The development of global economy has brought the world closer and closer. And this connection owes to Ethernet cables–one of the most important connectivity devices. Ethernet cables are used to connect PC, switches and routers to transmit and receive data. To build reliable connection, it’s important to select the suitable cables for specific applications. So this article will guide you how to choose appropriate cable categories from the side of cable structure–solid conductor or stranded conductor.
Copper Ethernet cables have the types of Cat 5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, etc. according to different specifications. Copper Ethernet cables can also be divided into solid and stranded conductor cables as to different cable constructions. The following will explain about these two kinds of cables in details.
Solid conductor cables are made up of a single, solid conducting wire. Solid conductors usually consist of bare copper wires with diameter between 22 and 24 AWG (American Wire Gauge units). For example, the diameter of Cat 5e UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) cables is 24AWG. The benefit of large wires is that they can provide superior electrical characteristics to keep stable over a wide range of frequencies. Therefore, solid cables are well suitable for high speed Ethernet applications.
Because of the large wire diameters, solid conductor cables have a lower DC resistance (The resistance is not good for signal transmission) and lower susceptibility to high frequency effects. This kind of cables can support longer distance transmission and higher data rates compared with stranded cables. But the large wire diameters also lead to disadvantages. The larger the core, the less inflexible the cable. If the cables were bent, they are very likely to be broken or affect the network performance.
Stranded conductor cables are very commonly used today. Inside the twisted pairs of stranded cables, each individual conductor is made up of a bundle of smaller-gauge wire strands. Generally six or seven strands are used to surround a single wire in the center. The outer strands are wrapped helically around the central wires. The stranded wires form a conductor with the similar diameter to a solid cable. But the conducting area is smaller than that of a solid cable due to the smaller diameters of each individual conducting wire strand.
The stranding structure makes stranded cables flexible. Even though the cables are bent, cables can’t be easily harmed since each strand is independent of the entire strand. Let’s see how this works. When cables are bent, all individual strands are pulled towards the center. The total stresses are distributed to all the strands to minimize the stresses on the center conductor. As a result, cable conductors can get more supports if there are more twists to the wire strands.
The conductors of stranded cables used for networking and Ethernet applications are made of bare or tin-coated copper wires. Tin-coated conductors can protect the conducting surfaces from oxidation and keep individual wire strands from fraying. That’s because of production process of tin-coated conductors. All the individual wire strands have to be dipped in a bath of molten tin before they are assembled into a single conductor.
But stranded conductor cables can cause higher insertion loss for their smaller conducting diameters especially for long distance transmission (of course the distance has limits for both solid and stranded conductor cables). Stranded conductor cables have high DC resistance which causes signals dissipation as increased heat during long distance transmission. So stranded conductor cables are not as good as solid cables for long distance runs. Another shortage of stranded cables is that they are more expensive than solid conductor cables for the equivalent length since they are expensive to manufacture.
Solid conductor cables are designed for backbone and horizontal cable runs. That attributes to the superior electrical performance and stable high frequency. The cables can support longer distances than that of stranded conductor cable. Long cables can be installed in the walls, up through ceilings, or between work areas on the same floor. But attention should be paid on that solid cables shouldn’t be bent, flexed, or twisted repeatedly as they are not very flexible.
While stranded conductor cables are used for short runs between network interface cards and wallplates or between concentrators and patch panels, hubs, and other rack mounted equipment, as they will be constantly plugged, removed or bent. Stranded conductor cable is much more flexible than solid conductor cable. However, it has high attenuation. When you use stranded category cables, remember to restrict its length to reduce insertion loss.
From the above content, solid and stranded conductor cables have their own advantages and disadvantages. Different types of cables are used for different applications. Knowing their specific purposes can improve network performance. FS.COM provides low-cost stranded cables including Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7 no matter shielded or unshielded, pre-terminated or unterminated. For more information about our copper Ethernet cables, please visit www.fs.com or contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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