What Are Networking Cables?

Whether you’re installing a camera system yourself, need to replace faulty wires, or just curious, it’s important to know the different types of networking cables out there. Networking cables are physical cables used to establish connections between devices in a computer network. They provide the means for transmitting data signals between computers, routers, switches, servers, and other network devices. Networking cables carry electrical or optical signals, depending on the type of cable, to enable communication and data transfer within a network.

What Are the Most Common Types of Networking Cables?

Network connecters of many colors.

Ethernet Cables (Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, PoE, etc.)

Perhaps the type of cable you will see most often in the security camera world are ethernet cables. Ethernet cables are a type of networking cable commonly used to connect devices within a local area network (LAN). They are essential for transmitting data signals between devices such as computers, routers, switches, and servers. Ethernet cables use a standardized set of protocols known as the Ethernet protocol to facilitate data communication. The following are the most popular types of ethernet cables.


A Cat5e cable is an enhanced version of the original Cat5 cable and is widely used for wired network connections. Cat5e cables are designed to support data transfer speeds of up to 1 Gbps (Gigabits per second).

They are suitable for most common networking applications and can handle tasks such as internet browsing, file sharing, and streaming multimedia content. They provide a cost-effective solution for transmitting data at speeds up to 1 Gbps and offer improved performance compared to the original Cat5 cables. Cat5e cables consist of four pairs of twisted copper wires. The twisting of the wires helps reduce interference and crosstalk between the pairs, improving signal integrity and reducing data transmission errors.

However, it’s worth noting that for higher-speed networking applications, such as 10 Gbps, Cat6 or Cat6a cables are recommended. These cables are good if you are on a budget and there is no risk of crosstalk between cables or there is not an intense bandwidth demand.

Cat6 and Cat6a

A Cat6 cable is a type of Ethernet cable and functions as an enhanced version of the earlier Cat5 and Cat5e cables. It offers improved performance and higher data transfer speeds. Cat6 cables are designed to support higher data transfer speeds compared to Cat5 and Cat5e cables. They can handle data rates of up to 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second) over short distances (up to 55 meters) and are suitable for applications such as Gigabit Ethernet, video streaming, and high-speed data transmission.

Cat6 cables typically have tighter twists and more stringent specifications for crosstalk and interference reduction, resulting in better signal integrity and higher performance.

Cat6 cables are typically recommended for distances up to 55 meters (180 feet) to achieve the full 10 Gbps speed. For shorter distances, they can support higher speeds, and for longer distances, the speed may degrade. If longer distances are required, Cat6a or fiber optic cables may be more suitable.

Cat6a cables have slightly more improved qualities than a regular Cat6, such as being able to efficiently transfer data over longer distances, and offering tighter wiring to enhance signal performance even further.

It is worth noting that Cat6 and Cat6a cables are significantly more expensive than Cat5 cables, and should be considered only if your cabling situation requires them.

PoE Cables

A PoE cable, also known as Power over Ethernet cable, is an Ethernet cable that can carry electrical power along with data signals. It allows devices to receive power through the Ethernet cable, eliminating the need for a separate power source or additional power cables.

PoE technology enables power and data transmission over a single Ethernet cable. It follows standardized protocols, such as IEEE 802.3af, IEEE 802.3at, or IEEE 802.3bt, to provide power to compatible devices.

PoE can be used with various Ethernet cable types, including Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, and even some older Cat3 cables. However, for higher-power PoE applications, Cat6 or Cat6a cables are recommended due to their better electrical characteristics and reduced power loss.

PoE cables simplify the installation and power management of devices, especially in areas where power outlets are limited or inaccessible. If you’ve ever come across an IP security camera, they are likely powered by a PoE cable, though not in all cases. They are quite handy for installers, as they are far more convenient and manageable than more antiquated cable solutions.

Coaxial Cables

Coaxial cables are an older form of networking cable that is slowly being phased out in favor of more efficient and useful cabling products. However, they are still used for many security camera systems and should thus be discussed briefly.

A coaxial cable, commonly referred to as coax cable, is a type of electrical cable used for transmitting high-frequency signals and data. It consists of a center conductor wire surrounded by an insulating layer, a metallic shield, and an outer insulating jacket. The coaxial design provides excellent signal quality and protection against external interference.

Coaxial cables are designed for the transmission of high-frequency signals, such as those used in television, radio, networking, and telecommunications. They offer excellent signal integrity over long distances and are capable of carrying both analog and digital signals.

Coaxial cables use specific connectors to establish a secure and reliable connection. The most common connector types are BNC (Bayonet Neill–Concelman), F-type, and RCA connectors, depending on the application.

Coaxial cables are known for their durability, low signal loss, and efficient transmission of high-frequency signals. However, as technology evolves, some applications are transitioning to digital alternatives, such as fiber optic cables, for even higher bandwidth and longer distances. Non-IP cameras will typically use a coaxial cable and will connect to DVR instead of an NVR. If your budget is tight and your bandwidth needs are minimal, it may be a better idea to invest in coaxial cabling for your initial security setup. Over time, you may be able to switch your wiring over to Cat5 or Cat6 cables as they can typically be retrofitted from coaxial setups.


As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to networking cables. Although you may want to simply go for the highest quality cable, it may not fit your budget and may even go beyond your electrical needs. Speak with an informed salesperson from ENS Security to better understand your specific concerns and we’ll help you find the right solution for you.

About the Author: Aaron Avila

Aaron J. Avila is a digital designer, social media marketer, and security professional with ENS Security.

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