Looking to extend your existing Ethernet cable or want to bypass the maximum length limit without sacrificing the performance? You will be happy to know that there are several ways to make an Ethernet cable longer.
Maximum Length of an Ethernet Cable
The standard Ethernet cables use copper wiring to send a data signal from one end to another. But the further an electrical signal travels, the more it degrades. As a result, all Ethernet cables have a maximum length, beyond which you risk a subpar performance or complete connection loss.
The maximum length is set at 100 meters for almost all categories of Ethernet cables, barring a few exceptions. For example, the Category 6 (Cat-6) cables can only sustain 10Gbps speeds for about 55 meters. They will still work up to 100 meters, but you will only get 1Gbps speeds beyond the 55 meter mark. Similarly, the Cat-8 cables have a maximum length of just 30 meters.
But you are not limited by these length limits. You can use devices such as a network switch and media converter to go beyond the 100-meter length.
Network Switches: Powered and Reliable
A network switch is one of the better and more reliable ways to join Ethernet cables or bypass the 100-meter length limit. While switches are primarily used to provide additional Ethernet connections on a network, you can also use them to extend the length of a cable as they regenerate the data signal.
Consumer-grade network switches are very simple to operate. You just plug the incoming Ethernet cable in one port and the outgoing cable in another. The only downside is that a switch needs a power source, so you will need a power outlet where you install it.
With each switch, you can extend the length of an Ethernet cable up to its maximum limit, which, as mentioned, is 100 meters in most cases. So with just one switch, you can have a 200-meter long Ethernet connection. However, you must ensure that the network switch has the same data transfer speed as your Ethernet cables.
Netgear GS110MX is an unmanaged network switch that's great for extending Cat-6 Ethernet cables beyond their 55-meter length for 10Gbps speeds.
Media Converters: Going the Distance
Another device you can use to extend your Ethernet connection is a media converter. It typically has two ports—one for Ethernet cable and the another for fiber optic cable. The device converts the Ethernet signal to a fiber signal on one end and reverts the fiber signal to the Ethernet signal on the other.
An Ethernet over Fiber media converter is very useful in extending an Ethernet connection for long distances. Multimode fiber cables have a range of about 550 meters, and the single-mode fibers can go for many miles.
StarTech.com Fiber Media Converter
This StarTech.com media converter is a plug-and-play device that can convert a Gigabit Ethernet connection to fiber.
Ethernet Couplers: Best for Small Projects
While network switches and media converters are great for bypassing the 100-meter limit, an Ethernet coupler is all you need if you are just looking to extend a short cable. It’s one of the easiest ways to join two Ethernet cables and get an overall longer cable. As the name suggests, an Ethernet coupler is a simple device with two female RJ45 connectors to plug one end of each cable.
Unfortunately, a coupler is only helpful when the combined length of both Ethernet cables is less than 100 meters. You risk degraded performance or total connection loss if you go beyond 100 meters.
While you can use more than one Ethernet coupler to join multiple short Ethernet cables, it’s not a good idea. By increasing the number of couplers in an Ethernet connection, there is a greater chance of failure or speed loss.
Another crucial detail to remember before picking up an Ethernet coupler is the type of cables you are joining. It’s best to combine Ethernet cables of the same category. Additionally, if the cables are shielded, you should get a shielded coupler. Otherwise, you will face performance issues because of shielding loss.
Cable Matters Shielded In-Line Couplers
This Cable Matters coupler is perfect for joining two Cat-6 cables. It's shielded and backward compatible with all older category cables.
Everyone’s network requirements are different, and sometimes, you may find yourself running an Ethernet connection over 100 meters. In such cases, it will be a good idea to opt for a network switch or a media converter to get a secure and reliable connection. Or, if you just need to extend a relatively short cable, you can always use an Ethernet coupler.
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