Compatibility of Ethernet cables

In the digital age, network applications are now "state of the art". Major productions are no longer conceivable without the latest data transmission technology and Ethernet connections are also indispensable when it comes to home networks (router/PC). 

In the music industry, Cat5 is still the standard in many settings, but the emphasis is shifting more and more towards Cat6 or Cat7. Do we then also need a new CAT cable type in the corresponding data class depending on higher category network/devices used and are Ethernet cables downward compatible? 

To be able to make use of the full range of functions, you should always use a cable whose standards correspond to the periphery. For Ethernet applications in Europe the predominant current standard is the RJ-45 connector type. Once the connector compatibility is given, downward compatibility is no longer an issue.

Conversely, the matter becomes much more complex. Ethernet cables are subdivided into many standardized cable categories: Cat 5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat 7, Cat7a and Cat8. These categories, basically, differ in regard to the diverse structure and design of the cables themselves. Important respective criteria are:

  • are the cables shielded or unshielded?
  • what kind of shielding is used?
  • are the wires twisted (twisted pair)?
  • how large is the employed copper cross-section (among other things decisive for the application of PoE = Power over Ethernet)?
  • and much more.

The respective use and the associated speed of data transmission varies depending on the applied Ethernet standard. The bandwidth ranges from 100 MHz for Cat5 up to 2,000 MHz for Cat 8. If the wrong cable is used, dysfunctions such as overheating, crosstalk, reduced bandwidth or loss of data can occur. The result: the necessary transmission length won’t be achieved, initialization errors or even complete transmission failures cannot be ruled out.

Consequently, to ensure the full range of functions, it is essential to always use the appropriate cable, i.e. a higher class cable will always be a future-proof investment. 

Knowledge base for network cables

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