Network Cabling - Solid or Stranded? Here's What You Need To Know

When it comes to Cat 5e and Cat 6 network cabling, there's two basic formats to choose between - solid and stranded.

To help you pick the best network cabling for you particular application, the cable experts at ComputerCableStore have created this quick primer on the differences between solid and stranded cable, along with general guidelines on the use of each type.

Solid Network Cable

Solid, or non-stranded network cabling is constructed with multiple single-strand, solid insulated conductor wires. Each of these solid wire strands are generally made from copper or a comparable conductive metal; these individually-sheathed solid wires are bundled together and bound inside a continuous PVC outer jacket, creating a semi-rigid cable.

Stranded Network Cable

Stranded network cabling consists of multiple thin strands of conductive, small-gauge wires (usually copper) that are twisted together to create a thick wire. These wires are sheathed with PVC insulation to create a flexible, lightweight cable.

The Major Differences Between Solid and Stranded Network Cable

While both solid and network cable perform the same function, the major differences between the two types include:

Flexibility - Solid cable is relatively stiff and resistant to bending, while stranded cable is pliable and bends easily.

Durability - Solid cable can stand up to being pulled through walls and wall jacks, while stranded cable is more likely to shred and distort.

Brittleness - Because the individual wires within solid network cable are constructed with a single continuous piece of wire, solid strand cable is somewhat brittle and can snap if subjected to repeated manipulation (such as installing and removing connectors). By contrast, stranded cable is less likely to snap when flexed and bent during connection and disconnection.

Signal Capacity - While the signal handling capacity of each cable varies based on the specifications of the materials used, in general solid network cable delivers superior signal distribution over that of stranded cable, particularly in applications where long lengths of network cable are used.

Choosing Between Solid and Stranded Network Cable

Solid network cabling is best suited for applications that involve long runs through walls, floors and ceilings, as it's semi-rigid properties make it easy to pull through structures and it's superior signal handling reduces the risk of signal degradation.

Stranded network cabling is ideal for use in applications where a short run of cable is needed, especially if the cable will be repeatedly bent or flexed, such as patch cords and cables.

The general rule of thumb when it comes to choosing the right network cabling is that long runs through structures require the rigidity and durability of solid cables, while applications that involve multiple re-routing and re-wiring of the network cables are best suited to stranded cables. Most installations require the use of both types to achieve professional, long-lasting performance from your network cabling system.