Whether you're trying to share Internet access between buildings or connect cameras across a field, it's easy to run up against the distance limits of a typical Ethernet cable.
However, the Internet goes all around the world, so surely it must be possible to connect two buildings or communicate with devices down a road.
In this article, we'll dig into your options for stretching your Ethernet connection to your heart's content.
Copper Ethernet cables typically used in homes and businesses have a maximum distance of 100 meters (328 feet). Past this distance, speeds will drop, and packet loss will increase.
|Cable Category||Max Speed and Distance|
Standard copper Ethernet cables can only reach about 100 meters because the electrical properties start to break down after that point. The high-frequency signal gets too much noise at long distances, which causes the signal to degrade.
However, there is a range of solutions to work around these limitations of physics. These include:
- Repeating the signal with a network switch
- Transmitting the signal with light over fiber optic cables
- Transmitting the signal with a long-range wireless device
- Transmitting at lower speeds
Next, we'll discuss each of these options in further detail.
A network switch is the simplest solution for extending copper Ethernet cables, such as Cat 6a, past 100 meters. A network switch repeats received packets, forwarding them to their destination.
The downside to using an Ethernet switch is that it requires a power source. For example, if you're running a cable across a field, you likely wouldn't have a power source in the middle of it.
By using a network switch that is at least as fast as the rest of your network, you won't lose any speed by using a network switch to extend the Ethernet cable.
Each network switch can extend your network by the max cable length (e.g., 100 meters with Cat 6a at 10 Gbps).
Recommended Ethernet Switch: NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
- 1 Gbps network switch
- This switch provides a very low-cost solution for extending your Ethernet if you have the necessary power outlets at extension points in the cable run NETGEAR 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Long-range wireless may be a good solution if you have a clear line of sight between two buildings or can create a clear line of sight by using a pole.
Long-Range wireless devices can extend your network for many miles/
Wireless solutions are limited to typical wireless speeds, which are often less than 1 Gbps. However, they can often be more than adequate if you're able to achieve full signal strength.
Recommended Long-Range Wireless Bridge: TP-Link AC867 Long Range CPE
- Can reach 29 kilometers (18 miles) and speeds of up to 867 Mbps
- An excellent solution for buildings with a line of sight TP-Link 5 GHz AC867 Long Range Outdoor CPE Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Suppose you're looking for the trifecta of fast speeds, perfectly stable connections, and long distances. In that case, fiber optics are the answer. Depending on which transceiver is used, fiber optic connections can reach up to 160 km!
Another advantage of fiber is that you can use it to electrically isolate your equipment, minimizing the risk of lightning damage.
The easiest way to extend your network via fiber optics is to use a pair of fiber to Ethernet media converters. They act as a seamless extension for your Ethernet network.
Fiber to Ethernet media converters adapt between a typical copper Ethernet cable (e.g., Cat 6a) and fiber-optic cable.
Recommended Fiber to Ethernet Media Converter: 10Gtek Kit #2
- Reaches up to 20 kilometers (12 miles)!
- Gigabit speeds 1.25G Media Converter, SFP Slot, with an SFP Module, SMF, 1310-nm, 20-km Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- The above media converter requires a single-mode fiber cable with duplex LC connectors Fiber Patch Cable - LC to LC OS2 Single-Mode Duplex 9/125 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
For an extensive guide to fiber optics, check out my article Set Up a Fiber-Optic Network in Your Home or Office.
If speed isn't a concern for you, VDSL2 extenders and PoE+ extenders may solve your problem.
These techniques typically drop speeds to 100 Mbps or less but can provide a quick fix using standard copper Ethernet cables if you only need a low-speed connection.
Recommended VDSL2-Based Extender: Ethernet Extender Kit Tupavco TEX-100
- 100 Mbps Downstream / 72 Mbps Upstream at 1000 feet (304 meters)
- 5 Mbps Downstream / 2 Mbps Upstream at 6500 feet (1981 meters) Ethernet Extender Kit Tupavco TEX-100 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Recommended PoE+ Extender: TRENDnet TPE-LG50 - Long Range PoE+ Switch
- Supports PoE+ devices at 10 Mbps at distances of 200 meters
- An excellent solution for long-distance PoE camera connections TRENDnet 5-Port Gigabit Long Range PoE+ Switch Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
If you're running copper cables outdoors, you may be putting your equipment at additional risk from lightning and power surges. Check out my article Ethernet Surge Protection for Home Networks for suggested equipment that you can use to protect your network.
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