The term “Ethernet” is not used in the IEEE 802.3 standard to describe UTP cables. However, technical professionals say this all the time. Is it wrong? The answer is no, but not understanding how to use the correct terminology can make things complicated.
What is Ethernet?
Ethernet is not a cable; it’s an engineering standard. It’s the way of connecting a number of computer systems to form a local area network, with protocols to control the passing of information.
It is common for people to call UTP cables, Ethernet cables, because all networks follow the IEEE standards for Ethernet cabling. The original Ethernet standard was developed by Xerox in the 1970s. It is now managed by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), a working group who develops standards for Ethernet networks.
In addition, suppliers often advertise Unshielded Twisted Pair, or UTP, cables as Ethernet cables. UTP cables are the most common cable used in networks and have become closely identified as Ethernet cables.
An Ethernet network system is not restricted to just UTP cables. There are many grades of UTP, coaxial, and fiber optic cables that can be installed to transmit signals. Below are some common types:
- Twisted Pair Cable
- U/UTP, U/FTP, F/UTP, S/UTP, SF/UTP, F/FTP, S/FTP, and SF/FTP
- CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A, CAT7, and more
- Fiber Optic Cables
- Single-mode and multimode
- OS1, OM1, OM2, OM3, and OM4
- Coaxial cables
- RG6, RG6Q, RG11, RG56, RG58, RG59, and more.
UTP cables are not limited to just transmitting one type of signal. They can transmit many different types of signals; such as data, voice, serial, and audio.
Describing UTP cables as Ethernet cables is acceptable, so long as the terminology is understood and used correctly.