As businesses, universities, and homes have done since the mid-1990s, we still use Ethernet to connect multiple computers and devices to a common Local Area Network. The concept of the cable has changed little since it was introduced, but something else has changed over time: the speed of the connection. Just as the demand for increased download speeds has gone up, the transfer speeds for Ethernet has met the challenge.
But what are the speed options for Ethernet? Is there a real difference between fast Ethernet vs gigabit? Let’s break it down.
Looking at fast Ethernet vs gigabit Ethernet, we should first look back at what is still an option, but used rarely: the 10Mbps Ethernet. The slow transfer speed would make most modern users completely crazy and is not usually supported in new LAN, though the faster Ethernet cards can utilize it when needed.
Fast Ethernet entered the Internet scene back in the mid-1990s. With its speed of 100Mbps, it left its predecessor far behind, and quickly gained in popularity. Fast Ethernet kept the features of the 10Mbps Ethernet, but it also allowed more customization to help ensure that collisions within the LAN are avoided.
Surprisingly, Gigabit Ethernet was released only a few years after fast Ethernet came about, but was not used much until our internet demands increased. Gigabit Ethernet offers 1000Mbps, making it even faster than fast Ethernet. It is faster than the other types of Ethernet because it encodes the signals to the cables differently than fast Ethernet does.
Each of the primary types of Ethernet allow for up to 100 meters per cable, with shorter cables being just as accommodating. When looking at fast Ethernet vs gigabit Ethernet, you can use Cat 5e cables for both the fast and gigabit Ethernets. Fast Ethernet typically uses the Cat 5e or Cat 5 cables, while the gigabit Ethernet uses either Cat 5e or even Cat 6 Ethernet cables.
Regardless of the cables that you use for your LAN, the cables are all backwards compatible. This does mean, however, that the entire network would be stuck using the speed of the slowest cable instead of the fastest.
Gigabit vs Fast Ethernet: What is better?
Obviously, the answer here would be that since the gigabit Ethernet is faster than fast, the first thought would be to state that the gigabit is the obvious choice. The answer is not that simple, however. Having a transfer speed of 1000Mbps sounds amazing and would guarantee that the LAN would not be bogged down by traffic from the multiple users. There is a hitch here though: most ISPs are not going to be capable of providing 1000 Mbps.
Even though the Ethernet card itself has the capability of an incredibly fast transfer speed, ISPs simply cannot keep up with the speed, meaning you will not be using the total 1000Mbps and are most likely to be using the 100Mbps, even with a gigabit Ethernet setup.
Is Gigabit pointless?
Of course having a slow ISP is going to make your overall broadband slower, but your system will still be capable of performing at a higher speed if that speed becomes available. When looking at the fast Ethernet vs the gigabit, keep in mind that the gigabit can do everything that the fast is capable of, but has the ability to do it all at a much faster pace when it is able to.
The fast Ethernet card vs the gigabit are the same, running speeds of 10/100Mbps, but the gigabit is capable of more. Backwards compatible, gigabit Ethernet can support all existing applications and does not take much in the way of learning in order to figure it all out.
The technology of gigabit Ethernet is ahead of most of the current ISP technology in many cases. Rest assured that the gigabit Ethernet is going to utilize as much of your ISP’s transfer speed as possible, keeping any close collision signs far away from your online activity.
There is one large advantage of using the gigabit, even if your ISP is not as fast: your network. When you are downloading or transferring data or files from your LAN, you will be able to have an incredibly fast transfer rate, regardless of the ISP. This is ideal if you are transferring larger files or wanting to stream videos from your LAN.
Using the gigabit Ethernet technology will also mean that you will not have to upgrade your setup in the event that your ISP moves to a faster speed.