To make the most of your connected or smart TV you’ll need to connect it to the internet. Some smart TVs now have a wireless network option built-in as well as a port for a network cable.
The most reliable way to connect your smart TV to the internet is with a wired network connection. A wired connection can also offer faster speeds which is ideal for watching online video. Wired connections are also easier to troubleshoot if anything isn’t working as well as it should.
Choosing a network cable
If your router is in the same room as your TV there are many options for cables. Network cables come in a variety of lengths and colours so you can find the best fit for your room.
Network cables come in two main varieties: Cat 5e and Cat 6. These numbers refer to the speed at which data can be reliably transferred using the cable. Cat 5e is suitable for ‘fast ethernet’ use with speeds of about 100Mbps, although can reach close to gigabit speeds. Cat 6 is certified for full ‘gigabit ethernet’ speeds. Cat 6 cables are backwards compatible for Cat 5e speeds.
At time of writing there is little difference in price between Cat 5e and Cat 6 network cables (sometimes called ‘patch cables’) online. A Belkin 2 metre Cat 6 cable will set you back about £3.50 whilst a Cat 5e cable costs about £1.90.
Any new cables you buy should be Cat 6 network cables, but there’s nothing wrong with Cat 5e cables and unless you specifically require a gigabit network you don’t need to replace any cables now. As new routers and devices adopt gigabit network speeds you won’t need to replace your new Cat 6 network cables in the future to benefit from quicker speeds.
Quicker speeds from your network
Buying a Cat 6 cable won’t necessarily make your network faster. A network will only operate at the fastest speed of the devices on the network, and many of the UKs most widely used broadband routers don’t support gigabit speeds.
If you’re watching a programme on the BBC iPlayer over your internet connection the video will not load any quicker either – your broadband speed is likely to be significantly slower than a gigabit network.
Only if all of your devices, cables and broadband router are certified for gigabit speeds will you really notice any difference when transferring files.
Network cables for a neater installation and longer distances
Connecting a device to a network with a short cable is great when the router is in the same room. But when you come to connect a TV in a bedroom to a router under the stairs it becomes a bit trickier. In this case you might want to install a network port in a room and use a roll of cable which you can cut to the desired length.
An installed network still uses Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables which come on a roll or in a box at 100m and 305m lengths. You can still choose nearly any colour you desire and terminate the cable with plugs and sockets using inexpensive tools.
When it comes to installing cables under floorboards and in partition walls you might want to think more about future proofing that network. The relatively small price difference can make the decision easier, although some find Cat 6 is more difficult to install. Like any other cable Cat 5e and Cat 6 shouldn’t be installed directly next to twin and earth power cables. A minimum gap of 50mm is recommended with some choosing a gap of 200mm.
The network plugs and sockets look the same for Cat 5e and Cat 6 but there are differences between them. When terminating a cable by fitting a plug or socket you will need to ensure it is for the relevant cable standard.