Cat 6 vs. Cat 7 vs. Cat 8: Main Differences Between Ethernet Cables
If you're in North Central rural Alberta or Northwestern Saskatchewan, our local experts are at your service to ensure you're equipped with the best internet package tailored to your needs. Book a consultation with our team today.
“What is the difference between Cat 6 vs. Cat 7 vs. Cat 8 Ethernet cables?” “Should I opt for Cat 6 or Cat 7 at home?” “Does my business need Cat 8?”
If your search history looks anything like this, you’re in the right place. Understanding and selecting the right Ethernet cable for you isn’t a simple task; there are several different types to choose from.
For starters, Ethernet cables are differentiated by their Category (or “Cat”) rating. These categories differ primarily in their data transmission speed and overall durability. Each category is numbered, making this decision even more complex.
If you’re feeling a bit lost, don’t worry! We’ve written this blog post to help you understand the ins and outs of Ethernet cables. Taking the cable category into account, along with other key considerations, will guide you toward selecting the Ethernet cable that best aligns with your specific requirements.
Let’s get started!
Traditional vs. Gigabit Ethernet
The first step to picking the right Ethernet cable is understanding different Ethernet networks. We’ll illustrate the difference using two key rural networks: Traditional cable Ethernet and the more advanced Gigabit Ethernet.
First introduced in the 1990s, traditional cable Ethernet is a low-cost and widely available internet solution. For many years, traditional cable Ethernet was good enough for most household and office tasks, like basic browsing, e-mailing, and file sharing.
With speeds between 10-100 Mbps, traditional Ethernet isn’t well-suited for today’s more advanced and demanding internet tasks like gaming, streaming, and video conferencing. Traditional internet is still great for settings where high-speed internet isn’t a necessity, or in remote locations where gigabit networks aren’t available.
Gigabit Ethernet operates on an entirely different level of efficiency and speed than traditional cable Ethernet. Data is transmitted through fiber-optic cables at rapid speeds to a central tower before being broadcast wirelessly across a community. Your home router captures this ultra-fast signal, amplifying it to provide you with fiber-optic-grade internet speeds.
Offering a significant leap in performance—up to 1 Gbps or 1000 Mbps—Gigabit Ethernet is engineered to effortlessly manage bandwidth-intensive activities such as HD streaming, gaming, video conferencing, and transferring large files.
If you have Gigabit Ethernet, an old or sub-par Ethernet cable will hold you back from experiencing your network’s top speeds. It’s crucial to equip your home with the right cable for your lightning-fast network, otherwise, you’re wasting money every month on your internet plan!
Now that we’ve defined how different networks require different cables, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of Ethernet cables. We’ll compare and contrast 3 popular cable types: Category 6, Category 7, and Category 8.
Differences Between Cat 6, Cat 7, and Cat 8 Cables
When it comes to selecting the right cable, you need to know the ins and outs of each cable and what they’re capable of. In this section, we’ve provided some information on each cable and our recommendations for common internet usage scenarios.
Cat 6: Cost-Effectiveness and Suitability for Home Users
As the most affordable option, Cat 6 cables offer reasonable performance at a budget-friendly price point. With the ability to handle speeds of up to 1 Gbps up to 100 metres, at a frequency of 250 MHz, most users will find this cable sufficient for their needs.
If your average internet use includes some internet browsing, light streaming, and small file transfers, this is the right cable for you. If you’re using traditional cable Ethernet and are simply looking to use an Ethernet cable to extend your internet throughout your home, Cat 6 is the right choice.
If you’re on a gigabit internet network, such as our GigAir network, keep in mind that a Cat 6 cable may throttle your high-speed internet. While this cable can support speeds up to 1 Gbps, this is the top speed, not the average speed. If you want to experience full speed, we recommend selecting a Cat 7 Ethernet cable.
Cat 7: Performance and Versatility
Unlike Cat 6, Cat 7 cables can process speeds up to 10 Gbps at 100 metres, with frequencies up to 600 MHz. This makes Cat 7 cables ideal for small businesses or homes where multiple devices are connected to the internet simultaneously.
Cat 7 cables can effectively support seamless streaming, gaming, large file sharing, and more. For households that use more bandwidth, this cable is the clear choice.
If you’re using gigabit internet for your home, we recommend investing in a Cat 7 Ethernet cable.
Cat 8: Premium Performance for Specialized Use
Cat 8 cables are the gold standard of Ethernet cables, designed for the most demanding networks. With an ability to support data speeds of 25-40 Gbps, and frequencies as high as 2000 MHz, Cat 8 cables are ideal for office buildings, data centres, and enterprise-level applications.
Though the speeds are impressive, these cables only work optimally at a length of 30 metres or less. When absolute reliability, high data use, and speed are non-negotiable, you’ll want to pick up a Cat 8 cable.
These cables are ideal for high-density or enterprise situations. For most households, these cables will exceed your requirements.
Despite our recommendations above, there may be some outlying factors that make a different cable best for you. We’ll get into those next.
Key Buying Considerations for Different Ethernet Cables
Don’t place that cable order yet! There are a few more considerations to keep in mind before you pull the trigger on an Ethernet cable that is right for you:
Each cable category has a maximum cable length for optimal performance. Category 6 and 7 cables will perform optimally at no more than 100 metres in length, while Category 8 cables should be no longer than 30 metres.
This is important when considering the distance you need to cover. If you are leaning towards a Category 8 cable but your property is vast and will exceed 30 metres of cable, it may be best to switch to a lesser category for optimal performance.
When it comes to choosing the right cable, you want to make sure it’s compatible with your existing setup. Is your device or port compatible with that cable’s connector?
Category 6 cables use the standard RJ45 Ethernet connectors. This is the universal, common Ethernet connection that should be included on your device, like your router or powerline adapter.
RJ45 connector – source: truecable.com
Category 7 cables can commonly use a different connector type, called TERA. Be mindful of the connector when buying a Category 7 cable! Most routers and devices aren’t compatible with TERA. If this is the case, you can still use your Cat 7 cable, you just may need to buy an adapter (which may prevent the cable from transmitting data at full speed).
TERA connector – source: Wikipedia
Category 8 cables use a connector called GG45. The benefit of this connector is that it’s compatible with all RJ45 ports, but is tweaked slightly to accommodate the extra data transmission capabilities. This means you should experience seamless compatibility with ethernet devices.
GG45 connector – source: connectortips.com
If you’re on the fence between two different cables, it might be a good idea to err on the side of caution and opt for the higher category. We’ll get into this in the next section.
Even though a Category 6 cable may support your everyday tasks today, it may fall short of meeting your needs in the coming years. As tech advancements demand more bandwidth, it might be worthwhile to set yourself up today (and save yourself the cost of an upgrade!) for your needs down the road.
However, the downside: higher-rated cables can be more costly per foot. Let’s evaluate the cost vs. performance of these cables.
Cost vs. Performance
It may not come as a surprise that the more bandwidth a cable can handle, the higher the price per foot of that cable. Cat 6 cables are generally more affordable than Cat 8 cables, but may not be optimal for your household bandwidth and speed requirements. Cat 7 and Cat 8 cables, though pricier, offer increased speeds that may be necessary for data-heavy households or businesses.
You must weigh the costs and performance to find the cable that best suits your needs within your price point. In our next section, we’ll compare all three cables side-by-side so you can easily see the cost vs. performance analysis.
Overall Comparison – CAT 6 vs. CAT 7 vs. CAT 8
Finally, to help you make your decision, we’ve stacked all 3 cable types up side-by-side so you can visually see the differences we’ve discussed up to this point. We’ve also included our recommended internet user for each cable type:
Cat 6:The budget-friendly choice for basic internet users
Ideal for data centres or enterprises. Its speed and reliability are unparalleled. Its power is overkill for household use but can offer future-proofing for small businesses looking to scale in the future.
If you’re experiencing slow internet, it may be a good idea to play with the location of your router before investing in an ethernet cable. If this doesn’t help, it may be time to upgrade those cables.
Selecting the right Ethernet cable for your needs comes down to some key considerations. Balancing budget with speed, reliability, and compatibility is crucial for you to get the right cable for the right price, to ultimately optimize your internet and give you the best experience.
If you’re a basic internet user, and your household has just one or two people using the internet, a Cat 6 Ethernet cable should be fine for your needs. If you are a data-heavy user, or your household has several devices using the network at once, you would benefit from a Cat 7 Ethernet cable. If you’re an enterprise or business, you need the Cat 8 powerhouse to handle your applications with unparalleled performance and reliability.
It’s important to consider that your right Ethernet cable isn’t just about your needs today, but about preparing for your needs down the road. Make sure your cable choice is future-proofed to prevent needing to upgrade in the coming years.
For personalized advice and to ensure you’re choosing the best possible internet solution for your Alberta home or business, don’t hesitate to reach out to our expert support team. Connect with us today!
What is the difference between wifi and Ethernet connection?
Ethernet is a direct connection to your router through a cable, but can also be used to extend your Wi-Fi signal. Wi-Fi signal alone is interrupted by walls and other physical objects like furniture, water, etc.
Wi-Fi, however, is more convenient, as it’s wireless. Ethernet cables can only be connected directly to certain devices, so using ethernet cables is an outdated way of transmitting data directly to your device. Rather, we recommend using ethernet cables to extend your Wi-Fi signal, providing seamless wireless internet throughout your home.
How do I connect my Ethernet cable to the wireless router?
Your router should have an ethernet port built in. If your cable isn’t compatible with your router, you can purchase an adapter, but these can sometimes throttle the effectiveness of the cable.
Will an Ethernet cable improve my connection?
If you’re experiencing slow speeds or dead zones in your home, an ethernet cable can certainly help improve your connection, especially if you look at adding wireless access points to extend and broadcast your Wi-Fi signal across your home.
Rhonda joined MCSnet in 2019 to lead the rebranding and marketing for the local internet service provider. She has since been promoted to the senior leadership team and as the Chief Marketing Officer, she oversees all marketing, sales, business development, and donations for the company. As a former newspaper editor, MLA assistant, and school board trustee, Rhonda understands the importance of communities and building relationships. Rhonda also owns a small business with her husband and has lived in the St. Paul area for over 27 years. She has two sons aged 20 and 17.
Sign up for one or both of our email communications and SMS notifications for service updates, offers, community initiatives, and more!
Switch to low data mode for a stripped-down version of our website. We designed this setting for users who haven't made the leap to MCSnet yet. If you're ready to ramp up your internet speed, get started with us today.
Thanks for visiting! We hope that you have found what you needed on our website. If not, please feel free to contact us using this form and we will get back to you within one business day. Tech support hours are 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, 7 days a week.