Technology / Networking

Ethernet Cabling Essentials: Connectors and Cable Management

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Published on September 9, 2023

Deploying ethernet cabling is a core component of a network, serving as the backbone for reliable and high-speed data transmission. Leveraging ethernet provides crucial advantages over wireless, such as decreased latency, increased security, and overall stability.

Industry standards cables such as Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 dictate ethernet cables' transmission rate and overall capabilities. Utilizing industry-standard cables will ensure consistent performance and interoperability between network devices. Keeping your cables up-to-date according to industry standards will mitigate signal interference, maintain a tight security posture, and improve the end user’s experience.

What are the Available Ethernet Cabling Types?

Ethernet cables come in two types: copper and fiber. (All other types, such as coaxial, do not adhere to industry standards and should be avoided.) While fiber optics is a powerhouse in speed and security, there are still plenty of reasons to choose copper for your ethernet network deployment. The type of cable used plays a crucial role in how the cables are managed and which connectors are necessary to optimize performance.

Fiber optics and copper offer a wide range of considerations, including security, speed, and signal degradation distance. The different copper cables, namely Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6, offer a wide range of data transmission speeds. Generally, the speeds are from 1Gbps (Gigabyte per second) to 100 Gbps over shorter distances. Fiber optics offers farther transmission distances at higher speeds, but it is significantly more complicated and costly to set up.

What are the Common Types of Ethernet Cable Connectors?

An ethernet cable connector is a module that links with network devices to deliver data. It can be thought of as a loading dock, where the cables are the highway, and the device is a warehouse. Copper-specific connectors are connected to the end of a cable through a process called crimping and are then hooked into the device. On the other hand, fiber optics cables are factory terminated.

Between fiber optics and copper ethernet cables, there are a multitude of different connectors. Knowing which one to use can seem overwhelming. However, combining the following list with real-life experience will quickly acquaint you with various connectors.

Local Connector (LC) — Fiber Optics

LC is used to terminate fiber optics cables. These are small connectors suitable for high throughput and high reliability. LCs are used in data centers to connect routers and switches to fiber. 

Along with Subscriber Connectors, it can also be found in your home if you have fiber optics. It would be the one that connects directly to your fiber optics routing module.

Straight Tip (ST) — Fiber Optics

Straight tip is a lock-and-twist connector for fiber optics. STs have primarily been replaced in favor of LCs. These have “lock and twist” bayonet-style connections. While they’re a little annoying to attach, they rarely, if ever, become disconnected.

Subscriber Connector (SC) — Fiber Optics

Along with LCs, Subscriber Connectors are typically provided to customers receiving fiber optics at home. SC is a square-shaped connector with high stability and is especially easy to plug and unplug. It relies on a push-pull mechanism, as opposed to ST, which requires a bayonet-style attachment.

Mechanical Transfer (MT) — Fiber Optics

MTs are great when a connection is needed in a hurry. These connections provide quick and efficient line termination without needing epoxy or splicing. This is the only fiber optics connector created by hand and requires additional tools, such as a fiber optics cleaver, a stripper, and close attention to detail.

Registered Jack (RJ)

Registered Jack is a generalized term for various telecommunication cables. The first type was RJ11, used for POTS (plain old telephone system). RJs are the classic plastic connectors that make the satisfying “snap” sound when you plug them into your computer.

Angled Physical Contact (APC)

Angled physical contact refers to a polish applied during the fiber optics creation process. This is done in a controlled environment when the connector is first created. Angled physical contact polish offers the lowest rate of reflectance, thus making it the most efficient at transmission. 

Ultra-Physical Contact (UPC)

Similar to APC, UPC is a polish added to fiber optics connector to reduce reflectance. While APC decreases reflectance at a higher rate than UPC, UPC offers lower transmission loss. These tradeoffs should be considered when choosing a fiber optics connector.


The one that started it all: the RJ11 has been used to plug in telephones since the 1970s. It is smaller than ethernet connectors and typically plugs directly into the wall. If you have a crimper handy, these can be connected by hand to RJ11 cables.


By far, the most common cable is the time-tested RJ45 connector. RJ45 will work with Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 ethernet cables. They can be attached by hand with a crimper — just make sure the wires are aligned correctly.

Transceivers/Media Converters

While media converters are not connectors in and of themselves, they are worth mentioning because of how commonly they interact with connectors. Often, these are used to convert a fiber optics connection to a Cat6 copper connection.

For example, a media converter could be a small box with an SP connection on one end and an RJ45 connection on the other. With a media converter, you can leverage a fiber optics connection while running copper cable through your home.

What are Common Ethernet Cable Management Styles?

While cable management styles are varied, most agree that it is more of a process and not a one-and-done event. Whether you manage styles by going overhead, underground, or coordinating colors, having a firm grasp on the various tools of the trade can greatly simplify your life. Let’s start with the importance of patch panels.

Patch Panel/Patch Bay

Patch panels are wonderful organization tools that give your server room a clean, organized look. With patch panels, all cables are routed from behind the server rack and are looped into the front of the router.


A keystone is an adapter module installed on a patch panel or wall plate. It allows different cables to interact with the underlying network infrastructure. That way, you can route different types of cables through what would traditionally only be meant for ethernet. 

It’s important to note that this does not “convert” anything from a data standpoint. It just allows cables to run nicely through the wall or into the router.

Fiber Distribution Panel

An FDP is a lot like a patch panel but for fiber optics. However, a couple of additional details set the two of them apart. 

For example, the connections will typically be SP or LC connections to facilitate direct fiber optics connectivity. Also, FDPs can often accommodate a higher density of cables since they are inherently smaller cables and connectors.

Punchdown Block

A punchdown block provides a convenient way to terminate several different connections in one convenient location. Subsequently, the cables can be consolidated and organized within a single location, eliminating the need to oversee multiple origins. 

To effectively leverage a punchbox, a special tool is required to strip and punchdown the cables called a “punchdown tool.” Punchdown blocks often have color-coded panels corresponding to specific wires and cables, thus increasing their organizational capabilities. 

Krone Block

Punchdown blocks are often called by other names, which are typically proprietary aliases. One such instance is the Krone Block, which is a European version of the punchdown box. It operates similarly but may need a specific punchdown tool for proper usage.

66 Block

A 66 block is an old-fashioned punch block used for POTS installations. If it is still in use today, it is legacy equipment that is probably too expensive to remove. 66 Blocks have largely been replaced by VoIP ethernet solutions or 110 punchdown blocks for more modern telephone systems. 

Choosing the Right Cable and Connector: Why It Matters

In this post, we discussed 16 different cable management solutions and connectors. While fiber optics and copper ethernet ultimately serve the same purpose of telephonic connectivity, they do so in a distinctly different manner. Understanding these differences and the network landscape in general is critical before taking the Network+ exam

As a network professional, it is up to you to understand which tools are best for the job and which connectors will serve your organization’s unique purposes.

Lastly, here are a couple of other great answers to typical network questions:

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