Ethernet Cable vs. Telephone Cable

Cables on a black background.
  • 1 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 200
What You'll Need
RJ11 to RJ45 adapter
What You'll Need
RJ11 to RJ45 adapter

Two options for creating a home network are an ethernet cable and your home telephone lines. The correct choice for your home depends on how you plan to use the network, the sizes and types of files you will be transmitting, your budget and the need to share your Internet connection.

Telephone Cable Network

Your home telephone cables can operate a network. This is accomplished through frequency division multiplexing, which means that the data transmitted over the lines runs at a different frequency than the voice traffic. A phone line network can send data at the same time you use the phone, send a fax, or connect to the Internet. You wouldn’t be able to use dial-up Internet and the phone at the same time since the data sent by a modem is modulated to the same frequency as voice traffic.

One advantage of a phone line network is that the cable is already in place. You can connect a computer to the network in any room with a phone jack. Phone networks originally operated at 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps, but newer networks can run at speeds of up to 10 Mbps. However, 10 Mbps might be considered a con to this type of network since even with the newest technology, network speed is capped at 10 Mbps. This type of network requires the purchase of adapter equipment to connect the computers to the phone lines. This equipment is typically less than $200 and will allow multiple connections.

Ethernet Cable

Ethernet cable is the most common type of cable used for networks, both in the home and at businesses. Ethernet cables come in two forms, a shielded twisted pair and an unshielded twisted pair. It is also rated by Category, with Cat-5 and Cat-6 being the most common types. The most common type is the unshielded Cat-5. This type of cabling relies on the twisting of the pairs to reduce signal loss and has terminating connectors called RJ45s, which are similar to, but slightly larger than, the RJ11 phone connectors.

Cat-5 Ethernet cable is typically used with network speeds of up to 100 Mbps. For speeds up to 1000 Mbps, you would use Cat-6 Ethernet cable. The pros to this type of cabling are the availability of premade cables, the ability to run the Ethernet cable anywhere you want to put a computer, and the speed of the data transfer. However, you need specialized equipment, in the form of hubs or switches, to make use of this cabling. These hubs and switches cost significantly more than the basic telephone connection equipment and can run in the hundreds of dollars.

The choice between Ethernet cable and phone cable comes down to your need for speed and your available budget. You should also note that connecting to an Ethernet network may take a more in-depth level of technical knowledge than to connect to a phone network.