s. It is available in a multitude of connectors such as LC to LC and ST to SC. For short distance transmissions, this is the most ideal optical fiber patch cable.

How to Choose?

Choosing the right ethernet patch cable is easy and simple. You will choose the ethernet patch cable depending on the types of applications you will use the cable for.

For example, if you need the cable for simple internet browsing on your laptop, a Cat5e cable is more than enough. But if you need the patch cable for online gaming or streaming, you should choose a Cat6 or a Multimode optical fiber patch cable.

Note that for power over ethernet applications, you will need to get pure copper twisted pair ethernet patch cables.

In any case, for every use, there is a different ethernet patch cable and depending on the performance requirements of your application, you will choose the cable.

Which one do you need?

As mentioned, there is not a single ethernet patch cable that is ideal for all kinds of use. But generally, for use in home applications, you should get the MULTIMODE 50/125 OM4 patch cable. It comes in a variety of connectors and is ideal for short distance transmissions. You can also get the Cat6 shielded patch cable. It also supports 10 Gigabit speeds and it is highly affordable.

Similarly, for use in commercial applications, you should get a Cat6a or a MULTIMODE 62.5/125 OM1 patch cable. Both of them have quite large bandwidth capacities and your connection will never suffer attenuation.

Final Thoughts

In short, ethernet patch cables are an easy and ideal solution for patching different devices in a local area network. These cables are also affordable and long lasting. Use them to simplify networking and wired data connections.

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