When you need to connect network devices over a longer distance you have two options. A longer ethernet cable or using a wireless network. With a wireless network, it’s sometimes easier to connect devices over a longer distance, but when speed or latency is important you should always try to use longer ethernet cables.
The problem with wireless networks over a longer distance is that the network speed will drop and the latency increases. With ethernet cables, you don’t have this problem. Longer ethernet cables can have a length of up to 100 meters (328 feet), but more about that later.
A frequently asked question is “Are longer ethernet cables slower?”. In short, no. If you use a good-quality network cable, then the length of the ethernet cable doesn’t influence your network speed.
In this article, we are going to take a look at the max length of an ethernet cable, explain why length doesn’t matter and which longer ethernet cable you should buy.
What is the Max Length Ethernet Cable?
Let’s first start with the basics, what is the max length of an ethernet cable? The max length of a single ethernet cable is limited to 295ft (90m). The total length, from device to device is 328ft (100m).
When we are talking about the max length of an ethernet cable then we need to keep two things apart, the physical cable length and the channel length. The channel length is the distance from one powered network device (for example, network switch) to another powered network device (for example, computer). The max length between those two is 328 ft (100m).
But the physical ethernet cable, that your place between the patch panel and wall socket, for example, can only be 295ft (90m).
If you want to go beyond the 328ft (100m), then you will need to add another switch. The second network switch will “boost” the network packets, allowing you to add another 328 ft to the total length.
Requirements for long ethernet cables
You can only reach those maximum lengths without speed loss if you use proper ethernet cables. Don’t buy the cheaper CCA (Copper Coated Aluminium) cables, but use solid copper ethernet cables.
Also, make sure that the conductor gauge (wire diameter) is between 22 and 24 AWG. The higher the gauge, the smaller the diameter of the wire is. Ethernet cables with thin wires are maybe easier to install, but also limit the maximum length and are more prone to damage.
Cat6 Max Length
The max length of an ethernet cable is for every category the same. It doesn’t matter if you use Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, etc. All Ethernet cables have the same length limit of 328ft (100m). There is one difference though, and that is the maximum speed that they can achieve.
|Category||Max Length||Max Speed|
|Cat5e||328 ft / 100 meter||1 Gbps|
|Cat6||328 ft / 100 meter||1 Gbps|
|120-180 ft / 37-55 meter||10 Gbps|
|Cat6a||328 ft / 100 meter||10 Gbps|
|Cat7||328 ft / 100 meter||10 Gbps|
if we look at the Cat6 max length then you will see two different lengths. Cat6 cables support 10Gbps for a distance up to 180 ft (55m). If you go beyond this then the speed will drop to 1 Gbps.
Cat7 cables are really not needed in a home network. There are designed for data centers and are completely shielded, making them thicker and harder to install.
Are Longer Ethernet Cable Slower?
Let’s say we have an ethernet cable of 10 meters and one of 20 meters. Which one will be faster? The network package will need to travel a shorter distance with the 10m cable, so it should be faster right?
Well, in theory, yes. But you won’t notice the difference at all. It doesn’t matter if you use an ethernet cable of 10m or 90m. Longer ethernet cables are not slower than short cables.
The electrical signal travels at 2/3rds of the speed of light through your ethernet cable. That means it takes 0.00000005 seconds to travel through 10m and 0.00000010 seconds to travel through 20m of ethernet cable. So you won’t notice the difference at all.
What can impact the bandwidth of your network connection is noise. Longer ethernet cables are more prone to interference from outside the cable. Noise can limit the throughput of your ethernet cable. A solution for this is to use shielded ethernet cables.
Best Ethernet Cable for Long Distance
If you are looking for longer ethernet cables then make sure you buy good quality ethernet cables. These are cables with a gauge between 22 and 24 AWG and are made with solid copper wires.
Don’t buy cat7 or even cat8 ethernet cables. Those are designed for data centers and are needed for home networks. Cat8 can achieve 40Gbps, but none of your network devices can handle those kinds of speeds. Cat6a is really the best category ethernet cable that you can buy which will be more than sufficient for the next 20 years or so.
Longer ethernet cables can perfectly be used in your network without the risk of losing bandwidth or network speed. But keep in mind that you buy solid copper ethernet cables and not the cheaper inferior quality CCA cables.
If you want to know more about installing ethernet cables then make sure you read this article as well.