There are a dizzying number of Ethernet cable type available on the market, corresponding to an array of standards detailing the configuration and performance specification needed to support the increasingly faster data rates and larger bandwidths of incoming technologies. Of which stranded and solid Ethernet cables are the commonly used cable types when purchasing bulk Ethernet cable. These two different types refer to the internal conduction inside the bulk Ethernet cable. Today’s article provides detail information about these two copper network cables.
Stranded and Solid Ethernet Cable
Stranded Ethernet cable has multiple smaller strands of wires that are twisted together to form a single conductor. And a solid Ethernet cable is just fabricated with a single solid strand of copper for each of the 8 conductors. Figure 1 shows the inner structure of the stranded and solid Ethernet cable.
From the above picture, we can see that each of the conductors inside a solid Ethernet cable is made up of a single, solid conducting wire with diameters between 22 and 24 AWG. Take cat6 bulk cable as an example, it employs the larger 23 AWG copper wires, which makes it better suited to new and emerging fast Ethernet applications (than cat5 bulk Ethernet cable). However, owing to the fragility of their conducting wires, the solid Ethernet cables are well-packed inside a strong outer sleeve that resists bending making them less flexible and not well suitable to normal everyday use in connecting work area component.
However, stranded Ethernet cable is the one that we most often work directly with. Unlike the solid Ethernet cable, the stranding of the wire conductors serves to protect them, and provide stranded cables their flexibility. For a given conductor length, the more times each strand twists around the central conductor, the better the protection and the greater the overall flexibility of the cable. Because of their internal difference, each of the cable types might be suitable for a specified situation.
Choosing for Backbone and Horizontal Cabling
Installing any bulk Ethernet cable type (solid or stranded Ethernet cable) into a building’s structure should be well managed by keeping long-term applications in mind. Solid Ethernet cabling with its superior electrical performance and longer runs makes it more suitable for permanent building installations. Additionally, its stability over higher frequencies means that longer time periods are possible between cable reinstallations, and its comparative frailty is not a problem when it is protected from damage by the building itself. Since solid Ethernet cable is most often used for these permanent cabling applications, it often referred to as network cable.
For horizontal cabling, solid Ethernet cables are also used spanning the distances between telecommunications rooms and work areas. In addition to performing better over long distances and at higher frequencies, the single, larger conducting wires of solid cables are much easier to terminate than the multiple fine wires of stranded conductor cables. Also, the relative stiffness of solid cable makes it preferable for use with punch down connectors on the backs of wall jacks. In contrast, the softness and flexibility of stranded Ethernet cables make working with punch down connectors or IDCs (Insulation Displacement Connectors) very difficult.
In conclusion, there is very little difference between the electrical performance of solid and stranded cables for very short lengths (below 10 meters). In modern hierarchical wiring schemes, the length limitations of stranded cables are easily met (3 m, or 9.8 ft), and the increased flexibility and durability of stranded cables make them perfectly suited for interconnecting work area outlets with workstation PCs and other end-user devices.
However, solid cables are far too fragile for frequent bending and handling, and far too difficult to manage in connecting closely spaced components. The conductors inside a stranded cable are protected by the wire strands surrounding them, so that very little of the conducting surface area is exposed to damage if the cable is accidentally cut or smashed, and the conductor is not weakened by repeated flexing and bending. Without this protection, the conducting surfaces within a solid-conductor cable are more susceptible to nicks or other irregularities that affect transmission performance and often accompany their early demise.
As we move toward increasingly faster Ethernet systems, the copper transmission medium would require increasingly faster frequencies and data rate. For solid and stranded cables, the differences seen in electrical activity are very little.