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Ethernet is a wired networking standard comprising of standardised ports, cables and network devices.
You know those blue cables you see coming out the back of computers? That's Ethernet. Ethernet's protocol has roots in the ALOHAnet, an early pre-internet network created by The University of Hawaii.
The Ethernet cable also has roots in Ma Bell's standard jack (RJ-11, RJ-14, and RJ-25) (NOTE: these refer to the ends of the cable). The Ethernet Cable is an RJ-45 interface which either uses one of two standards for wiring. These are the T568 standards. T568A is standard Ethernet, while T568B is for a specialty computer-to-computer (or Crossover) cable
For Ethernet, the quality of wire is rated from Category 3 to Category 8. However, you will mostly see Categories 5, 5A, and 6. Telephone wires are Category 1-2. These are also compared to another rating standard, the BASE-T standard.
|Type||Base (AT top support)||Description|
|Cat 3||10BASE-T||Hardly used anymore, was popular in early 90's networks|
|Cat 4||10BASE-T||Used for contemporary telephone, supports signals up to 20MHz and voice transfer at 16 MB/s|
|Cat 5||1000BASE-T||Previous standard. Supports 100Mhz signals, support for Gigabit data transfer (Still Widely in Use)|
|Cat 5e||1000BASE-T||A variant on Cat 5, has modifications to prevent Cross-Talk (Still Widely in Use)|
|Cat 6||10GBASE-T||Current Standard. Backwards compatible with Cat 5, 5e, and 3. Has shielding that prevents cross-talk. Thicker wires for larger quality. 250 MHz signals.|
|Cat 7||N/A||A proposed standard for improvement on the previous Cat 6. While the standard has been ratified, no such cable exists yet. Supports 40 GB/s transfer speeds and multiple mode configurations.|
|Cat 8||N/A||A proposed standard for improvement on the previous Cat 7 standard. 2000 MHz signal rates. The ISO was to ratify the standard in 2018, but have not yet done so.|