Network cables are becoming one of the most used cables in both data and audio visual installations and there are a few different types to choose from. Copper network cables mainly use the common RJ45 connector and consist of 4 twisted pairs, 8 wires total.

Network Cable Quality
In terms of quality there are two main categories, economy and full copper. Economy network cables tend to be made from much cheaper materials such as copper coated aluminium CCA or copper coated steel CCS, whilst these are ok for data we wouldn’t recommend these for audio visual or applications that require power over Ethernet POE.

Wire Gauge
Cheaper network cables tend to use smaller wire gauges, high end cables use 24AWG conductors, mid range 26AWG and low end use 28AWG or smaller, the larger the wire gauge the less loss and hence better performance.

CAT5e vs CAT6 Cables
CAT5 cables are rarely seen today and have been replaced by CAT5e or CAT6. CAT5e cables are specified to transfer 1gbps or gigabit Ethernet over a distance of at least 100 metres using all 4 pairs, CAT6 cables are specified to transfer the same gigabit rate over 100 metres but only using 2 of the 4 pairs. As there is limited equipment that can make use of gigabit over 2 pairs CAT5e is often a good choice. Some audio visual applications such as HDMI over single CAT5 / CAT6 can make use of the CAT6 specification though.

Home networking normally only requires UTP unshielded cabling, in noisy environments FTP or SSTP shielded cables can be used to reduce EMI, shielded cables must be earthed correctly, ideally to a communications grade earth or their performance can be worse than a UTP cable.

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