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What are Ethernet cables and how do they work?

WiFi is a convenient and quick way to connect to the internet, but when it comes to having a reliable connection, Ethernet cables go a long way. Offering lower latency and more security when compared to wireless alternatives, Ethernet cables provide a cost-efficient and secure method of connecting devices on your Local Area Network.

There are several advantages of using Ethernet and if you are an avid gamer, using an Ethernet cable to connect your rig to your router could improve your gaming experience by reducing latency and improving download speeds.

But is Ethernet as good as it sounds? In this article, we will be looking at what an Ethernet cable is and how it works.

Also read: Different WiFi standards explained: WiFi 1 through the latest WiFi 6

Ethernet cables explained

An Ethernet cable is a networking cable, which transfers data in the form of data frames on your Local Area Network. Although it is possible to connect two similar devices using an Ethernet cable, they are mostly used to connect devices using a switch or a router.

In such a configuration, a device sends the data to a router or switch using an Ethernet cable, which manages the traffic between the different devices.

What are Ethernet cables and how do they work? | Candid.Technology

Ethernet cables use the Ethernet protocol to transfer data between devices, which uses four pairs of twisted wires for transmitting the data. At the first glance, most Ethernet cables might look the same, but not all are not created equal and are divided into different categories.

Each category of wires offer different data rates and are capable of transferring data to a certain distance without amplification. Cat 5 and Cat 6 cables are mostly used in household settings and are capable of offering data speeds of up to 100Mbps and 1 Gbps over a distance of 100m.

At either ends of each Ethernet cable is an RJ 45 connector, which makes it extremely versatile, enabling to connect to any device having an Ethernet port. Although most Ethernet cables use twisted copper cables for data transmission, they can also use optical fibre cables or coaxial cables for transferring data. This adaptable nature of Ethernet cables can be attributed to the Ethernet protocol, which allows data transfer over different communication media.

Also read: What is Open System Interconnection and its different layers

How do Ethernet cables work?

For meaningful communication to occur between two devices each device needs to follow a set of predefined rules. In case of an Ethernet cable, data is transferred using the Ethernet protocol that defines the physical media for transferring data and the format in which the data is to be transferred. There are different versions of the Ethernet protocol like “fast Ethernet and gigabit Ethernet”, which offer higher data transfer speeds when compared to traditional Ethernet.

What are Ethernet cables and how do they work? | Candid.Technology

Data on an Ethernet cable is transferred in the form of data frames. Each data frame contains data in the form of ones and zeros, which are transmitted using electrical signals on a communication channel such as a twisted copper cable. The Ethernet protocol defines these data frames, which include the data payload, error checking mechanisms and MAC addresses of both the sender and the receiver. 

Although the Ethernet protocol devices rules for transmitting data on a Local Area Network, different protocols like the Internet protocol can be used along with Ethernet to transfer Internet traffic on a Local Area Network.

Also read: USB Connectors: Type C vs Type B vs Type A

Should you use Ethernet ?

Most routers in a household setting have unused Ethernet ports which are capable of transferring data using fast Ethernet. These ports can be connected to Ethernet cables to provide a fast and reliable data connection to devices in areas with weak wireless reception.

What are Ethernet cables and how do they work? | Candid.Technology

That said, getting the right Ethernet cable for your needs is essential, and the wrong cable could offer lower data transfer rates. Distance is also a factor of consideration when using Ethernet as the signal degrades dramatically as distances increases.

Also read: How to rename your Chromecast?

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