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Ethernet Cables: Are Your LAN Cables Holding Your Home Internet Back?

Few would disagree that the future of technology is wireless1. After all, while most new devices are Bluetooth capable, fewer and fewer devices, like laptops and tablets, even come with wired connections these days.
Frustrated person researching how to free themselves from LAN cables

The biggest drawback to ethernet is clear: it requires physical connections. The cords and wires are clumsy, it's less convenient, and it severely limits where you can put your devices. It can be pricey, too2. And with the latest advances in 5G home internet and Wi-Fi 6 technology, many are choosing to wirelessly connect their devices—without all the hassle.

That said—if you're someone who still requires a wired setup, whether it's because of your location or lack of internet options—ethernet remains a way to stay connected.

If that's the case, we have some great ways to make the most of your speed. But first, let's get some terminology out of the way.

What are LAN cables?

LAN cables are often also referred to as ethernet cords or internet cables. They look similar to the cords that are used to connect landline phones to the phone jack located in the wall. They connect devices, such as a PC and router, by plugging into an ethernet port in much the same way a phone cord plugs into a jack. Ethernet cords are used to either connect devices for sharing files, such as printers with computers, or to connect internet-enabled devices to the router.

There are a few differences between an ethernet cord and a phone cord, however. The cord of an ethernet cable is slightly larger than that of a phone cable, since it contains eight wires to the phone cable’s four. And the plug part of an internet cable features a corresponding eight contacts to a phone cable’s four. While a phone cable is usually black, white, or grey, ethernet cords come in a wide variety of colors.

However, the color does not usually indicate different capabilities. Many who use LAN cables adopt different colors to indicate different connections. For example, a yellow cable is sometimes understood to mean POE (power over the ethernet), while a blue cable is often used to indicate that cord’s connection to the internet and the connection between devices. So, if you look at the cables connecting your router and modem and notice that they are different colors, the color is likely an indication of their purpose, not functionality.

Types of LAN cables

However, just because different internet cables all have the same function regardless of color doesn’t mean that there aren’t specific cables for different circumstances.

If you’re shopping for ethernet cords, you might notice three different categories, such as CAT5, CAT5e and CAT6. CAT6 cables are often more expensive3 than what an average home might need and are generally used by people like IT professionals who need to transfer a lot of data over a large physical space and a larger network. However, as we increasingly adopt connected devices, like security doorbells, washing machines, and even lightbulbs, it is possible that consumers who choose wired connections may need the stronger, more durable CAT6 cables.

Beyond these distinctions, there are also two different types of cords:

  • Solid. Though they perform a bit better and offer protection against electrical interference, solid cables can’t withstand the wear and tear that comes from bending. They are not generally intended for home use and are typically used for businesses and inside office walls.
  • Stranded. These LAN cables are sturdier than solid cables, less prone to physically cracking or breaking. This durability makes them better suited to home use and travel, but they do wear out more quickly and thus must be replaced more often.

A local area network, LAN network, can also connect devices to each other. For example, offices use LAN networks so that computers and printers can easily and securely share data and files.

How do I choose the right internet cables?

One important thing to consider when choosing LAN cables is the area you’ll need them to cover. They can become ineffective past a certain physical distance and are prone to interference by other electrical devices. Signal loss due to distance is called attenuation.  You should also check to see what kind of network you have. For a network that supports gigabit, you’ll need either a CAT5e or a CAT6 cable4, 5, 6.

Does price matter when it comes to LAN cables?

More expensive LAN cables usually have better insulation, which protects against packet loss—or data is lost in transmission. They can also have better jackets, or outer coatings that protect against damage. For home use, a less expensive cable is usually fine. However, if you notice that you’re developing problems with connectivity or cables are simply wearing out quickly, investing in a better-quality cable might be a good idea.

Additionally, if you’re planning on using your ethernet cords outside, you’ll need to make sure that they’re capable of weathering the elements. Look for cables that are specifically designed to be waterproof.

No strings attached

When you're finally ready to cut the cord, T-Mobile is America’s fastest growing Home Internet provider. Check to see if T-Mobile Home Internet is available in your area and then try it free  for 15 days to see if it works for you.

Cancel within 15 days of Home Internet service activation. Limited-time offer; subject to change. Qualifying new Home Internet line and timely gateway return required. Refund via one-time bill credit. Max 1/account. May not be combinable with some offers or discounts.


  1. https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/capturing-value-from-next-generation-wireless
  2. https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/internet/ethernet-installation-cost/
  3. https://www.cnet.com/tech/home-entertainment/when-are-expensive-cables-worth-it/
  4. https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/c/cat5.htm
  5. https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/c/cat6.htm
  6. https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/c/cat5e.htm
  7. https://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/gigabit-ethernet

Additional source for overall terminology: https://www.gartner.com/en/information-technology/glossary