Twisted Pair Cabling

Twisted-pair cabling gets its name because of the fact that it uses pairs of thin wires twisted around each other, as shown in Figure 17.6. The twisted-pair cabling used in Ethernet networking uses four such pairs, in fact. The twisting provides a degree of resistance to extraneous signals, and therefore helps extend the length of cables that can be created using this technique.

Ethernet twisted-pair cabling uses RJ-45 jacks on each end, shown in Figure 17.7. These jacks resemble those on ordinary telephone cords, except that they're wider. These cables come in a variety of colors, and you can use this fact to help differentiate your cables. If you use a different color cable for each cable you plug into a hub, you can easily trace cables to their matching computers.

Chapter 17

Figure 17.7

The connector on a twisted-pair cable resembles those used on telephone cords.

Figure 17.7

The connector on a twisted-pair cable resembles those used on telephone cords.

Twisted-pair cabling comes in a variety of categories. The higher the category, the cleaner the signal delivered by the cable. 10BaseT networking requires cabling of category 3, 4, or 5, whereas 100BaseT networking requires category 5 cables.

Even if you intend to use only 10Mbps speeds, purchase category 5 cables. This will greatly simplify your life if and when you decide to upgrade to 100Mbps speeds— particularly if you run cables in ways that would be time-consuming to replace.

If you run cabling between rooms or floors, particularly in a business setting, you might need to pay attention to your locality's fire codes. For instance, you might need to purchase Ethernet cables that are fire-resistant, run them through sealed conduits, or take other special precautions. If you're in doubt, contact a network consultant or electrician.

One final advantage of twisted-pair cabling over coaxial cabling is in the ease with which you can add and remove computers. Because twisted-pair cabling uses connectors much like those on telephone wires, you can simply snap a cable into the hub or switch on one end and a computer on the other, and you're set up. The other computers on the network aren't disrupted by this activity, as they are when you add a computer to a thin coaxial network. What's more, if a cable is damaged or gets yanked out of its connector, only one computer's network service is disrupted, which makes diagnosing the problem much easier than it would be with coaxial cabling.

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