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What's the Difference Between Solid and Stranded Ethernet Cable?

by Simon Leach October 07, 2015

No matter if your cable is Cat3, Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6 or Cat6a rated, it is also classified as either "solid" or "stranded".

A solid cable is most commonly used as a backbone cable in walls,ceilings and conduit, where flexibility isn't really needed.  This is because a solid cable's conductors are made of solid metal (usually a single thick copper wire) and the cable as a whole is generally more rigid. Additional characteristics:

o    Transmits electrical signals better over longer distances
o    Lower attenuation (resistance)
o    More likely to break with repetitive bending
o    Lower Cost
o    Used for horizontal cabling in Ethernet networks
In a stranded cable, the conductors are made up of many fine metal filaments which are twisted together to form a larger, thicker wire. Due to this composition of thin wires, the stranded cables are a lot more flexible than solid cable. Stranded cables are commonly used as patch cords and other shorter network cables that require frequent flexing and bending during use. Additional characteristics:

o    Shorter transmission distance (de-rate length by 25-50%)
o    Higher Attenuation (resistance)
o    Not likely to break due to repetitive bending (continuous movement cables require special jackets)
o    Higher Cost
o    Used for patch cabling in Ethernet networks
Contact Design - RJ45 plugs

There are multiple designs for contacts on RJ45 plugs, which are used for specific reasons. Not all plugs work on all cables.  Often users just pick one plug and use it for everything, but this can result in a less reliable termination. For either a solid or stranded cable, keep these options in mind:

Two point staggered - Stranded or Solid: The contact prongs straddle the conductor. 

Tripoint type - Stranded or Solid: Long contact prongs spread apart to accept the conductor.

Piercing type - Stranded Only: Jagged end pierces jacket and embeds into the strands of the conductor. 

Simon Leach
Simon Leach


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