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What Is Ethernet Cable Frequency and How Does It Matter?

Updated on Mar 24, 2022
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For many people, there is still a lot of confusion about Ethernet cable frequency as it applies to category cables and Ethernet speeds. What is Ethernet cable frequency? What exactly does this mean to your network? Does higher Ethernet cable frequency matter when it comes to different categories of Ethernet cables such as cat5/Cat5e/Cat6/Cat6a/Cat7? Does higher Ethernet cable frequency mean higher bandwidth? In this article, we will get to the bottom of these questions.

What Is Ethernet Cable Frequency?

The Ethernet cable frequency is measured in Megahertz (MHz), and the frequency defines how quickly the signal can change, which in turn defines the speed that the Ethernet cable can support. For example, an Ethernet cable with a frequency of 100 MHz can support between 1 MHz and 100 MHz, or up to 100,000,000 changes per second. In other words, the Ethernet cable frequency can be regarded as the diameter of a water pipe. The larger the diameter of a water pipe, the more water it can handle.

Figure: Cat5/Cat5e/Cat6/Cat6a/Cat7 Cable Frequency

Figure: Cat5/Cat5e/Cat6/Cat6a/Cat7 Cable Frequency

How Does Cable Frequency Matter for Your Ethernet?

Transmission Speed

The Ethernet cable frequency affects the transmission speed that the copper cables can support. That is to say, the higher the cable frequency, the higher the transmission rate it can achieve. For example, CAT6 network cables support up to 250 MHz which is more than twice that of CAT5e cables (100 Mhz), they offer speeds up to 10GBASE-T Ethernet, whereas CAT5e cables can support up to 1000BASE-T Ethernet.

Transmission Distance

Transmission distance is affected by the frequency the copper cable supports. Typically, under the same conditions, as frequency increases, so does the transmission distance, and vice versa. For example, there is a 10Gbps link for 80m transmission. It's wise to choose Cat6a cable (500 MHz), not the Cat6 network cables (250 MHZ). Because Cat6a can transfer data up to 100m at 10Gbps rate, while Cat6 only supports up to 55m at 10Gbps.

A Glimpse of Ethernet Cable Frequency

In terms of copper cables, the Ethernet cable transmission frequency represents the basic bandwidth of information transmission provided by the Ethernet cable. To guarantee the network can function at the bandwidth you desire, you have to make sure the Ethernet cable is consistent with the Ethernet application protocols such as 1000BASE-T or 10GBASE-T. The protocols define how fast the network cable can support. The following table shows the Cat5/Cat5e/Cat6/Cat6a/Cat7/Cat8 Ethernet cables' frequency.

Catetory Applicable Network Transmission Frequency Max Transmission Rate Transmission Distance
Cat5 100Base-T & 10Base-T 1~100MHz 100Mbps 100m
Cat5e 1000Bsae-T 1~100MHz 1000Mbps 100m
Cat6 1000Bsae-T 1~250MHz 1000Mbps/10Gbps 100m/37~55m
Cat6a 10GBase-T 1~500MHz 10Gbps 100m
Cat7 10GBase-T 1~600MHz 10Gbps 100m
Cat8 25/40GBase-T 1~2000MHz 25Gbps or 40Gbps 2000 MHz at 30m

Ethernet Cable FAQs

Is higher frequency better?

The prerequisite is that all devices support high bandwidth transmission. Defined by the standard, the Ethernet cable frequency ensures a certain bandwidth speed is achievable at a certain distance in network cable installation.

MHz vs Mbps

MHz is a unit of frequency equal to one million hertz, which defines how quickly the signal can change.

Mbps stands for "megabits per second". It is used to measure the speed of your internet connection.

Should I choose Ethernet category cable with high frequency?

It depends on the actual application environment. If your ISP provider just offers you 1Gbps rate, you'd better use Cat5e cable (100 MHz). And you can not expect to achieve 10Gbps even you use 10G Cat6 cable (250 MHz). For more detailed information about different Ethernet cables, you can click Cat5/5e, Cat6/6a, Cat7 and Cat8 Cable Buying Guide.

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