When improving your home or office’s networking infrastructure, you have a lot of factors to consider at once. One of the most critical aspects is your choice of Ethernet cable.

If you have the right cable in place, you can smoothly connect to the world and exchange your data without any hiccups. But if you stick with an outdated cable, you may land in a world of connectivity issues.

See more, to ensure that you can make an informed decision in this aspect, here is a lowdown on learning whether your current Ethernet cable is holding you back.

Different Categories of Ethernet Cables

First things first, it’s essential to learn that Ethernet cables come in different categories. These categories determine the overall performance, such as the transmission speed and bandwidth of each cable. The higher these numbers, the better your connection quality.

The categories are typically referred to as “Cat,” with the prefix being followed by a specific number and sometimes an alphabet. These identifiers ensure that you can look at a cable’s name to learn its features instead of going through an abundance of technical details.

To steer clear of any confusion, remember this rule: The higher the Cat number, the more speed, and bandwidth it can support your network.

Which Ethernet Categories Are Still Functional?

The Cat standard started with Cat1. However, Cat1-Cat4 cables are now considered outdated due to their lack of support for faster networking speeds.

To some extent, this also holds true for Cat5 cables, which are only available in the Cat5e label.

By default, you should make sure that your Ethernet cables are Cat5e and above. This gives you the proper speed according to current connectivity standards.

However, there can be times when even Cat5e cables can restrict you from gaining proper speeds or bandwidth.

How to Determine If Your Cable is Fast Enough for Your Network

To ensure that your cable holds up to your network, consult with your internet service provider (ISP) for maximum transmission speed and bandwidth information.

You can then compare these details with available cable standards. This allows you to see if your current network infrastructure needs an upgrade.

For reference, the transmission speed is depicted in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). Whereas the bandwidth is measured in megahertz (Mhz).

What Type of Speeds Do Different Categories Support?

Once you understand the Cat standard and get the required information from your ISP, you can easily select a cable that supports your needs.

The following information outlines the speeds and bandwidths that are supported by commonly found cables in existing set ups.

  • Cat 3: 10Mbps speed, 16 Mhz bandwidth
  • Cat 5: 10-100Mbps speed, 100 MHz bandwidth
  • Cat 5e: 1,000Mbps – 1Gbps speed, 100 MHz bandwidth
  • Cat 6: 10Gbps up to 55 meters speed, 250 MHz bandwidth

It’s important to note that Cat6a offers higher bandwidth than Cat6. Whereas, Cat7 and Cat8 cables support speeds over 100Gbps with a frequency of over 600 Mhz. If you already have these cables in place, you are most likely covered on this front.

If your internet connection supports a higher speed or bandwidth than your current cable, it’s a critical sign to upgrade your infrastructure. But if your Ethernet cables are in line with your needs, you don’t need to do anything.

By keeping this information in mind, you can make sure that your Ethernet cable isn’t limiting your connection to the world. In case you are future-proofing your set up, you can also go for a higher category of Ethernet cable than your current infrastructure. This ensures that you are ready to embrace higher speeds when your respective provider makes them available for you.