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American Wire Gauge

Posted on Mar 31, 2024 by
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What Is AWG (American Wire Gauge)?

AWG stands for American Wire Gauge (sometimes called the Brown & Sharpe wire gauge), a standardized wire gauge system used to measure the diameter of electric conducting wire in the United States since 1857. In the context of Ethernet cables, AWG defines the gauge of the copper conductors inside the cable.

AWG refers to a numerical designation that helps describe the size and capacity of wires and is calculated by squaring the number of the radius of the wire, and multiplying it by pi (AWG = πr²). A LOWER AWG number indicates a THICKER wire. For example, a 23AWG cable has larger wires than a 28AWG cable and a 26AWG cable has smaller wires than a 24AWG cable in reverse.

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Common AWG Types

Certain types of cables will always be the same AWG. For instance, coax cables tend to be the same size across the board with different connectors made for the different kinds of cables. However, Ethernet cables normally have different AWGs, but typically 24AWG or 26AWG from most manufacturers, and 28AWG slim Ethernet cables are becoming more popular among users. 24AWG: This is a thicker wire gauge. Ethernet cables with 24AWG conductors can carry more current and are often used in applications where longer cable runs are needed or where signal strength is critical. 26AWG: This is a thinner wire gauge. Ethernet cables with 26AWG conductors are more flexible and easier to work with. They are commonly used for shorter cable runs or in applications where flexibility and space constraints are more important. 28AWG: This is the slimmest wire gauge among the three. Ethernet cables with AWG 28 are highly flexible and are suitable for applications where space-saving and flexibility are top priorities.

AWG Gauge
Conductor Diameter (in)
Conductor Diameter (mm)
20
0.0320
0.8128
21
0.0285
0.7239
22
0.0253
0.6452
23
0.0226
0.5740
24
0.0201
0.5105
25
0.0179
0.4547
26
0.0159
0.4039
27
0.0142
0.3607
28
0.0126
0.3200
29
0.0113
0.2870
30
0.0100
0.2540
31
0.0089
0.2261
32
0.0080
0.2032
 

How Does Wire Gauge Impact Ethernet Cables?

As a matter of fact, wire gauge has a significant impact on the performance and characteristics of Ethernet cables in the following aspects:

  • 1. Signal Quality: Thicker conductors have lower resistance, which means they can carry signals over longer distances with less signal loss and can support higher data transmission speeds as well. This is crucial in high-speed data transmission like 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) and beyond.

  • 2. Heat and Airflow: Thicker cables produce less heat, but over short runs (one meter or less), the heat production difference between thick and thin Ethernet cables doesn't add up to a whole lot. Meanwhile, thinner cables are better for airflow — there's just more room for air between the cables. With improved airflow comes better heat management, which is particularly suitable for network closets or other extremely dense spaces.

  • 3. Flexibility and Space Constraints: Thicker cables are obviously less flexible according to their appearance. While thinner conductors are more flexible and are preferred in situations where cable routing and flexibility are essential. They are connected in very short runs or through awkward positions, giving network designers more freedom.

  • 4. Power Over Ethernet (PoE): When transmitting power along with data, thicker conductors are better equipped to handle higher power loads. This is important when connecting devices like security cameras, access points, and IP phones that rely on PoE.

  • 5. Cost and Availability: Thinner conductors are typically less expensive and readily available. This can make them a cost-effective choice for certain applications.

How to Choose a Correct AWG Cable?

The choice of wire gauge depends on your specific networking needs. Thicker conductors (like 24AWG) are ideal for high-speed, long-distance transmission and PoE applications. Thinner conductors (26AWG & 28AWG) offer flexibility and are preferred for short cable connections and applications where cable routing and space constraints are important. By understanding the differences between these wire gauges, you can select the Ethernet cable that best fits your requirements and ensures optimal network performance.

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