Explanation Of Category Twisted Cable System – Is It Necessary?

Ethernet cables are the right choice for pacing up your network speed and performance despite EMI or RFI — the signal killers. What makes ethernet cables so special is that the data lag percentage is limited. In this blog, let’s discuss a bit more about the internal structure of the networking cables — The Twisted Cabling System. 

The need for the twisted pair inside the ethernet cable and what is the primary benefit of these twisted pair cables. So without taking much time let’s dive into the depth of detail of the Twisted Pair System. 

What Is An Ethernet Cable?

You are probably familiar with the term ethernet and also you are using it for your smart TV, Computers, Routers, Offices, etc. These are the protocols to connect multiple devices to access the active internet connection. They are mostly available in short lengths from 1 meter to 25 meters according to the manufacturer. Also, these cables are in the bulk form like 1000ft Cat5e Spool, 500ft Cat6 spool, or Cat6a 1000ft spool. According to the need for the installation. 

Networking cables enhance the signal quality as compared to wireless technology. But have you ever noticed why the 8 conductor wires are twisted? Is it just a design or there is interesting information behind it? 

This is not a myth that ethernet cables are made up of 8 separated copper or stranded conductors to provide price variation. These conductors are tightly twisted in Cat6 aka Cat6 ethernet cables and are tight in Cat6a aka cat6a ethernet cables  to avoid signal overlapping. Are you familiar with the terms EMI or RFI? Here is a brief knowledge about Electromagnetic Interference and Radio Frequency Interference. 

What Is EMI or RFI?

EMI is the magnetic frequency generated by Electric current and the RFI is the impact of EMI radius. But mostly these both are quoted separately. A few examples of EMI are Generators, Microwaves, Telephones, and some special lights that possess specific wavelengths of electromagnetic. 

EMI or RFI are also known as signal killers because they distort the signal quality if the environment is active with power cables or other high-voltage cables passing throughout the building. To overcome this issue Twisted Pair Cabling is the best possible solution for accurate speed and performance. 

Twisted Pair Cabling In Ethernet Cables

Inside the ethernet cable, there are 4 twisted pairs no matter if you have Cat5E, Cat6, or Cat6A the structure is the same. But when you peel the jacket off the ethernet cable you might see the design of the twisted pair – the zigzag pattern might be tight or loose compared to advanced category cables like Cat6 and Cat6a. The reason is that the networking cables are used to deploy in homes, offices, educational institutions, healthcare sectors, and industrial setups to cater to bulk functioning where there are huge machines that are positively active for interference. 

The twisted pair is used to streamline the electric current (Data Packets) to avoid pairing with the outer signal resulting in low signal quality. Also, this is the reason to avoid signal interference between the pairs. 

If ethernet cables lack twisted pair design then Coaxial cables would be used for electrical transmission of signals as the wires would definitely generate interference inside the cable and hence the information provided will be of low quality or transfer at a slow speed.

There is another possibility to overcome this problem and that is using shielded or unshielded cables for your network. But when to use shielded or unshielded cables?

Shielded And Unshielded Cables

Another variant in the ethernet cable is Shielded and unshielded also denoted as (STP) Shielded Twisted Pair or (UTP) Unshielded Twisted Pair. Let’s know the main difference between STP and UTP cables. 

There are some acronyms like “F”, “S”, and “SF” for idealizing the cable’s internal structure. According to the International Organization For Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission 11801 standard, network cables follow a format like XX/XXX. Here XX or single X refers to the whole cable specifications whereas, XXX is used to distinguish the twisted pair structure whether shielded or not. 

F – Foil screen

S – Braided Sheath

SF – Braided and Foil screen

Shielded Cables

Each category cable has a shielded variant like Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a cables have the shielded and unshielded types. Keep one thing in mind shielded cables are a special type of cables that cannot be used for general cabling systems. Some factors will guide you as to why you choose shielded cables. 

Some of the variants in Shielded cables are 

  • S/UTP — Braided foil without any shielding on twisted pairs.
  • F/UTP — Foil shielded cable and twisted pair have no shielding.
  • U/FTP — The whole cable is unshielded but twisted pair cables are Foil shielded.
  • S/FTP — The whole length of the cable is braid-shielded and the twisted pair is foil-screened.  
  • SF/FTP — This is the hard type of shielded cable Cat7 and Cat8 are the best examples. The whole length of the cable is braid-foil shielded and the twisted pairs are foil shielded. 

The shielded cables are used to install in a very tough environment where there are clusters of different cables. If you appoint the wrong wires for installation then it might affect your cost and also the quality of internet speed. 

Unshielded Cables

Often denoted as general ethernet cables without any insulation layer or sheathing. So you can install these cables in stationary spaces of the buildings. Likewise, shielded cables are less prone to EMI or external noise. UTP cables will also reduce interference through the twisted pair design. 

The cable internal conductors are ideally 22, 23, and 24 AWG and with the decrease in the diameter of the conductor, the cable diameter will increase hence be more stable and provide higher bandwidth and electrical stability while sending and receiving signals. 

The most common examples of UTP cables are Cat5E, Cat6, and Cat6A but in case you are dealing with the cabled structure you should rethink your decision. 

Why Twisted Pair Cabling is important

The above discussion explains why twisted pairs are important. The twisted pair structure inside the ethernet cable provides a stable and seamless connection and allows electric current to pass freely without overlapping or lowering the signal quality of the cable. 

While installing the desired cable — Cat6 or Cat6a consult with the cable installer or experts to make the final decision. Do not buy shielded cables if you are going to install cable at your home or office as they are a bit more expensive than UTP cables. 

Final Thought

The twisted pair cabling system was introduced in 1881 by Graham Bell and by 1900 the whole American communication system was converted to twisted pair. So, there was a need to install cables with other wires like power cables or near switchboards if necessary. 

Though twisted pairs lessen the crosstalk or data attenuation, more safety shielded cables are also available in the market. Adopt the right type of cables to ensure that you get the full potential of ethernet cable.

mark harper

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