Considerations When Choosing the Correct Network Cable

Philadelphia cabling projectWhen planning a structured cabling system choosing the correct network cable for the job is essential and will depend on factors such as the proposed layout of the system and the networking hardware components that you will be using. It also a good idea to know the different types of applications that the system may need to accommodate both today and in the future.


The first thing that you need to think about is the type of topology that you are going to use for the network as this will determine the type of cabling and hardware components that you will need. The topology is simply the layout of the network and there are three basic types of topologies:

  • Star
  • Bus
  • Ring

Star – With the star topology there is a central point that all the different computers and devices are connected to. All cables run from the devices directly to the central point which is usually a hub, though can also be a switch.

The star topology is the easiest one to lay cable for as well as later identifying and troubleshooting any faulty components.

Bus – This is a simple layout that is also known as the linear bus and consists of one linear cable that every workstation is connected to. The signal travels to both ends of the cable so they need to be terminated, to prevent them from bouncing back.

The main problem with the bus topology is that if there is a problem on the cable then all the workstations attached to it will be affected.

Ring – This topology is where all devices are connected in a closed loop that has no end or hubs. The signal passes through every device within the loop and commonly includes a token ring network that carries a token to each node around the ring.

This type of topology is a real headache to install cable for as it is difficult to expand the ring over large areas, plus if any one component within the ring fails then the whole network will go down.

The Star topology is generally the universal choice of network layout today and is the one that the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B and ISO/IEC 11801 Standards assumes is the network architecture used.

boxes of cabling ready for new installations

Which is The Correct Network Cable to Use?

Most of today’s networking technologies can use either unshielded twisted pair (UTP) or fiber-optic cabling. If you decide that you are going to use UTP then you also need to think about which Category is best for the job, or you may consider that fiber-optic cable really is the best choice for your network cabling needs.

It is practically impossible to determine exactly what a network will need to be able to support in the future with the constant advances in technology.

But an increase of speed, bandwidth needed and the amount of data being transmitted is inevitable; especially with the rapid rise of ‘smart’ devices being used. IHS Technology forecasts that there will be a massive growth in the market and the amount of devices used will be as high as 75.4 billion by 2025.

Therefore, when choosing the correct network cable for the system that you are going to have installed now, it would be a good idea to take these factors into account.

UTP copper cable is the cheapest option and is getting faster with you now being able to choose between Category 5e, 6, 6a and even 7. The main difference between the different category cables is the available bandwidth and transmission performance. However UTP does still have some limitations as it is prone to interference and is limited on the distance that it can cover.

 Reusing Existing Network Cabling To Reduce Your Costs

Fiber-optic is the superior choice of cable in terms of providing faster speeds, greater security and being able to deliver data over long distances. The benefits of fiber-optic cables do come with a significant initial outlay though, but the long term costs are generally considerably lower.

As you can see both types of network cabling do have their pros and cons so there are some questions that you need to ask yourself to help decide which one is the best choice for your planned network cabling system.

Questions When Choosing Which Network Cable

  • Do you rent or own your current business property?
  • If you rent it then how long is your current lease for and what is the likelihood that you will renew it?
  • Are you planning any major renovations of your property in the near future that would include the rebuilding of internal walls?
  • Does your company use or intend to use any POE Power over Ethernet devices or public safety systems that require huge amounts of power such as public safety systems?

All of these questions will play a major part in your decision making process when it comes to choosing the correct network cable for the job.

Final Thoughts

Whichever type of cabling that you do choose it is likely to only represent around 10% of the overall cost of the network infrastructure. It is also worth remembering that if you have the right type of quality cabling, properly installed it will be able to meet your company’s need for at least the next decade.