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Differential signaling

To understand why Ethernet cable is built the way it is, it requires familiarity with how the
signals are transmitted over the wires. The fancy term is differential signaling. During a
digital pulse, each wire in the pair carries a signal that is the same voltage, but opposite
polarity. The slide below (courtesy of Wikipedia) exemplifies the process:

The greater the difference between the input pulses, the larger the output pulse, making it
easier for the receiver logic to differentiate ones and zeros. I might add that this becomes
more important as throughput rates increase.

As you can see in the slide, differential signaling has some noise-canceling capability, but
not enough when it comes to Ethernet cabling. That's because two types of interference
come into play, electromagnetic radiation from sources such as power wires
or crosstalk from other pairs in the same cable. Both introduce noise that reduces the
differential. If there is enough noise, the receiver can misread what was sent.

It's all about the twists

The Ethernet cabling most of us are familiar with consists of four pairs of wires, twisted
together, and enclosed in a single insulating cover jacket. Those twists are a pain when
making connections, but are there for a reason. Transmitting Ethernet signals over a cable
that small would not be possible without them.

To understand the importance of twisting the wires requires learning about common-mode
rejection. It seems that digital electronics connected with balanced lines, such as twisted
pair Ethernet cabling are capable of rejecting noise, as long as the spurious emission is
common to both leads in the twisted pair.

It might help to use an example. I mentioned crosstalk earlier. If pairs were not twisted in
Ethernet cabling, it is entirely possible for two wires in adjacent pairs to be next to each
other for the entire length of the cable. That could skew the results by adding cross talk to
only one leg of the pairing.

If the wires in the pair were twisted, both wires in the pair would be affected the same.
Then the receiver using common-mode rejection would be able to filter out the crosstalk

Another twist
Ever notice that some of the twisted pairs are easier to un-ravel? There is a reason for
that. If adjacent pairs have an equivalent twist rate or pitch, the same wires of each pair
could be next to each other for the entire run, negating differential signaling. In order to
prevent that, Ethernet cable manufacturers use different twist rates (courtesy of

One last note, according to cabling best practices, pair wires should not be untwisted
more than 13 mm. This comes into play when using punch-down blocks.
UTP versus STP
There are two types of Ethernet cabling, Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) and Shielded
Twisted Pair (STP). Everything that I mentioned up until now, applies to both. STP cabling
is used if there is an abnormal amount of electromagnetic interference. STP uses metal-
foil shielding that directs any external noise to ground. The metal foil can surround each
twisted pair (STP), all the twisted pairs S/UTP), or both (S/STP).

Some installation tips

Every time I work with cable installers, I bug them mercilessly, trying to learn what they
consider important. Here are some of their pointers:

 For solid wire UTP, the minimum bend radius is eight times the outside diameter of the
cable. Anything less affects the twist rate, reducing noise rejection.
 When installing long runs be careful not to stretch the cable, doing so could alter the
twist rate, again reducing noise rejections.
 Due to the high frequency of digital transmissions, the phenomenon of skin
effect comes into play. So be careful not to nick the copper wire.
 Make sure to use plenum-rated Ethernet cabling, if the run is located in a space that is
used for air circulation.
 Run Ethernet cabling at least 15 cm from any high-voltage lines, 30 cm is better.
 If Ethernet cabling must cross a high-voltage line, do so at a 90 degree angle.

Category 5 cable
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Partially stripped cable showing the four twisted pairs (eight wires).

Category 5 cable, commonly referred to as Cat 5, is a twisted pair cable for computer networks. The cable
standard provides performance of up to 100 MHz and is suitable for most varieties of Ethernet over twisted pair.
Cat 5 is also used to carry other signals such as telephony and video.
This cable is commonly connected using punch-down blocks and modular connectors. Most Category 5 cables
are unshielded, relying on the balanced line twisted pair design and differential signaling for noise rejection.
The category 5 specification was deprecated in 2001 and is superseded by the category 5e specification.


 1Cable standard
 2Termination
 3Variants and comparisons
 4Applications
 5Characteristics
o 5.1Insulation
o 5.2Bending radius
o 5.3Maximum cable segment length
o 5.4Conductors
o 5.5Individual twist lengths
o 5.6Environmental ratings
 6References

Cable standard[edit]
The specification for category 5 cable was defined in ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A, with clarification in TSB-95.[1] These
documents specify performance characteristics and test requirements for frequencies up to 100 MHz.
The cable is available in both stranded and solid conductor forms. The stranded form is more flexible and withstands
more bending without breaking. Patch cables are stranded. Permanent wiring used in structured cabling is solid-
core. The category and type of cable can be identified by the printing on the jacket.[2]
TIA/EIA‐568‐B.1‐2001 T568A Wiring 

Pin  Pair  Wire  Color 

1  3  1   white/green 

2  3  2   green 

3  2  1   white/orange 

4  1  2   blue 

5  1  1   white/blue 

6  2  2   orange 

7  4  1   white/brown 

8  4  2   brown 

TIA/EIA‐568‐B.1‐2001 T568B Wiring[3] 

Pin  Pair  Wire  Color 

1  2  1   white/orange 

2  2  2   orange 

3  3  1   white/green 

4  1  2   blue 

5  1  1   white/blue 

6  3  2   green 

7  4  1   white/brown 

8  4  2   brown 

A Cat 5e Wall outlet showing the two wiring schemes: A for T568A, B for T568B.
Category 5 patch cable in T568Bwiring

Cable types, connector types and cabling topologies are defined by TIA/EIA-568-B. Nearly always, 8P8C modular
connectors (often referred to as RJ45 connectors) are used for connecting category 5 cable. The cable is terminated
in either the T568A scheme or the T568B scheme. The two schemes work equally well and may be mixed in an
installation so long as the same scheme is used on both ends of each cable.

Variants and comparisons[edit]

The category 5e specification improves upon the category 5 specification by revising and introducing new
specifications to further mitigate the amount of crosstalk.[4] The bandwidth (100 MHz) and physical construction are
the same between the two,[5] and most Cat 5 cables actually meet Cat 5e specifications, though they are not
specifically certified as such.[6] The category 5 was deprecated in 2001 and superseded by the category 5e
The category 6 specification improves upon the category 5e specification by improving frequency response and
further reducing crosstalk. The improved performance of Cat 6 provides 250 MHz bandwidth and
supports 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet) for distances up to 55 meters.[7] Category 6A cable provides 500 MHz
bandwidth and supports 10GBASE-T for distances up to 100 meters. Both variants are backwards compatible with
category 5 and 5e cables.

Category 5 cable is used in structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet over twisted pair. The cable
standard provides performance of up to 100 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet),
and 1000BASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet). 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX Ethernet connections require two wire pairs.
1000BASE-T Ethernet connections require four wire pairs. Through the use of power over Ethernet (PoE), powercan
be carried over the cable in addition to Ethernet data.
Cat 5 is also used to carry other signals such as telephony and video.[8] In some cases, multiple signals can be
carried on a single cable; Cat 5 can carry two conventional telephone lines as well as 100BASE-TX in a single
cable.[9][10][11][12][13] The USOC/RJ-61 wiring standard may be used in multi-line telephone connections. Various
schemes exist for transporting both analog and digital video over the cable. HDBaseT (10.2 Gbit/s) is one such
The use of balanced lines helps preserve a high signal-to-noise ratio despite interference from both external sources
and crosstalk from other pairs.

Electrical characteristics for Cat 5e UTP 

Property  Nominal   Tolerance Unit  ref 

Characteristic impedance, 1–100 MHz  100 ± 15  Ω  


Characteristic impedance @ 100 MHz  100 ± 5  Ω  


DC loop resistance   ≤ 0.188 Ω/m  [15]


Propagation speed   0.64 c 

Propagation delay   4.80–5.30 ns/m  [15]


Delay skew < 100 MHz  < 0.20 ns/m  [15]


Capacitance at 800 Hz  52 pF/m  [15]


Inductance   525 nH/m  [16]


Corner frequency  ≤ 57 kHz      

[16] [17]

Max tensile load, during installation  100 N  

Wire diameter  24 AWG (0.51054 mm; 0.205 mm2) [15][18]


Insulation thickness  0.245 mm  [15]


Maximum current per conductor  0.577 A  

Operating temperature  −55 to +60 °C  [15]


Maximum operating voltage 
125 V DC  [20]
(PoE uses max 57 V DC)[19] 

Outer insulation is typically polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or low smoke zero halogen (LSOH).[citation needed]

Example materials used as insulation in the cable[21] 

Acronym  Material 

PE  Polyethylene  

FP  Foamed polyethylene 

FEP  Teflon/fluorinated ethylene propylene 

FFEP  Foamed Teflon/fluorinated ethylene propylene

AD/PE  Air dielectric/polyethylene 

LSZH or LS0H  Low smoke, zero halogen 

LSFZH or LSF0H  Low smoke and fume, zero halogen 

Bending radius[edit]
Most Category 5 cables can be bent at any radius exceeding approximately four times the outside diameter of the
Maximum cable segment length[edit]
The maximum length for a cable segment is 100 m per TIA/EIA 568-5-A.[24] If longer runs are required, the use of
active hardware such as a repeater or switch is necessary.[25][26] The specifications for 10BASE-T networking specify
a 100-meter length between active devices.[27] This allows for 90 meters of solid-core permanent wiring, two
connectors and two stranded patch cables of 5 meters, one at each end.[28]
Since 1995, solid-conductor UTP cables for backbone cabling is required to be no thicker than 22 American Wire
Gauge (AWG) and no thinner than 24 AWG, or 26 AWG for shorter-distance cabling. This standard has been
retained with the 2009 revision of ANSI TIA/EIA 568.[29]
Although cable assemblies containing 4 pairs are common, category 5 is not limited to 4 pairs. Backbone
applications involve using up to 100 pairs.[30]
Individual twist lengths[edit]
The distance per twist is commonly referred to as pitch. Each of the four pairs in a Cat 5 cable has differing precise
pitch to minimize crosstalk between the pairs. The pitch of the twisted pairs is not specified in the standard.
Measurements on one sample of Cat 5 cable yielded the following results.[31]

   Pair color  [cm] per turn  Turns per [m] 

  Blue  1.38  72 
  Green  1.53  65 
  Orange  1.78  56 
  Brown  1.94  52 

Since the pitch of the various colors is not specified in the standard, pitch can vary according to manufacturer and
should be measured for the batch being used if cable is being used in non-Ethernet situation where pitch might be
Environmental ratings[edit]
United States and Canada fire certifications[32] 

Class  Phrase  Description  Standards 

Communications low‐   NES‐711, NES‐713, 
smoke zero halogen  MIL‐C‐24643, UL 1685 

Insulated with fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) and 
Communications  CSA FT6[33] or NFPA 262 
CMP  polyethylene (PE) and jacketed with low‐smoke polyvinyl 
plenum  (UL 910) 
chloride (PVC), due to better flame test ratings. 

Insulated with high‐density polyolefin and jacketed with 
CMR  Communications riser  UL 1666
low‐smoke polyvinyl chloride (PVC). 

general purpose 

Insulated with high‐density polyolefin, but not jacketed 
UL 1685 (UL 1581, Sec. 
CM  Communications  with PVC and therefore is the lowest of the three in flame 
1160) Vertical‐Tray 

CMX  UL 1581, Sec. 1080 (VW‐1) 

CMH      CSA FT1