What is an Ethernet Cable’s Maximum Length?

As you know, an ethernet internet connection is much faster and more reliable than Wifi. The problem is the device you want to connect to via ethernet might be far from the modem or router.

If you’re going to run an ethernet cable through your home, it’s important to think about the signal loss over distance. Does the ethernet signal degrade over time? Is there a maximum ethernet cable length?

After quite a few hours of research, I found some helpful tips that will make getting online much easier, even over long distances.

What’s the Maximum Length for an Ethernet Cable?

The recommended maximum length for a Cat 5 ethernet cable is under 100 meters or 328 feet. Ethernet cables can be stretched quite far, but the signal will start to degrade over significant distances.

There are lots of other factors besides ethernet cable length that can affect the quality of ethernet cable signals too. For example, signal interference, noise, sharp turns, damage, and the type of cable plays an important role too.

While there’s no real set in stone answer, most technicians recommend keeping the cable length under 100 meters because it will perform the best. For extra-fast connections, a meter or so is even better.

Does the Length of an Ethernet Cable Affect Speed?

Yes. After 100 meters, an ethernet cable speed will become unreliable and the speed can drop to 10 Mbps or lower, depending on the type of cable.

On the other hand, low-speed ethernet cables can be stretched much further than 100 meters because they don’t have to carry as much data, and the signals generate less noise. If you don’t need a particularly fast connection, for example, 10 Mbps or so, running an ethernet cable for 200 meters or more could work.

Another point to remember is that an ethernet cable can be pushed beyond the 100-meter length. It won’t instantly shut down and become unresponsive if it’s 101 meters. The 100-meter maximum is more of a guideline because it delivers the fastest speeds. It all comes down to what speed you need.

What About 20 – 50 Meter Ethernet Cables?

The length of ethernet cables under 100 meters won’t make a difference to data transfer speeds, a 10 meter is just as fast as a 50-meter cable.

Technically, there is a very tiny difference but it’s impossible to notice. We’re talking about a delay of about 0.00000006 seconds or less. Ethernet cables transfer signals at 2/3rds the speed of light. Don’t worry about the cable length too much, simply choose one that works for you.

Still, go with a length that is recommended for ethernet cables without losing internet speed. I think one of the replies talks about 100 feet for Cat 6 and Cat 7.

Difference Between Cat 6, Cat 7, and Cat 8 Ethernet Cables

Understanding all the versions and variations of ethernet cables can be mind-numbing but you should know what the fastest standards are. To start, ethernet cables are organized into categories, and each category has multiple versions. I’ll briefly summarize the cable types and their differences below.

  • Cat 5 – 100 Mbps
  • Cat 6 – 1 Gbps
  • Cat 7 – 10 Gbps
  • Cat 8 – 40 Gbps

The main difference between Cat ethernet cables is the specifications, internal components, and shielding styles. The newer versions can also support much higher data transfer speeds.

Generally, it’s a good idea to get an ethernet cable that matches the speed of your internet connection, ideally a little faster. It would be kind of pointless to buy a cable that can support 10x the speed of your internet connection.

For most networks, Cat 5 or Cat 6 offers a good enough performance. Cat 7 and Cat 8 are mainly used for home networks or servers, the average consumer won’t benefit much from those cables at the moment.

Of course, speed isn’t the only factor to consider. Each category of cables comes with other features such as shielding that can protect against outside interference and whatnot.

Does an Ethernet Cable Reduce Lag in Gaming?

Yes. An ethernet connection is always recommended to reduce lag in online multiplayer games because the signal is not only faster than Wifi but also more reliable. If you’re having a hard time with lag over Wifi, consider connecting an ethernet cable, it will be a big improvement.

Does an Ethernet Cable Slow Down Wifi

No. Routers assign dedicated bandwidth to each LAN port but the bandwidth over Wifi is shared. An ethernet cable will not slow down Wifi.

To Summarize:

Buying the right ethernet cable can be nerve-racking because there are so many different types and specifications. However, as long as you stick to one that can support your internet speeds, it won’t matter that much.

The good news is almost all ethernet cables, even the latest ones, only cost a few dollars, so you can test various versions without breaking the bank. I personally think Cat 6 is the sweet spot.


Image credit: “Ethernet cable” (CC BY 2.0) by Ben Sutherland

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About S. Santos

👋 I'm a technology columnist and blogger with over 10 years of experience, currently serving as Blue Cine Tech's AV Editor. Specialising in gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology, my work has been featured in top technology blogs. I'm dedicated to breaking down the complexities of the latest tech trends, from explaining the intricacies of Dolby Vision to optimising your streaming experience. This blog serves as a platform for my ongoing exploration of the ever-evolving tech landscape. If you see me at industry events like CES or IFA, feel free to say hello.

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