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Ethernet Connectors and Cable Types


The cable and connector specifications used to support Ethernet implementations are derived from the EIA/TIA standards body. There are many network connectors:

  • RJ-11 is a physical interface often used for terminating telephone wires. It is probably the most familiar of the registered jacks, being used for single line telephone jacks in most homes across the world. 
RJ-11 sockets
RJ-11 Connector

  • RJ-45 is slightly larger than RJ-11 phone connectors and jacks.
RJ-45 connector

RJ-45 socket

  • Attachment Unit Interface (AUI connectors): is a 15 pin connection that provides a path between a node's Ethernet interface and the Medium Attachment Unit (MAU), sometimes known as a transceiver.

  • Gigabit Interface Converter (GBIC): a hot-swappable I/O device that plugs into a Gigabit Ethernet port. GBICs are used in the LAN for uplinks and are normally used for the backbone. 
  • fiber-optic GBIC: a transceiver that acts as electrical current/optical signal converter. 
fiber-optic GBIC

  • Mini GBIC: A variation of the GBIC called the small form-factor pluggable transceiver (SFP), also known as mini-GBIC, has the same functionality but in a smaller form factor.

When choosing Ethernet cable types, maximum segment length and speed are the most important factors. The following table compares the most common Ethernet cables.

Cable Type Comparison

Media Type Maximum Segment Length Speed CostAdvantages Disadvantages
UTP100 m10 Mbps to 1000 MbpsLeast expensiveEasy to install; widely available and widely usedSusceptible to interference; can cover only a limited distance
STP100 m10 Mbps to 100 MbpsMore expensive than UTPReduced crosstalk; more resistant to EMI than Thinnet or UTPDifficult to work with; can cover only a limited distance
Coaxial500 m (Thicknet)185 m (Thinnet)10 Mbps to 100 MbpsRelatively inexpensive, but more costly than UTPLess susceptible to EMI interference than other types of copper mediaDifficult to work with (Thicknet); limited bandwidth; limited application (Thinnet); damage to cable can bring down entire network
Fiber-Optic10 km and farther (single-mode)2 km and farther (multimode)100 Mbps to 100 Gbps (single mode)100 Mbps to 9.92 Gbps (multimode)ExpensiveCannot be tapped, so security is better; can be used over great distances; is not susceptible to EMI; has a higher data rate than coaxial and twisted-pair cableDifficult to terminate

CCENT have many questions about UTP cable and the the categories of UTP cable, therefore, we will talk more about this topic.

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) is a cable that has four pairs of wires twisted inside it to eliminate electrical interference. EIA/TIA standards body specifies an RJ-45 connector for UTP cable. RJ-45 connector is the most common type of connection media, which have eight connector pins. UTP cable has a small external diameter of 0.43 cm, make it easy to install.

Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP)

RJ-45 Pins
RJ-45 Pins

The categories of cabling defined for Ethernet are derived from the EIA/TIA-568 (SP-2840) Commercial Building Telecommunications Wiring standards. Here is the category of UTP cable:

  •  Category 1: Previously used for POTS telephone communications, ISDN and doorbell wiring.

  • Category 2: Previously was frequently used on 4 Mbit/s token ring networks.

  • Category 3: the standard cable for use with Ethernet 10Base-T, capable of transmit data at speeds up to 10 Mbps.

  • Category 4: no longer common or used in new installations, was frequently used on 16 Mbit/s token ring networks.

  • Category 5: standard cable for use with Ethernet 100Base-TX, capable of transmitting data at speeds up to 100 Mbps.

  • Category 5e: standard cable for use with Ethernet 1000Base-T, capable of transmitting data at speeds up to 1000 Mbps.
  • cat5e cable
  • Category 6: Consists of 4 pairs of 23-gauge copper wires, which can transmit data at speeds of up to 1000 Mbps. Notice the EIA/TIA standards for Category 6 cables require 23AWG, NOT 24 AWG.
category 6 cable

ICND1 and ICND2 break down

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