The Ultimate Guide to Different Cable Colors and Their Purposes
At Meridian, we are asked all the time if the colors for different wires and cables follow any industry standard. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a worldwide trade association, does, in fact, issue guidance for standardization in electrical design, but the key point is that their standards don’t actually get into the details of specifying cable colors as they pertain to a specific purpose or function. Rather, the push for standardization in this arena has been more on the private industry side, with the telecommunications industry leading the way. Here, we’ll dive into the wide world of cable colors, what they mean, and what purposes they serve.
Cable Color Standards 101
First and foremost when it comes to cable color standards, one must realize that while there are institutions like the IEEE helping to provide some standardization, there isn’t yet a universally-accepted standard or even requirement in most industries. The color scheme used in one industry can be totally different from what’s used in another and can vary significantly depending on exactly when the system was put in place.
Remember the iPhone and the first true smartphone didn’t make its appearance until 2007, with that came a huge push for new telecommunications infrastructure to support it. So, depending on the timeframe when the cables are installed in their given systems, their color standards will pretty much cover the full spectrum.
Adding to the lack of standardization in cable colors is the variance from one country to another. With today’s global logistics, a company in the U.S. may be sourcing their cables from several different foreign countries that all use different color schemes. With the guidance issued by the IEEE, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and other industry requirements, such as those for the DOD, standardization is possible but may be a long time coming. However, next we’ll see how different cable colors can serve specific purposes in different applications.
What Do Different Colored Ethernet Cables Mean?
Ethernet cables are a very common type of cable used in computer networking. They are used both in residential and commercial applications when a wired network is desired for data sharing and access to the internet. Most often an internet router uses ethernet cables in order to connect to a cable modem and will come with the kit your cable company sends you when you first sign up for services.
However, if you’ve ever had more than one cable company or even have had one service for a number of years, you know that the ethernet cable color can vary. So, what do the different colors mean for ethernet cables? Are different colors faster than others? To find out, we’ll take a closer look at color coding specifically for ethernet cables.
- What Color is an Ethernet Cable?
Like all cables, ethernet cables can come in several different colors. One color isn’t “better” or “faster” than another cable, but the colors can help denote the intended application. The most common colors seen with ethernet cables are grey, blue, yellow, orange, and white. If the ethernet cable is destined to be outside, it will often be black and waterproof to help it survive longer in the elements.
- Ethernet Cable Colors Meaning
As we’ve seen, the meaning of the color of an ethernet cable can vary depending on the where, who, and why of the intended environment. For example, with the Department of Defense (DoD), the government uses different colors of ethernet cords in order to assign a given level of classification for the data being transmitted within the cable e.g. yellow for top secret, red for mid-level, and blue generally for unclassified data.
- Color Code for Ethernet Wires
Again, while there is no direct industry standard for one color over another, there are a few consistencies worth mentioning:
- Gray Ethernet: Ethernet cables that are grey are often representative of a “standard” ethernet connection such as is found in residential and commercial networks.
- Green Ethernet: Green ethernet cables can be used to classify a crossover connection, which are used to connect different computers and/or devices directly together.
- Yellow Ethernet: Yellow ethernet cables are generally used for what’s known as “power over internet” (POE) connections. Interestingly, this standard was developed by the IEEE in 2009 to help classify these cords which deliver a 30W current at the level of the port when used with an ethernet twisted cable pair.
- Blue Ethernet: blue ethernet cables are usually used for terminal server connection. A terminal server makes connections to multiple systems to a LAN network possible without having to use a modem or other network interface.
The TIA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to create and maintain industry standards, including those for color-coding used in cable manufacturing. While these are some of the closest to standards that exist today, most of the TIA’s wiring color management schema is still viewed as a recommendation rather than a requirement. Until universal adoption takes place, there will most likely be many different colors used in ethernet cable colors.
Patch Cable Color Standards
As we’ve come to expect, patch cable color standards may be published by ANSI/TIA but within these recommendations, there has yet to be universal adoption. With patch cable color standards, the University of Wisconsin Network Services Department is leading the way through example by helping to define what colors are to be used for every cable system on their campus.
The standard colors used with patch cord jackets by the University of Wisconsin include:
- Grey – used for standard ethernet connections
- Green – used for crossover ethernet connections
- Yellow – used for POE connections
- Orange – used for analog non-ethernet connections
- Purple – used for digital non-ethernet connections
- Blue – used for terminal server connections
- Red – used for IP cameras
- Black – used as a general color
- Pink – used as an additional color option
- White – used as an additional color option
Depending on the client and the application patch cable colors can vary. The key, however, is simple – consistency. With any new system, staying with a consistent color scheme can help save time and money with implementation and maintenance, as well as prevent a lot of headaches in the future.
Cat6 Cable Color Standards
Whether it is a Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, or even Cat6a ethernet cable, the color code of the outside of the cable should not be confused with the internal twisted wires that have their own color code. The outside color scheme is far more generic, simply helping to draw attention to the purpose of the connection. While a Cat6 cable is a twisted pair network cable that’s used for ethernet networks, it is also backwards-compatible with other Categories like Cat5 and Cat5e. However, once again we see that industry standards that are used across the board are hard to come by.
Some of the more common color standards for Cat6 cable include:
- Blue – denotes network connectivity
- Yellow – generally used for wired security cameras
- White – also used for wired security cameras
- Grey – used as an interconnection, also known as “jumpers”
- Black – generally used for equipment, peripherals, and/or workstations in a network
- Red – commonly used with VoIP phone systems or other emergency communications systems.
Network Cable Color Chart
If you’ve spent anytime looking for network cable color charts online, you may have been frustrated at the lack of continuity with different schemes. As we’ve hit on, the color standards vary widely, but the ANSI/TIA did help this endeavor with their lengthy standard – Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings or ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A.
While the standard goes into tremendous detail for labeling and ease of identification, an actual color chart is hard to come by. Scouring the web, we were able to find a third-party site that published their version of the ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A standards.
Being from a third party, this chart is for informational purposes only, to help give our readers an idea of what a network cable color chart can look like:
A Final Look: Cat5e Blue vs. Grey
While the topic of many different internet forums, the difference between Cat5e blue and grey is the same as with the other cable colors we’ve looked at. The deciding factor here is only as far as the design engineer choosing a given color. This is highly subjective and depends on the many factors we’ve already discussed such as when the Cat5e cable was manufactured, where it was manufactured, and the industry it was manufactured for.
Getting a Custom Cable Assembly Color-Coded Correctly
At Meridian, we custom create more than 70 percent of the products we produce. That means each custom cable is made to the exact specs of the client, to work as intended within whatever electrical system the assembly is destined for. One of the keys to our success here is in our ability to create a unit that is easy to integrate into the client’s existing systems. With decades of experience and some of the very best capabilities within custom cable manufacturing, we can design a color scheme that makes sense and that can be seamlessly integrated.
Contact our team to go over your project’s specs today.
Image 1: Yellow Cat 5 or 5e cabling used for telephone service. In all of the images, only two wires out of the total of 8 wires in the Cat 5/5e cable are used for the actual telephone line. The others are either pulled back along the cable or cut off. Thats normal.
Image 2: RG-6 cabling used for cable or satellite service. With black and white, I'm assuming that you have structured wiring installed in the walls. In this case the cables are connected to an Antronix ampifier for Rogers cable TV distribution. Are you running a VOIP phone as it looks like there is a converter which converts the cable output to ethernet output. Its had to tell exactly from the image but thats what it looks like to me. First time that I've seen that. The amplifer is MoCA qualified so that you can run Whole House PVR. The MoCA filter built into the amp will protect your Whole Home System from outside interference, such as someone else deleting your recorded shows. That amp is also a DOCSIS II amplifier which is compatible with Rogers DOSCIS III system, unless Rogers decides to flip the switch someday and use the extended frequency range in the lower band which runs from 5 to 85 Mhz from what I remember of the DOCSIS III spec.
Image 3: Downstairs showing the Rogers cable coming into the home and Cat 5/5e (yellow and blue) and alarm wiring (small white). Looks like there is also some white RG-6 cabling as well.
Image 4: Ethernet cables with connectors installed. If those are installed on all of the blue ethernet cables, you can plug them into a gigabit switch. Black RG-6 cable has a crimped connector installed.
Image 5: Wallplate with keystones installed. Looking at that and the next picture, the middle Cat 5e keystone is the wrong type of keystone for telephone use. Thats an RJ-45 keystone, not an RJ-11 keystone. That's probably why you are confused about this.
Image 6: Rear Keystone view: You can see the two wires from the yellow Cat 5/5e telephone cable connecting to the middle white coloured keystone. The ethernet connects to the lower blue keystone.
Image 7: Shows the Rogers connector box with the alarm cable (?) running off to the alarm system box.
So, to use the telephone jacks you can fit a typical RJ-11 phone connector into that middle keystone. The RJ-11 conector is smaller in width and will fit the RJ-45 jack. If its inserted straight, I suspect that it should work. I've never done it that way, but in theory it should work. In that case, its just a matter of connecting a phone system to the Rogers box in the basement. If it turns out that it doesn't work for some reason, you would either have to replace the middle keystone, or build a RJ-11 to RJ-45 converter cable. Its easier just to replace the keystone.
Here is an image of an RJ-11 keystone which only has 4 connectors on it for the telephone cable. This is what should have been installed, personal opinion:
Looking for a Lowes image..... (I'm sure they have them)
Here is an image of an RJ-45 keystone:
The keystones have a top and bottom. I believe the toothless variety are just a push on type. Place the wires where they should go and squeeze the top down to compress the wires onto the contacts. The usual variety requires a 110 punch down tool which has a cutting edge on one side. Place the wires where they should go, and then push down with the punch down tool to force the wire into the contacts. The cutting blade will cut the outside wire off of the keystone as its pushed down and you will hear a click when the wire reaches the bottom. Thats pretty easy to do, but, be very carefull with the punch down tool as its very sharp (the voice of experience speaking here 😞 ) There are also numerous youtube videos on how to use the punch down tool with a keystone.
One thing that is worth doing is to test the ethernet cabling with a LAN tester. That will ensure that the ethernet wires are in the right order, from the connector downstairs to the keystone upstairs, and that none of the wires have missed the contacts, either upstairs or downstairs when the connector or keystone has been installed. That can be done with the following:
Here is a short video showing how that tester works;
and... another youtube video covering testers, with this tester starting at minute 7:20, although its worth looking at the whole video.
Its always useful to have one of those around for testing house and commercial cabling whenever you suspect that you might have problems. If you have just moved in recently and the previous owner has not indicated that the cabling has been fully tested, then you're potentially dealing with problems at either end, or both ends of each ethernet cable. That just adds to any confusion if you have any problems. One side of the tester is a transmitter, the other is the receiver. The transmitter energizes each pair in sequence and the receiver can/will show if there is a wire pair that has been reversed in its end to end travel, or if there are missing wires, which would indicate that either the connector in the basement or keystone upstairs has not been installed properly. You won't know this unless you test the cabling yourself and satisfy yourself as to the quality of the installation.
If you had to reinstall a connector downstairs you would have to determine if the individual wires in the ethernet cable are solid core or stranded. Solid core only has one single wire under the individual coating. Stranded has numerous smaller wires that make up each individual wire which is then coated with a coloured protective coating. The reason that you have to know this is because there are connectors for solid and stranded core, so you would have to ensure that you buy the right type. With that you would need a crimper to crimp the connector onto the cable. Hopefully you won't have to go this far, but, this is just to let you know what to look for, just in case.
I'm assuming that behind the wallplate there may be another RG-6 cable. If so, you can use that for other purposes, such as running an antenna possibly from the attic to a tv for Over The Air reception which will provide a better picture than cable or satellite, or radio for FM purposes. You might have a conduit which runs from the basement up to the attic which can be used to run an antenna cable, or several, depending on what you might want to do.
Ok, that should do it. If you have any questions, please ask away......
SOLVED - What is the difference between blue and yellow ethernet cable?
Friend is on virgin media broadband. She had a new modem (black) delivered to replace the old one (silver). The old one was connected to the pc via a usb cable. She has bought a netgear wireless router which came with a yellow ethernet cable. The old modem had a faulty ethernet connector the reason for the new one.
When she connected the new modem to the pc using a yellow ethernet cable (from the wirless router box) she rang virgin media to connect the new modem. They had problems connecting/activating the modem. They said the ethernet light should light up or flash. So they sent another modem. Same problem there. Tried a different ethernet cable (standard grey cable which i know works) and the same problem. The virgin media helpdesk said we should be using a blue ethernet cable which normally comes with the modem. They will send her one.
is there a difference between the blue and yellow ethernet cables?
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Using Ethernet cables ensures a faster and more stable internet connection. For those of you with a desktop computer set-up or a gaming console, you will want the speed and reliability of an ethernet connection to your internet. Wi-Fi can sometimes experience blocks and restrictions, whereas when you are plugged into your network using these cables, you are always connected to the internet with no problem.
The differences between blue and yellow ethernet cables link to whether they are for terminal server connections or power over ethernet (POE). The outer colors of these cables do not suggest differences in their functions, such as speed and reliability, but more for their purpose and use within an internet set-up.
Many newer laptops are no longer made with ethernet connection ports built in. However, you can buy a USB converter, which will allow you to plug in your device to your internet router using an ethernet. You can find these here.
What is a yellow ethernet cable used for?
Yellow ethernet cables are used to connect an internet connection with a device. They work by plugging your networking device into your computer.
The cable creates an electric current between the two, carrying the internet to your device. This is quite different from Wi-Fi and some people choose to use this set-up as a backup option to ensure they are always connected.
Yellow ethernet cables are mainly used for Power Over Ethernet (POE). This means that your cable can supply both the electrical power and the data in one connection. This technology became widely used in 2009 and the color of these cables started as yellow.
In contrast, a LAN network requires an ethernet cable plus a power cable for your internet to be fully functioning on your device. The benefit of POE means that, by using just one ethernet cable to supply both the power and the data, you have reduced cabling requirements which is a much more preferred way of setting up the internet.
You can set up POE connections in your home as a way of keeping your cabling use to a minimum. This means that you can set up internet throughout your house with the need of only a few power supplies.
As times have moved on, ethernet cables now all more or less have the same functions. Therefore, the different colors mean little nowadays as they did when tech industries were first inventing them.
However, it is important to be aware of the slight differences in functions as you may stumble upon the different tech vocabulary in your internet setup.
When buying your internet router, it is always important to check with the providers that you have the correct cabling to ensure you are ready to get and stay connected.
You will need to consider the type of device you are looking to connect to, and if ethernet internet is necessary or if you can just use Wi-Fi.
Remember that you will have a much more stable connection using an ethernet cable. This is important to consider when setting up a home office or for gaming consoles. Wi-Fi is sometimes not strong enough to support these kinds of functions.
For larger office spaces and public areas, ethernet cables are also recommended depending on the type of connection that is required.
Some offices choose to set up both ethernet cables and Wi-Fi for people to use desktops and their laptops to complete work. However, this is where you will be looking at setting up a LAN network which you can find out more on next.
What is a blue ethernet cable used for?
Blue Ethernet cables allow internet connection and network set-up between devices. Similar to yellow ethernet cables, blue ethernet cables act as a current between the two and work by plugging into the ethernet receiver ports on each device.
As mentioned above, there are not many significant differences between the varying colors of ethernet cables as technology has developed rapidly in the past decade. This means that many of the functions of the different types of ethernet cables have now been adapted and produced as the standard. Therefore, the colors do not make much of a difference anymore with our modern internet set-ups.
With that, it can still be useful for you to know what the slight differences are. Blue ethernet cables are usually used for something called a terminal server connection.
This will enable multiple systems to connect to a LAN network, such as in an office space, or office building. A terminal server connection means that there is no need for a modem or router.
Terminal server connections are widely used in larger spaces as they allow for many devices to connect to the LAN network (internet). This works as a remote access service which is ideal for large companies looking to share the same network among all employees.
What is the difference between blue and yellow ethernet cables?
As we have now looked at the different functions of blue and yellow ethernet cables, we can now look at what the differences are.
There are very few differences between these two ethernet cables, based solely on their coloring. In many internet set-ups that require you to use an ethernet cable, you can use either and they will both deliver the same result.
Different color cables are usually used to make different types of network hardware more recognizable. Such as the differences stated above with POE and terminal server connections.
Different colors used in these cables can also be used to distinguish different company’s produce. It is important to remember that the jacket color of these cables does not imply any difference in their functions.
This meaning that they all work in the same way regardless of their outer color.
Which ethernet cable category is best to use?
There are four main ethernet cable categories used widely today. These categories are Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a. However, these categories are not assigned to a specific color.
As mentioned above, the colors can help distinguish between the cable’s use and the purpose of the connection, as opposed to its actual function.
Ethernet cables within these different categories will more than likely be marked. For example, a Cat5 ethernet cable will be marked with ‘Cat5’ and so on. Depending upon what your intended use if for your ethernet cable, Cat5e is an adequate category to use for domestic internet.
This is the best choice in terms of cost and performance. However, it is important to consider that within future years of technology evolution, this cable may start to limit your internet speeds as they inevitably increase.
Therefore, if you know you will be downloading and transferring many large files, then consider upgrading your ethernet cable.
Cat6 and Cat6a are more than likely the best cables to use for ensuring you have great internet speed. These cables do not have a major difference in price to the Cat5e cables and so for future internet use, they are a good investment for your set-up.
For office use and larger network activity, consider higher categories such as Cat7. Although Cat6a will be adequate for this kind of network. But again, it depends on the size of files being used as with time the lower categories will struggle to support this.
Cat5 is best to avoid as it is obsolete in its use now against our newer internet set-ups.
For gaming and other such online entertainment, this cable will not support your speeds and downloads and so you will struggle with your connection which can, in turn, be frustrating and difficult.
The differences in ethernet cable coloring are not to distinguish the functions of the cable but to help differentiate between their purposes.
It is the categories of ethernet cables that deliver the slight differences in how these cables do function. Such as their speeds and their download size.
Be sure to always check with your internet providers which cables are best to use, and understand that for domestic use of the internet, you do not need to use the highest category of ethernet cable on the market.
Cat5e or Cat6 will be sufficient for you. Yet, with much larger internet use, consider purchasing the higher categories to ensure future-proofing your internet connection.
Ethernet port blue
What I see in the photos of that structured wiring cabinet is category 5 (possibly 5e) cable pulled and used for telephone, not ethernet.
You would need at a minimum to distribute an internet connection from this panel to 5 ethernet ports..
#1. Internet service. DSL, Cable, Fiber, what have you connected to a modem of some kind.
#2. Router. Most consumer grade routers these days are also WiFi access points. Not the best thing for a structured wiring cabinet as the steel in the cabinet plays havok with the WiFi signal. But we are talking wired connections here, so turn OFF the WiFi in the router and move on. Make sure the WAN and LAN connections of your router are capable of Gigabit speed.
#3. An 8 port ethernet switch. I say 8 port because I do NOT like cascading switches in SOHO installs. Better to put everything on one big switch. Make sure you use a Gigabit switch.
#4. Proper cabling to connect Internet service cable to modem, modem to router, and router to switch. The devices SHOULD come with them, but sometimes not. If you need to get cables, make sure you get category 5e at a minimum, category 6 is better. Not by a lot, but better...
If you do not know how to pull and terminate ethernet cable, and it sounds like that may be the case, hire out a contractor to just pull a second line where the current jacks are, or if possible remove the phone structure and repurpose the cat5e cable for network. You won't have wired telephone any more, but who uses a land line these days anyway?
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