Is It Better To Have A Short Ethernet Cable?

If you are considering a wired internet connection over WiFi, using a shorter ethernet cable may be the most practical choice as a longer cable increases the risk of several issues that can limit data transfer speeds.

Ethernet cables are rated into categories depending on the speed at which data can be transferred, and whether they be Cat 5, 6, 7 or 8 in a controlled setting there should be no loss in data transfer speed for any cable up to a length of 100 meters.

However whilst loss of speed may not be an issue, a shorter ethernet cable will be beneficial in the respect that it is less susceptible to negative external factors, such as nearby electronics that generate electromagnetic fields.

Ethernet users should not notice any significant difference in speed between cables up to 100 meters in length.

However, running low-quality cable through areas of your home or office with potential electromagnetic interference may slow data transfer speeds. A shorter ethernet cable reduces the risk of lost data, which in turn would slow transfer speeds by requiring connected devices to retransmit data between one another.

In this article, we succinctly compare long vs short ethernet cables in the key categories of:

  1. speed
  2. the potential for interference to impact upon data transfer
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A short ethernet cable is less likely to experience interference

Most modern Ethernet cables are Cat5 or Cat6 cables. Category 5 (Cat5) cables were introduced in 1995 and offered data rates of up to 100 Mbps. They also offered consistent data transfer at distances up to 100 meters (328 feet).

Cat5e cables were created by manufacturers to provide faster speeds. With a Cat5e cable, you can get speeds up to 1 Gbps at distances up to 100 meters.

Cat6 cables are also designed to provide data transfer rates up to 1 Gbps across distances up to 100 meters. However, a Cat6 cable can achieve speeds up to 10 Gbps when using a shorter cable thanks to improved shielding.

Ethernet cables are either shielded or unshielded against electromagnetic interference (EMI) and along with the category of the ethernet cable, the quality of the shielding can determine the maximum recommended length.

Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) ethernet offers less protection against EMI, making it more beneficial to adopt a shorter cable wherever your setup allows.

Another option is an ethernet cable with foil covering unshielded twisted pairs (F/UTP), which is also called FTP. FTP cable has a thin foil wrapped around the unshielded twisted wires to help protect against interference.

Shielded twisted pair (STP) ethernet cable offers the greatest protection against interference. If you need to lay an ethernet cable in an area with exposure to electronics and appliances, consider using an STP cable to avoid weakening the signal.

Round up

Ethernet cables are made to provide consistent data transfer at distances up to 100 meters and so the reason to lean towards using shorter ethernet is based around limiting the surface area which may pass near electronics and appliances that produce electromagnetic interference.

Using a shorter cable can also make cable management easier and makes it less likely cables will be accidentally damaged. 

If you must use a longer cable, look for shielded twisted pair (STP) cable. STP cable has foil shielding to protect against interference, allowing you to use up to 100 meters of cable without any disadvantages.

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