Networking Cables

Choose the right networking cables for your system

Networking Cables Buying Guide

Networking cables connect a network device, such as a computer or telephone, to one another or to shared devices, such as a printer or scanner.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the different types of networking cables and how they work.

Types of Cables

Twisted-pair cables, coaxial cables and fiber optics are all types of cable that do everything from transmitting telecommunication signals to delivering your favorite high-definition television program.

Twisted-pair cables

  • Category 5e cables, also called CAT-5e, are the industry standard for unshielded twisted-pair cables (UTP) for in-home and small business networking
  • CAT-5e cables have an Ethernet capability of up to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps) and can often carry infrared (IR or remote) control signals, eliminating the need for a separate IR network
  • Can be used to connect phones, computer networks, home automation networks and audio/video distribution systems
  • CAT-5e cables typically consist of 4 pairs of wire (8 total conductors) wrapped in a single jacket

Coaxial cables

  • Metallic cable most often used to carry television signals and connect video equipment
  • Provide protection from electromagnetic interference, allowing signals with low power to be transmitted over longer distances
  • Feature a central wire conductor covered with a dielectric or non-conducting insulator surrounded by mesh or a metal sheath. These components are then covered by a thin plastic layer for protection.
  • Coax can often carry infrared (IR or remote) control signals, eliminating the need for a separate IR network

Fiber optic cables

  • Use glass or plastic threads to transmit data quickly and efficiently
  • Not as readily available for use in residential applications as coax and CAT-5e
  • Transmit data at higher rates than coaxial or twisted-pair cables
  • May be used for phones, computer networks and cable television
  • Has less signal loss than copper. Delivers clearer phone conversations or television reception.


Tip: Splitters and routers enable multiple machines to be hooked up to a single connection, meaning that you can hook several TVs up to a single cable connection or more than one computer to a network.

Connectors

If you are installing a network yourself, you need to have plenty of connectors on hand.

Twisted-pair cable connectors

  • The ends of CAT-5e cables are terminated in connectors known as RJ-45 jacks
  • They look like common RJ-11 (phone) jacks, only wider

Coaxial cable connectors

  • F connectors are often used with coax in broadcast and cable TV equipment
  • Provide inexpensive, stable connection to these communications devices and other cables


Fiber optic cable connectors require different types of connectors from those used with coax or CAT-5e cables. If you choose to use fiber optic cable in your home, you may need to install a special adapter in your computer to utilize a fiber optic connector.

SC connectors

Push-pull latching mechanism provides quick insertion and removal while also ensuring a positive connection

ST connectors

Use a plug and socket, which is locked in place with a half-twist bayonet lock