Ethernet Cable vs Network Cable: What’s the Difference?

With the ever-increasing popularization of network applications in our daily life, people frequently hear words like “Ethernet cable” and “network cable”. We can easily get confused by these terms and questions like Ethernet cable vs network cable: What’s the difference? Whoever you are as long as you are network users, you need the basic knowledge to figure one from the other.

What Is Ethernet Cable?

Ethernet cable is a concept of cabling network wire that specified to be used in LAN (local area network), MAN (metropolitan area network) and WAN (wide area network). In actual application, cables that installed in Ethernet to connect with devices like switches, routers and PCs and used as a common network medium for data transmission and power supply (Power over Ethernet, PoE) are called Ethernet cables. They are of great concern while setting up wired networks, for both bad cabling and low-quality cable leading to low network performance.

Ethernet cable

Figure 1: This photo shows the installation of Ethernet cable in network center.

What Is Network Cable?

Network cable is a wide concept of all types of cables used in various network. It is used to connect and transmit data between a network and computers. There are a variety of network cables in the market, and different network cables are required for different network conditions. Ethernet crossover, twisted pair, coaxial and fiber optic are four of the most frequently used network cables.

Ethernet Cable vs Network Cable: What’s the Difference?

·Range Involved

Ethernet cable is a branch of network cable. Only network cables that used in Ethernet environments (LAN, MAN, WAN) are called Ethernet cable. Ethernet cable usually exclusively refers to a copper or aluminium cable. However, network cable refers to a large range of cable types such as patch cable and glass optical fiber. In fact, any cables that applied to networks are network cables.


Modern Ethernet usually operates on twisted pair cables with 8P8C modular RJ45 connectors. An unshield one – UTP is the most identified type and thus be called as Ethernet cable. Ethernet cable is also commonly classified by standard categories. For example, Cat5e cable and Cat6 cable are two most popular used Ethernet cables in the current market. Other updated Ethernet cables are Cat6a, Cat7a for higher performance. All above specially mentioned as Ethernet cables are also network cables. However, modern technology has developed Ethernet, allowing it to run on coaxial and fiber optics cables, which is beyond the early Ethernet technology. This evolution makes the concept of Ethernet cable and network cable more close to each other.

Cat5e vs Cat6

Figure 2: This photo shows the most popular used Cat5e and Cat6 cables.


Opposite to WLAN (WiFi, wireless local area network), Ethernet is a wired LAN access technology. Any cable attached to this access of network is called specially as “Ethernet cable” and generally as “network cable”. As for network, it defines both wired network and WLAN. As we know, WiFi has become more and more popular in the modern world. Will there be a special “wireless network cable” in the future to replace standard cable? Maybe change in structure and function is foreseeable, but the need for a wire to connect the server with hub is always dispensable.


This article explained the concept of Ethernet cable vs network cable and made a contrast of them. Ethernet cable belongs to the category of network cable. Ethernet cable is exclusively pointed to Ethernet environment, while network cable is a general concept of all cable types used in different network conditions.

CAT5 – Copper Network Solutions Choice

Defined by the Electronic Industries Association and Telecommunications Industry Association (commonly known as EIA/TIA), CAT5 (Category 5) cable is the copper wiring using twisted pair technology, designed for Ethernet networks. The term “Category” refers to the classifications of UTP (unshielded twisted pair) cables. Since its inception in the 1990s, CAT5 has become one of the most popular types of of all twisted pair cable types which include CAT3, CAT4, CAT5, CAT6, etc. This article details CAT5 used in copper networks from its working principles, its standard, as well as its installation considerations.

How CAT5 Cable Technology Works

CAT5 is widely used in 100BASE-TX and 1000BASE-T Ethernet networks. CAT5 typically contains four pairs of copper wire. In 100BASE-TX standard, the signals are transmitted across only two of the CAT5 pairs. One pair is used to transmit signals, and the second pair receives the signals, leaving the other two unused in signal transmission. What’s more, the 100BASE-TX signals only run in one direction across the pairs. As technology advanced, the 1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) standard was developed. 1000BASE-T standard utilizes all four copper pairs to transmit up to 250 megabits of data per second (Mbps) in full duplex transmission across each pair. That is to say, each pair is able to transmit and receive signals simultaneously. 1000BASE-T modules (eg. GLC-T) functioning over CAT 5 with RJ-45 connector achieve full duplex transmission with link length up to 100m (328ft).

GLC-T, functions over CAT 5 with RJ-45 connector

There are two standards for CAT5 wiring, EIA/TIA-568A and EIA/TIA-568B. The following passages mainly discuss EIA/TIA-568A.


The TIA-EIA-568-A standard defined the following three main parameters for testing Category 5 cabling installations: wiremap, attenuation, and Near End Crosstalk (NEXT).

Wiremap is a continuity test. It assures that the conductors that make up the four twisted pairs in the cable are continuous from the termination point of one end of the link to the other. This test assures that the conductors are terminated correctly at each end and that none of the conductor pairs are crossed or short-circuited.

Attenuation is the loss of signal, as it is transmitted from the end of the cable to the opposite end at which it is received. Attenuation, also referred to as Insertion Loss, is measured in decibels (dB). For attenuation, the lower the dB value is, the better the performance is, and of course less signal is lost. This attenuation is typically caused by absorption, reflection, diffusion, scattering, deflection.

Near End Crosstalk (NEXT) measures the amount of signal coupled from one pair to another within the cable caused by radiation emission at the transmitting end.If the crosstalk is great enough, it will interfere with signals received across the circuit. Crosstalk is measured in dB. The higher the dB value, the better the performance, more of the signal is transmitted and less is lost due to coupling.

NEXT: the amount of signal coupled from one pair to another

CAT5 Installation Considerations

After testing parameters are mentioned above, here goes the notes of CAT 5 installation.

  • Never pull CAT5 copper wire with excessive force. The CAT5 tension limitation is 25 lbs, much lower than standard audio/video cable.
  • Never step on, crush, or crimp CAT5.
  • Avoid periodic sags; vary the intervals if the cable must sag.
  • Do not bend CAT5 wire tightly around a corner; ensure that it bends gradually, so that a whole circle would be at least two inches in diameter.
  • Do not allow knots or kinks, even temporarily.
  • Never run CAT5 parallel to power wiring closer than six inches.
  • Avoid splices. Every splice degrades the line.

Although CAT5 is superseded by CAT5e in many applications, most CAT5 cable meets Cat5e standards and it’s still a commonplace in Local Area Networks (LANs). Many copper networks choose CAT5 as their transmission media because of its low price and high performance. Fiberstore supplies many CAT5 RJ45 pluggable modules, like 100BASE-TX, and 1000BASE-T transceivers (eg. SFP-GE-T). For more information about copper network solutions, you can visit Fiberstore.