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Many decisions are associated with putting up with a home network, starting with the question of whether to use a bulk cat5e cable or cat6 bulk cables for wiring your LAN. Cat5e or category 5 enhanced cable is the minimum cabling standard for Gigabit Ethernet Applications, though many prefer cat6 cabling because this standard has more headroom for providing higher quality transmission rates. However, cat5e cable is very much adequate to provide GbE in home and small office environments.
Gigabit Ethernet (GbE)
Gigabit Ethernet, 1 GigE or GbE, is a term in computer networking that describes the transmission of Ethernet frames at a theoretical maximum data rate of one gigabit per second. One gigabit per second (1 Gbps) is equivalent to 1000 Mbps. The introduction of GbE was initially thought to require special fiber optic cables to efficiently handle the speedy transmission rate. For the transmission of information over long distances, optical fiber connections are used. However, cat5e cables that use four twisted pairs of wires have successfully handled GbE transmissions for home networks. Even with the introduction of the newer cat6 cabling standards, cat5e continues to be used for GbE cabling.
GbE is broadly used in LANs (local area networks) for the speedy transmission at the speed of 1 Gbps. It provides backward compatibility to the older 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps legacy Ethernet devices, though the connections to these devices function at lower speeds. GbE provides users with distinct advantages over Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) such as the following:
Upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet
You can enjoy all the advantages of Gigabit Ethernet by upgrading your current system. For a start, if you and members of your family regularly download large files, perform network-intensive tasks like hosting files on a server, stream media, or enjoy playing online games, it is worthwhile to upgrade to Gigabit Ethernet. In office environments where multiple users are regularly connected to the network simultaneously to access or transfer files, upgrading the LAN to Gigabit Ethernet will likely result in higher productivity.
Newer PCs and network devices like routers and switches are already equipped with Gigabit-ready network ports. If you have older devices in your network, you can replace these with newer, Gigabit-ready units to ensure that everyone in the network will enjoy similar faster speeds. However, since Gigabit Ethernet is backward compatible with legacy Ethernet, you can continue to use some of these devices, though the speeds will be much lower.
Finally, check your network cables by looking at the cable type printed on the sides. If the cables are cat5, you can easily upgrade your system to cat5e by purchasing cat 5e bulk cable.
Wiring Your LAN
You can wire your LAN for Gigabit Ethernet using a bulk cat5e cable that you can directly purchase with the RJ54 connector that has an 8-pin/8-position plug. The wired LAN is a group of devices that include the router, switches and PCs that are connected to one another using cat5e Ethernet cables.
The router is the central device in the home network, which has ports that accept the RJ54 connector. The other end of the cable also terminates with the RJ54, and is used to plug into a networking device like a PC. You can add more network devices to the router for as long as there are available LAN ports in it.
The standard home router has usually four LAN ports, which means that out of the box, the device can host a network of four wired devices, for example PCs and a printer. If you require additional LAN ports to expand your network, you can use either a switch or a hub that provides additional LAN ports to your network. In theory, a home router is capable of handling up to 250 networking devices and is therefore more than capable of servicing the needs of home and small office local area networks.
In actual performance, the LAN wired with cat5e bulk cable for Gigabit Ethernet gives an average speed between 45 to 90 Mbps. The actual speed of the network is dependent on factors that include the amount of traffic at any given time, the quality of the cable, and the end devices being used. Remember that the speed of the network connection is determined by the slowest speed of any of its components. Thus, if you have an old PC in your network that supports Fast Ethernet, the speed of this connection will be capped at 100 Mbps.
Devices connected to the LAN can have Internet connectivity through the Wide Area Network (WAN) port, sometimes labeled the Internet port, on the router. A router usually equipped with one WAN port, though there are some business routers that have dual WAN ports for two separate Internet services. In home routers, the single WAN port is used to connect to an Internet source, for example a broadband modem or DSL modem. The DSL modem is the device that bridges the Internet connection from a service provider to a router. When the router is connected to the Internet, the connection is shared with all the Ethernet-ready devices that connect to it.
Since most Internet connections are slower than 100 Mbps, there is no need to upgrade an Ethernet-rated WAN port to a Gigabit WAN port. This means that upgrading an Ethernet router to a Gigabit Ethernet router will not translate to faster Internet speeds, though it will help the devices connected to the LAN to establish faster connections.
For most home usage, LANs wired with cat5e is capable of delivering Gigabit Ethernet data speed. Wiring your LAN with bulk cat5e cable for Gigabit Ethernet results in a reliable and cost effective alternative compared with the latest cat6 cabling standard.