How long do Ethernet cables last?

Ethernet cables are available in different qualities in the market. If you are wondering which type of cable lasts how long and what factors determine their life span, this article is a must-read for you. The average life span of an ethernet cable is five to seven years. But it varies depending on various factors such as the quality of the material, how you use it, and which type of cable is it. So, let’s discuss these factors in detail. Also read: Does the length of an Ethernet cable affect speed?

Factors that determine the life span of ethernet cables:

The following factors determine how long your ethernet cables will last. Plenum-rated: Because of the fire-resistant and low smoke-emitting characteristics of the plenum-rated jacket, ethernet cables with this jacket will last longer than any other type of ethernet cable. Riser-rated: jackets are second in quality only to the plenum-rated jackets. The material used in a riser-rated jacket is also fire-resistant which makes it highly reliable. PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride is the least reliable jacket on our list. But it doesn’t mean it will wear out quickly. A PVC-rated jacket will last longer than your expectations. Bare copper conductor: If your ethernet cable has a bare copper conductor and a plenum-rated jacket, you have got the perfect combo. Pure copper is the best conductor, and it doesn’t tarnish or become brittle over a long period. Copper-Clad Aluminum (CCA): Ethernet cables with copper-clad aluminum tend to become brittle. This happens particularly when CCA is exposed to extreme temperatures. If the conductor in your ethernet cable is CCA, likely, it won’t likely last longer than the average life span of ethernet cables.

Quality of ethernet cables:

As mentioned earlier, the most important factor that determines the life span of an ethernet cable is the quality of the material that is used in manufacturing the cable. So, let’s discuss “quality” in detail. For example, if the conductor is bare copper, your cable will certainly last a long time. And to give you an estimate, bare copper Cat6 and Cat6a ethernet cables typically last for over ten years. Now that is a long time to simply not get bored with your ethernet cable. But if it is installed inside the walls or plenum spaces, you are not concerned about your relationship with this piece of tech. You should wish it to last for an extended period because installing a new cable inside the walls or the plenum spaces costs capital if it should wear out. But in any case, ten years is long enough a period. And why we mention that is because, in ten years, new advanced technologies will come to replace the old ones regardless of their functioning conditions.

Using the ethernet cables:

Once you purchase and install your ethernet cable or bulk ethernet cables, the quality becomes a secondary factor in determining the life span of your cables. How long your ethernet cable will last will now depend on how and in which conditions you use it. If you have installed your cables outdoors, you should protect them with an external sheath covering because continuous exposure to sunlight, wind, and rain can significantly compromise the structural integrity of the cable jacket. Particularly, PVC cables are mostly installed outdoors, so they are more prone to the harsh conditions of the environment. If your cables are installed indoors in plenum and riser spaces, they are still likely to be exposed to humidity. But plenum-rated and riser-rated jackets are structurally more immune to the menial extremities of the environment. To put that in context, let me give you an example. The plenum-rated jacket on a Cat5e cable is made from fire-retardant and low smoke-emitting material naturally immune to humidity and sunlight. The conditions of the environment are the last thing you should worry about if you have a premium-quality plenum or a riser-rated ethernet cable.

How to Know if an Ethernet Cable is Damaged?

Can an ethernet cable go bad? Yes. But how do you know that the cable has gone bad and the problem in your network is not due to some other error? Well, there are a few diagnostic tests that you can run to tell if the fault in your network is due to the ethernet cable going bad.  First, you need to check that all of your devices are working properly. Check that they are working fine when you insert another cable into them.  Secondly, you need to make sure that your internet connection is functional from your internet service provider’s end.  Thirdly, you can connect your ethernet cable to a fluke network cable tester. You can get any one of those online or at your nearest hardware store. You just have to connect the cable with it and it will tell you if the signals are coming through. It will also tell you the amount of interference and crosstalk on the cable.  Lastly, you can simply insert your cable into another device and see if it works. If it doesn’t work, connect the same device with a patch panel. If it works with the patch cable, the fault is in your ethernet cable. And it's time to replace it. 

Tips to Protect Ethernet Cables and Improve their Lifespan

  • The first and most important tip is to buy the best cables. Needless to say, if you buy the best, they will last the longest. But if the finest are out of your budget, read the next tips to protect whichever cable you get.
  • Be extra careful while installing the cables. As they say, measure twice, and cut once. Before installing your ethernet cables, be sure to measure them twice to avoid cutting the wrong length. 
  • Avoid connecting small bits of cable to make a long cable. The connection might corrode during extended periods. So it's better to simply install another cable in just one piece than to connect multiple bits of the cable to make it long. 
  • Check up on your cables once in a while to inspect how they are doing. Although rarely, ethernet cables do get bitten by rats. That is funny and a bit concerning as well.
  • Make sure to use cable management accessories such as patch panels. This will ensure the smooth functioning of your entire network and will make running maintenance on your cables much easier. 

Conclusion:

The conclusion of the question; How long do ethernet cables last is clear and it depends on two important factors. Quality and how you use them. If you purchase a good-quality ethernet cable, it will last long enough (seven years approximately) to be outdated before it wears out. Even if used in rough conditions. But purchase moderate-quality ethernet cables and expose them to harsh conditions without running basic maintenance. Your cables are going to be faulty in a relatively shorter period. Having said that, we recommend you buy premium quality cables. They will simply, last longer and function efficiently and you won’t have to worry about their life span because they will last for as long as you want them in your network. We at NewYork Cables believe in manufacturing cables of such superior quality. That is the underlying philosophy of our company- to produce cables that will last as long as you want them in your network.