Ethernet Hardware


Single line

The first Ethernet topologies used a single cable line, to which all network nodes were attached. The main disadvantage is that a network breakdown at a single place can easily make the whole network unusable.

  • 10BASE5 - Thick Ethernet (Yellow Cable, 10MBits/s), outdated. The first commonly available Ethernet used a single "yellow cable", a double shielded coaxial cable with a thickness of up to an inch (therefore often called thick Ethernet). The yellow cable was a shared medium. To add a network node, a tap had to be attached to the cable, which put a thorn into the yellow cable. The cable had to be terminated on both ends using a resistor.
  • 10BASE2 - Thin Ethernet (RG58, 10MBits/s), outdated. As thick Ethernet was expensive and difficult to install, the thin Ethernet using a thin coaxial cable (RG-58) was often used for SOHO purposes. The cable still was a single length of cable (up to 100m/300ft maximum length), with individual workstations connected using BNC T-connectors. Both ends had to be terminated using a resistor. A network node could be attached by adding it at any place in the network, but this usually resulted in a small network breakdown, while the correct topology was (re-)assembled again.

Both the 10BASE5 and 10BASE2 had the same problem that a single point of failure (break in any of the connections) could severely degrade or bring down the whole network.


When Ethernet hubs/switches were first available, they were quite expensive. As they become more common and therefore cheaper, more and more people replaced their existing network using hubs or even switches, which makes the network much more reliable. Today switches are very cheap, so single line Ethernets (using thin or thick cables) are only very rarely used.

  • 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, 1000BASE-T - Twisted Pair (Various cable types, 10MBits/s - 1GBits/s). The most common Ethernet cabling alternative used today. The network cable connects the node to a hub/switch.
  • 10BASE-FL, 100BASE-FL, 1000BASE-FL, 10000BASE-FL - Fiber optics (Various "cable" types, 10MBits/s - 10GBits/s). The network cable simply connects the node to a hub/switch.

Maximum cable length

The maximum cable (segment) length is depending on the cable and the transfer speed used.

Technology Cabling Max Cable Length
10BASE5 Yellow cable 500m
10BASE2 RG58 coax 185m
10BASE-T EIA/TIA Category 3 UTP 100m
10BASE-FP 62.5 or 125 micron MMF 1km
10BASE-FB 62.5 or 125 micron MMF 2km
10BASE-FL 62.5 or 125 micron MMF 2km
100BASE-TX EIA/TIA Category 5 unshielded twisted pair (2 pair) 100m
100BASE-T2 Cat 3, 4, & 5 UTP (2 pair) 100m
100BASE-T4 Cat 3, 4, & 5 UTP (4 pair) 100m
100BASE-FX 62.5 micron multimode fiber 400m half duplex, 2km full duplex
100BASE-FX Single mode fiber 10km
1000BASE-CX Shielded twisted pair 25m
1000BASE-T Cat 5 UTP (4 pair, 100MHz) 100m
1000BASE-SX 62.5 micron MMF 275m
1000BASE-SX 50 micron MMF 550m
1000BASE-LX/LH 50 or 62.5 micron MMF 550m
1000BASE-LX/LH 9 micron SMF 10km
1000BASE-ZX 9 micron SMF 70km
1000BASE-ZX 8 micron SMF 100km
10GBASE-SR/SW 62.5 micron MMF 33m
10GBASE-SR/SW 50 micron MMF 66m or 300m (2GHZ)
10GBASE-LR/LW 9 micron SMF 10km
10GBASE-ER/EW 9 micron SMF 40 km
10GBASE-LX4/LW4 50 or 62.5 micron MMF 300 m
10GBASE-LX4/LW4 9 micron SMF 10 km
10GBASE-CX4 Special copper cable / connectors (8 pair) 15 m
10GBASE-T CAT 6a (4 pair, 625MHz) 100 m
10GBASE-T CAT 6e (4 pair, 500MHz) 55 m

Using repeaters between segments can increase the maximum length.

External Links

An Introduction to Auto-Negotiation provides an extensive overview of the autonegotiation process.

Imported from on 2020-08-11 23:13:53 UTC