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Understanding Data Cable Categories

Telecommunications and data transfer are two of the most elements of modern business. Without the correct handling of these two aspects, it’s going to be a struggle to be competitive in the business landscape. Thankfully, you can minimise this struggle by working with the best cables for the job. But there are a lot of cables available on the market. How exactly do you know which one is best? And what are the differences between data cables and phone cables? Understanding the answers to these key questions is the only way to succeed.

What are the Main Data Cable Categories?

Cabling comes in a variety of specifications, lengths and even colours. Whilst the colour of your cabling is far from important, it’s crucial that you understand what the main categories are and their capabilities. The most common type of cabling used in business is data cabling, and it can be found holding IT infrastructures and IP phone networks together. The most common forms of data cabling are:

  • Cat 5: using twisted pair copper cables, Cat 5 cabling is unshielded and delivers a bandwidth of up to 100MHz. The distance covered by Cat 5 cables can reach up 100m and, over this distance, data signals can be carried at speeds of between 10Mbps to 100Mbps. There is also an enhanced version of Cat 5 – known as Cat 5e – which is capable of speeds around 1Gbps.


  • Cat 6: a more modern take on Cat 5 cabling, Cat 6 also utilises twisted pair cabling but at bandwidths reaching 250MHz. It should also be expected to deliver data signals at much higher speeds, up to 10Gbps over a distance of 55m – although, it must be noted, that this speed will drop accordingly over longer distances. Nonetheless, Cat 6 cabling also brings more stable connections thanks to the lack of interference on offer.


  • Fibre Optic Cable: these network cables use glass fibres - contained inside an insulated sleeve – to transfer data across long distances at high speed. And, by long distances, you should expect to find distances of 10km being able to handle speeds of between 10Gbps to 100Gbps.

How do data cable and phone cable differ?

  • Telephone Cable: whilst telephone cables look similar to Cat 5 and Cat 6 cables, they’re noticeably different. This difference can be identified by the end of the cable which, for phone cabling, is smaller and flatter than a Cat 5/6 cable. Telephone cables, much like data cables, can also carry data alongside sound, but the maximum speed you can expect to find is around 10 Mbps.

Is Data Cable Same as Ethernet cable?

It's also important to be able to differentiate between data cables and ethernet cables as these terms are often used interchangeably. As a rule, a data cable is any cable which facilitates the transfer of data e.g. a fiber optic cable, a twisted pair cable or a telephone cable. An ethernet cable, however, is one which is reserved for use in ethernet environments such as local area networks and wide area networks.

Choosing the Best Data Cables

There is no ‘set solution’ when it comes to installing cabling that is correct for you and your business. Depending on your needs, the budget friendly approach ofAnd what are the differences between data cables telephone cables may be suitable for a small network. On the other hand, a large network which handles significant amounts of data would be better suited working with fibre optic. Nonetheless, there’s a solution for every cabling project, and the right option will provide you with a boost in productivity.

For a more detailed explanation of Data Cable categories and their uses please view our YouTube video which explains each of the various categories, applications and and transfer speeds.

Data Cabling Installations

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If you have problems with your data cabling or telephone network or if you are considering moving office or changing your office layout, please contact us for a free network survey and quotation

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