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CAT5, LAN and Ethernet - Network Installation Terms Explained


Definition: Category 5 refers to a shielded or unshielded twisted pair cable type that prevents interference. It has balanced lines of four twisted pairs in a single cable jacket, which aid the preservation of a high signal-to-noise ratio. Its specification is ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A, with clarification in TSB-95. These characteristics are required for a frequency of up to 100 MHz. Within the cable there are 3 twists per inch of each twisted pair of 24 gauge copper wires.

Use: A Cat 5 install is most frequent in a 100 Mbit/s network, for example with 100BASE-TX Ethernet. It is commonly used for other structured cabling, such as Basic Voice Services, Token Ring and ATM signals.

Category 5e: Cat 5e is the improved version of Cat 5 and its specification is TIA/EIA-568-B, which is best used with 1000BASE-T. This version includes provisions for far end crosstalk.

Other information: With Cat 5 installation, there are two conductor forms available – stranded and solid. The stranded form is malleable and suited to connections with insulation piercing connectors. It is used, for example, for patch cables that connect a wall socket to a computer. The solid form is suited to insulation displacement connectors and is also less expensive than the stranded form. This type of conductor can be used for building wiring.

The cable, connector types and cabling topologies are all defined as TIA/EIA-568-B. The connectors that are used with this type of cable are 8P8C modular connectors, sometimes referred to as RJ-45 electrical connectors. With Cat 5 cable installation, the cable ends at the T568A or T568B scheme. T568A is typically used by phone systems and Token Ring, and T568B is used by Ethernet standards 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX. When looking how to install a network, bear in mind that the cables are wired ‘straight through’, meaning that pin 1 is connected to pin 1, pin 2 to pin 2 etc.


Definition: A local-area network is a group of computers that share a communications line or wireless link using a single processor or server. LAN computer network installation allows multiple users to share applications and data storage and it can be accessed by a handful to thousands of users. LAN installation enables high data transfer in a small geographical area.

Uses: The major LAN’s are Ethernet, Wi-Fi, ARCNET, Token Ring and FDDI, of which Ethernet is the most frequently used. FDDI can be used as a backbone, interconnecting Ethernet or Token Ring LAN’s.

LAN’s can be connected to other LAN’s through the internet using VPN technologies, becoming a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), or part of the internet. When this happens, it is important to make sure that data and applications are secure from outside access.

Cabling: Whilst LAN data cabling has always been based on grades of coaxial cable, a network upgrade is currently available with 10BASE-T and structured network cabling used for LAN’s.

Wireless: A LAN upgrade would be the wireless LAN, which is popular as it easier for network installers to deploy and gives the freedom to change the location of the computer or laptop. It uses spread-spectrum or OFDM modulation technology so computers can communicate within a certain range. Most computers that are on the market today are already equipped with wireless technology. Despite its popularity, there are some disadvantages to wireless LAN technology, including its speed, security and reliability.


Definition: Ethernet is the most widely-installed frame based technology for local area network technology, including wireless LAN’s. It is specified as IEEE 802.3.

Use: The most common Ethernet system is the 10BASE-T, which provides transmissions of 10Mbps. The faster 100BASE-T provides up to 100megabit per second and is generally used for LAN backbone systems. Further to this, the Gigabit Ethernet supports 1000 megabits per second and the 10-Gigabit Ethernet provides 10 billion bits per second. When considering the transmission speed of a network, install a frequency that will cater for your expected needs.

Cabling: Ethernet traditionally used coaxial cable, but has since been replaced with special grades of unshielded twisted pairs. There are many advantages to this replacement, including decreasing the cost of network installation, making the connection more reliable and allowing point-to-point supervision. Point-to point links are connected by Ethernet hubs and/or switches and all termination is built into the device. All Ethernet versions share an identical frame format allowing any generation of Ethernet to be interconnected. Each Ethernet station has a single 48-bit MAC address that acts as the source and destination for data packets. Ethernet stations communicate to each other with these packets (blocks of information), above the physical layer.

Other information: Ethernet networks use half duplex and Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) protocol for dealing with the collision of packets. This does not tackle bandwidth and security problems and the nominal activity at the hub limits the speed of links.


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