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Ethernet Cables and Best Cat Rating. Some Thoughts

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Nov 16, 2001
I recently made some major changes to my home LAN/WiFi system specifically to address some problems. I have some observations I think others might benefit from so please get a beer, bourbon, or scotch, sit down, and let me tell you what I found.

I have a Comcast Xfinity 1.2 Gbps service but have no expectation of exceeding 1.0 Gbps at best because I have cat 5e cables run in the walls and all my switches etc. are gigabit devices.

Originally I had a Comcast gateway (modem/router/switch). All four large TVs & STBs were WiFi connected along with a number of other devices such as an electronic door lock, garage door opener, window shades, etc. Although the WiFi signal appeared strong the TVs had a bad habit of too frequently spontaneously freezing or demonstrating other socially unacceptable behavior with a spasm of digital dropouts, etc. The door lock and garage door opener would not reliably remain connected to the network. The first thing I did, at each TV, using a gigabit 5 port un-managed switch, was reconnect the TV, STB, and DVR player to the cat 5e Ethernet cable I had home-runned into each room when I moved into the house. That completely solved the issue with the TVs.

Then I addressed the electronic door lock that had previously proved very reliable but was now not reliably remaining connected for remote access. I realized the connectivity problems started about the same time I switched from fiber UVerse (a great service) to fiber Comcast. Although I did set up my specific WiFi SSID/Password, I did not remember that Comcast uses the same SSID on all bands. A phone call with the lock manufacturer triggered a thought that the 2.4 GHz only door lock might be getting confused by the co-existing same SSID 5 GHz signal. So, I entered the Comcast modem to establish different SSIDs on both bands. To my surprise and annoyance, Comcast grays out this option and requires installing a Comcast software (app) on your phone to do this. That made me nervous as I could see no reason to do this unless Comcast wanted to have a way of monitoring what I used my phone for. This seemed credible as I have personally experienced a number of examples where Comcast did not distingush itself with even an iota of intrgrity. I then placed the Comcast gateway in bridge mode (easily accomplished) and installed a 4 year old but still new in the shrink wrap box TP-Link AC-5400 router for its WiFi and switch functions. This worked very well with respect to to the WiFi system and solved the WiFi issues I was having with the door lock. It also provided an overall much better and uniform WiFi signal throughout my house. Even WiFi calling audio quality significantly approved. However, an Ethernet speed problem now became apparent.

My Comcast service is 1.2 Gbps. Connecting, via a cat 5e Ethernet cable (<50' run) my desk top PC directly to the output jack of the Comcast modem reliably provided well over 900 GBPS. However, if I connected it through the TP-Link switch, the speeds consistently fell below 500 GBPS and were frequently in the 300 to 400 GBPS range. In spit of much tweaking and dicking around with the TP-Link settings, I could never consequentially improve upon this. So, I just installed an external 8 port Netgear unmanaged switch I happened to have and fed the switch directly from the Comcast modem. I also fed the TP-Link router from the switch to use its WIFi only function. This worked very well with internet speeds on my PC regulary in the mid 900 GBPS range. Nevertheless, it troubled me because it was a kludgey configuration with the stand alone 8 port swich being an unneccessary work around.

So, early in the week. I just went out and bought a new Netgear RAXE300 router to replace the TP-Link device. Out of the box the Netgear router's switch easily passes through 850 GPS speeds - still a bit slower than expected but acceptable and about double what the TP-Link device was doing.

Now came time to clean up all the ethernet cables and make everything look professional. I used flat cat 8 cables precut and all terminated to the right lerngth. I did not expect any gain in speed using cat 8 cables because the rest of the system had many 1 GBPS hardware bottelnecks. Nevertheless, when I replaced the cat 5e cable between the output of the comcast moden and the WAN port on the new Neatgear router, my PC speed jumped up from high 800 GBPS to mid 900 GBPs (it even hit 1000.00 on one test). I thought this was an interesting observation. Many of my brain cells that once knew the math to explain this observation (I am a EE) have long since deceased over the past almost 60 years so I cant explain it but enough cells remain to make me think this should not have been a surprising result. So, to maximize any new system in the future, my future plan is to stick with cat 8 twisted shielded pairs. I have already made a large pile of all the old cat 5e cables I accumulated over the years to go with the trash in a few days. Cat 8 cables are sufficiently cheap to never have a need to use anything less again.

I hope this provides some thoughts that might prove helpful to anyone else setting up their own home network.
Cat6 should be plenty for what you wanted to do as far as the wired part goes. How high up is your wifi router? For good signal reception the wifi needs to be mounted as high as you can get it.
I have a DIR-880L AC1900 WiFi router and no issues with signal pickup. Plus 5 switches with 13 PC's wired, and 1 PC on wifi and 1 Android tablet on wifi. :)
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Fwiw you need to swap your GBPS with mbps.

But yeah, cat 6/6a should be fine for your needs, but 8 has more future proofing possibilities. Although at some point running fiber would be easier lol
Your cabling must have been extraordinarily...iffy...at best. I'm running 10Gb over 5e here and have been for a while with no issues whatsoever. Couldn't tell you the actual length, but it's maybe 30-40 feet between panels. It's what was already in place. Good switches and more importantly, modules, goes a long way.