Types Of CAT5E

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The choice of CAT5e cables can make or break a home network.
The choice of CAT5e cables can make or break a home network.

Cat5e cable is commonly used for home networking, phone lines and assorted other electronic hookups. It was designed as an improved version of the older Cat5 standard, and has pretty much replaced the older style. The "e" designation means the cable has "enhanced" capabilities, allowing it to handle much faster networks than the older Cat5 cables. Cat5e cables are constructed in a few different ways.

  1. UTP

    • UTP is the most common type of Cat5e cable used in home networks. The UTP designation stands for "unshielded twisted pairs," which simply means the cable is constructed with pairs of wires that are twisted together. Each of these individual wires is wrapped in its own insulation, twisted together to minimize signal interference between the pairs, and then all wrapped in a single insulated "jacket" (the tubing that covers the cable). The wires themselves can be either solid or stranded. Solid wires are a single piece of wire, while stranded wires are made up of much smaller wires twisted into a larger conductor. Stranded wire is more expensive, but it can be bent in a much tighter radius --- important in some installations where space is at a premium.


    • The STP designation stands for "shielded twisted pairs." Unlike UTP, in which the pairs of wires are merely encased in an insulated jacket, the pairs are shielded with metal coverings to prevent outside electrical interference, and then surrounded with more insulation and the outer jacket. Because of all this extra shielding and insulation, STP cables are thicker than most UTP cables. STP cables are also more expensive than UTP, and are not necessary for most home installations.


    • FTP cables are a variation of the STP or shielded cables. FTP stands for "foil twisted pair"; it has less shielding than the STP designations. Rather than the individual wire pairs being shielded, they are simply covered in insulation and surrounded by a layer of metal foil. This foil is connected to a "drain" or ground wire that runs the entire length of the foil and cable. The entire assembly is then covered in another layer of insulation. Manufacturers are not always consistent in their labeling of FTP and STP cables; to be certain exactly which construction is being used, it is best to consult the manufacturer's actual description of the shielding.

    Nonstandard Designations

    • Beyond these relatively standard designations, manufacturers produce specialized Cat5e cable types with additional shielding and insulation for particularly troublesome installation conditions. Various combinations of shielding and insulation may be labeled as, for example, an STP cable with FTP shielding, or they may use other designations such as S/UTP, F/UTP, or S/FTP, for cables that include some sort of double shielding. However, such cables are very expensive and are rarely needed in most home network setups, so home installers can simply avoid most of these confusing labels.

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  • Photo Credit networked image by Georgios Alexandris from Fotolia.com


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