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What Is Ethernet?

What Is Ethernet

Date First Published: 31st January 2022

Topic: Computer Networking

Subtopic: Data Transmission Technologies

Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Easy

Difficulty Level: 3/10

Learn more about what Ethernet is in this article.

Ethernet is a popular high-speed wired technology used for directly connecting a device, such as a laptop or a computer to a router or a modem. Ethernet is often used in LANs and MANs. Devices, such as computers, laptops, printers and routers physically connect using an Ethernet cable. Since this type of technology is wired, the distance a device can be connected is limited to the length of the Ethernet cable.

Ethernet cables use a small plastic connector clip on each end, which is called an RJ45. 'RJ 'is short for registered jack and '45' refers to the interface standard. Ethernet is mostly used to connect older computers to the internet, since most older computers do not have wireless technology that connects to networks using radio waves without using any wires.

Is Ethernet Still Used?

Even though there are more modern technologies for connecting to networks, such as Wi-Fi, Ethernet is still commonly used now, since it offers a high data transfer rate, data encryption is not required, and it is easier to set up. The disadvantages of Ethernet are that it is more expensive to set up, since it requires a long Ethernet cable to be purchased and there are restrictions on the length of the cable. Most Ethernet cables are 5-100 metres in length.


In 1973 and 1974, Xerox PARC, a research and development company in California developed Ethernet, which was based on ALOHAnet. Robert Metcalfe, an engineer and entrepreneur from the United States studied this. A patent application that listed Metcalfe, David Boggs, Chuck Thacker, and Butler Lampson was filed by Xerox in 1975. Robert Metcalfe and David Boggs published a new theory in a research paper in 1976, which was after the deployment (all of the operations that go into making a software system usable) of the system.

Ethernet has been around since 1980, which was when the upgrade from the original 2.94 Mb/s to the 10 Mb/s protocol was released and supported by Yogen Dalal, Ron Crane, Bob Garner, and Roy Ogus. It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardised in 1983 as IEEE 802.3. Ethernet eventually evolved to include higher bandwidth as well as improved media access control methods and a range of physical media.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does Ethernet transmit data?

Ethernet transmits data by packets, also known as Ethernet frames, which is data sent over a network that is divided into smaller segments of data that is travelling over a network. The copper wires inside an Ethernet cable actually provide functionality to transmit data and information between the two devices.

Is Ethernet similar to Wi-Fi?

No. Ethernet is not similar to Wi-Fi at all. Wi-Fi is a wireless network connection that searches for nearby network connections, most of which require a password to connect. Ethernet is used for directly connecting to a network by using a cable that connects to a router or a modem and it does not require a password.

Why do Ethernet cables come in different colours? What do the different colours mean?

The colour of the Ethernet cable is only the colour of the plastic that covers the copper wires. Ethernet cables come in a range of colours, such as white, orange, blue, red, yellow, etc. There is no difference between different colours of Ethernet cables as they all perform the same functions, but some businesses use different colour Ethernet cables to differentiate and make different networks clear. For example, a blue Ethernet cable could be used for connecting printers and a green Ethernet cable could be used for connecting computers.

Should the word 'Ethernet' be capitalised?

The word 'Ethernet' is a proper noun and in accordance with the proper naming conventions, it should be capitalised.

Is Ethernet faster than Wi-Fi?

Ethernet is faster than Wi-Fi because it directly offers a wired connection and always guarantees no loss in speed unless the internet connection is lost or there is network congestion. Ethernet offers transmission of data over cable, which is always faster than a wireless connection.


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