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What is Network Cable?

By A. Wells
Updated May 16, 2024
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Broadly speaking, a network cable is a type of cable wiring used in telecommunications that relays data from individual computers to a larger network mainframe. Sometimes these cables are external, and can be used to do things like plug computers into Internet modems or grounded ports. They can also be part of a larger infrastructure, and in these cases are often built into walls along with things like electrical working in order to provide ready access to Internet and cable television services. When it comes to technical specifics there are a number of different varieties, but the most common tend to be twisted pair, coaxial, Ethernet, and fiberoptic. Not all are interchangeable, and each is usually best suited for a specific purpose, so anyone looking to buy a cable or to install it for a specific project is usually wise to do a bit of research before making an investment.

Why They’re Used

Computer networking can be something of a complex science, but when it comes to cabling the goal is pretty clear; namely, information transfer. Information travels from place to place through a series of data “packets,” basically bits and bytes of numerically coded information that are sent by one computer or device to another. In order to promote efficiency and speed, most networks break data down into its smallest pieces — the bits and bytes — then sends those little pieces individually. Once at the destination, they’re rearranged. The cable provides the conduit, and basically acts as the roadway over with those pieces travel.

Twisted Pair Examples

The unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable is used in many home and business-based Ethernet networks. It has four pairs of wires that are housed inside of the lining of the cable. Each pair is twisted into several additional twists to prevent interference from other devices on the network. The structure of this type of cable increases its reliability and helps minimize network failures, and as such is common over networks where there are a lot of users or, alternatively, a lot of connected computers.

Coaxial Cables

Coaxial cable, or “coax” as it is sometimes known, is another common type of network cable. It has a copper conductor in its center and a plastic coating serves as an insulator between the center conductor and a metal shield. The coating may be thin or thick; the thicker coating is less pliable, but may provide extra protection.

Ethernet Cords

Ethernet crossover cable eliminates the need for network switches or routers. The cable also allows the computers to be connected using their network adaptors, such as the network interface card (NIC). People who are wanting to buy a portable network cable to carry with them to connect things like laptop computers to external Internet ports or jacks usually choose this type.


Fiberoptic cables are used for networks that span large distances. As a result, this type of cabling has several layers of protective coating. It also transmits light as opposed to electrical signals like other cables. This makes it an ideal cable for network environments that are exposed to large amounts of electrical interference. It also transmits information at high speeds and is therefore used in large network environments like those used by big businesses.

Looking Toward a Wireless World

Wireless networks and data exchanges have become increasingly popular in many parts of the world, causing some to question the long-term relevance of grounded networks and the cables that support them. However, it is important to realize that while individual computers may connect to servers wirelessly, those servers are still grounded. Home wireless networks, for instance, still require a cable connecting the modem to the source of Internet data; on a larger scale, the same is true for businesses and corporations. Cables of the future may take a slightly different shape or form, but will most certainly still be an important part of the telecommunications landscape.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By GraniteChief — On Oct 19, 2010

the other important thing to remember about selecting the proper ethernet cable to connect your cable modem to router or your DSL modem to your router is to ensure that you have the right kind of category of cabling.

While most modems only have a 100 Mb per second network capability, connections between the router and other computers can be capable of more speed depending on the make and model and the manufacturer.

1 Gb per second routers cables and network interface adapters are available on the market to help speed up things like file transfers. In the case that you have equipment people of this kind of network speeds will need to ensure you have at least a Cat-5e network cable or a Cat-6 network cable.

If you intend to use a Cat-5 network cable you only be able to achieve 100 Mb per second speeds on your network.

By FrogFriend — On Oct 19, 2010

When you are in a circumstance where you absolutely need to use the network cable wiring I suggest the use of a network cable tester to ensure that your connections are properly working.

There is nothing more frustrating been hooking up every single cable went to realize there is still a bad connection somewhere along the line.

Trying to create an RJ-45 network cable is also a challenging task. Ensuring that the twisted-pair copper wiring is properly inserted into the connecting pieces can be very grueling.

Often, it takes several attempts to ensure that the network cable is in a proper working order. There were cables have been properly designed with color coatings and patterns to aid in the process of connecting the pieces. You will still need however, to use a specialized RJ-45 network cable crimper.

By dkarnowski — On Oct 19, 2010

The most of the modern-day consumer will ever use an ethernet cable or any type of network cable for is to connect their modem to the router otherwise all of our devices are now coming standard with wireless connectivity.

Unless there is some specific reason that you're using a network cable for instance such as high-speed gaming fast file transferring or large workloads on the network wireless connections are capable of producing all the speed and connectivity that consumer will need.

By jeancastle00 — On Oct 19, 2010

With a variety of network cables that are available it is difficult to make sure you find the right one for your connection.

Luckily because the standardization of network cables has recently come into line with the needs of consumers, manufacturers of network devices have started to use the ethernet cable as their main way of connecting between devices.

While they still can cost a large so the money most network cables come for free from devices that you need. Only when you have to run large links of ethernet cable when you encounter large costs and the use of contractors to do the installations.

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