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How to Extend Ethernet Cables

How to Extend an Ethernet Cable

When it comes to networking, Ethernet is amazing technology. It’s fast, easy to use, and makes many facets of networking far less complicated than they might otherwise be.

But, Ethernet has some drawbacks. Most notably, you can’t run Ethernet cables very far. Sometimes, you need to connect Ethernet devices across distances that the copper cables can’t handle. What do you do in those cases? You extend the cables with various techniques that preserve network performance while covering the distances you have to service.

Remember the Limits of Ethernet

Before you can pick what method makes sense for the network you are trying to build, it’s important to remember the physical limitations of Ethernet cabling. There is a strict distance limit for this technology, and when you go beyond that limit, performance drops radically.

In general, Ethernet cables cannot run longer than 100 meters. For very high Ethernet speeds, the maximum distance is considerably shorter.

If you need to run a longer Ethernet cable up to the limit, simply replacing the short cable is easy enough. When you need to go beyond these range limits, things are a bit more challenging.

How to Extend an Ethernet Cable

Extending Ethernet cables beyond their range limits is relatively easy when you know the key. You need to add a device at the node between your two runs of cabling.

So, if you need to connect two computers that are 200m apart, you’ll need a device at the halfway point.

There are a number of different devices that can serve this purpose, and choosing the right one is really just a matter of understanding the purpose behind the connection.

Network Switch

Most endpoint Ethernet devices connect to a network switch somewhere along the line, so using network switches to extend Ethernet range is extremely common.

A network switch adds power and processing to the network, so it can serve as a reinforcing node across long distances.

We can use an example of standard Ethernet to really understand how this works. Let’s say you have two different Ethernet-connected computers on your network. Each of them can be up to 100m away from your network switch, even if the computers are farther away than that from each other.

So, if the network switch is directly in between the two computers, they can each connect at the full 100m range from the switch, but they can be up to 200m away from each other.

With this thought process, you can strategically place switches in the network to maximize Ethernet range.

Media Converter

When you need to extend the Ethernet network much farther than is possible with a single network switch, then a media converter becomes a good choice.

Media converters allow you to connect Ethernet cables to non-ethernet cables. Typically, they are used to connect copper cables to fiber optic cables.

Here’s how such an extension would work. At one end, you have an Ethernet device. The Ethernet cable connects from that device to a media converter. You then run fiber optics from that media converter to another media converter. The second converter connects to an Ethernet cable that then runs into a second endpoint device.

With this connection, you are extending the direct networking line between two Ethernet devices, but because you involve fiber optics, that line can run a total distance of 30km. When you need the longest range, this is the way to achieve it.

Ethernet Extender

Ethernet extenders provide a solution that exists between networking switches and media converters. An Ethernet extender works a lot like a media converter, but the cables on both ends of the extender are still copper.

With an Ethernet extender, you can push a 50 Mbps connection to run up to 300 meters, and a 10 Mbps connection can run up to 1400 meters. That gives you a lot of flexibility in your networking design, provided these bandwidths are sufficient.

As you can see, it’s simple enough to extend an Ethernet cable as long as you use the right equipment. Depending on how far you need to expand the cable, your options can be simple and affordable or complex and expensive. It’s all a matter of designing around the network’s needs.

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