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Reliable Data Transmission What do I have to Consider?

Published by Lee Kelly on 23 January 2020

The length of an Ethernet cable can have a major impact on the quality of the data you send and receive. Data leakage from damaged spots, loose connectors and faulty equipment are factors in data loss, but even in a new, expertly installed network, the signal strength decreases as the cable length increases.

Some major businesses have adopted fibre optic cabling because of the reliability of the signal and ultra-fast data transmission speeds, but Ethernet cables are used in the majority of data transfers at this time. Properly shielding and installing the Ethernet cable can maximise data quality, however, and the environment and location of the cabling also affect the strength of the signal.

Critical Power Supplies - Networking cables switch termination

Power Drop

In an Ethernet cable, data is transmitted through electrical impulses that travel over copper wires. There is always some power drop, and the amount is determined by the size of the cable, its length and the intensity of the current. When the amount of power needed is low or the cable has a wide diameter, the electric current loss has little to no effect on performance. But there can be significant power loss and data degradation in long, narrow cables.

Every foot of cable adds resistance to the flow of electrical current, and the best cables do a more thorough job of minimising that loss through shielding and quality construction. Electrical cables emit electromagnetic noise, stray signals that interfere with the cable transmission, so laying cable far away from them will also improve data reliability.

Networking

For sufficient speed and reliability, an extended length of cable should have an increased diameter to counteract power loss. Wired networks often use Category 5, or CAT5 Ethernet cables, and excessive length (over 100 metres) can slow down data transmission. Home networks shouldn't have any issues with signal degradation, but it can be a problem for a business with a large footprint.

One solution is to add repeaters along the cable line, junctions that reset the data transmission signals to full power. There is a short delay while the correct amplitudes are reset, and this creates a lag in data transmission, so repeaters should be used sparingly.

CAT5 vs. CAT6

Upgrading to a higher quality cable will help ensure data speed and reliability. Ethernet cables are identified by category numbers, and the two most effective types are CAT5e and CAT6a. Increased data transmission speeds have pushed CAT5 capability to the limits, but the CAT5e version is better at reducing interference and can handle transmission speeds up to 1Gbps (gigabytes per second). The CAT6a cable has a 10 Gbps limit, and it's also shielded from electromagnetic interference. You'll need a CAT6a for a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Features / Specs

CAT 5E

CAT 6

CAT 6A

Common areas of use

Phone Lines

Yes

Yes

No

Home Network

Yes

Yes

No

Office Network

Yes

Yes

Yes

Data Centre

No

No

Yes

Technical Specs

Potential Bandwidth (Per Seconds)

1000 Megabits

1000 Megabits

10,000 Megabits

Time to Transfer 1 Terabyte

3 Hours

3 Hours

20 Minutes

Data Transmission

1000 BASE-T

1000 BASE-T

10GBASE-T

Connector Type

TJ45 8P8C

RJ45 (for Cat6)

RJ45 (for Cat6A)

Frequency Range Minimum

0 - 100 MHz

0 - 250 MHz

0 - 500 MHz

Frequency Maximum

350 MHz

500 MHz

600 MHz

Performance Distance

328 Feet

328 Feet

328 Feet


Ethernet vs. Fibre Optic Cable

Critical Power Supplies - Fibre vs Ethernet

Originally, Ethernet cable was the only option for networking, but recent breakthroughs in fibre optic technology have produced cables that use glass rods to transmit data through pulses of light. Fibre optic cable is not subject to electromagnetic interference like Ethernet cable, and it is more difficult to hack. The extremely high data transfer speeds are also more stable across long distances.

For now, Ethernet cable and standard fibre optic cable transmit at the same top speed of 10Gbps. However, experiments have shown that fibre optic cable will eventually be able to transmit data at the rate of 100Tbps (Terabits per second). One day, lightning-fast fibre optic data transmission will be the standard for both home and business.