Phone Cable vs Ethernet Cable: 7 Major Differences

Ethernet cables and phone cables are two categories of cables that link devices. They both serve the same functions, letting devices communicate with each other, share data, and connect to a network or the internet. Although they might seem similar, they are not the same. 

There are several differences between these two categories of cables, and hence, they are suitable for different uses. Phone cables are mainly made for connecting landline phones. They’re not ideal for other applications. On the other side, Ethernet cables are commonly used in computer setups. 

It’s crucial to choose the right cable for your specific needs. To help you do that, in this article, we will discuss the differences between the phone cable vs ethernet cable.

What Are Phone Cables?

Phone cables are basically RJ11 cables, which excel in transmitting voice data with various lengths and designs. The newest version of these cables is the RJ12 cables, which feature six conducting strands inside. Many people think that only Ethernet cables can handle home network connectivity, but this isn’t accurate.

Phone cables can manage a network using frequency division multiplexing. It refers to the transmission of data over the lines operating at a different frequency compared to voice traffic. You can send data while using the phone simultaneously through a phone line network and even send faxes over the internet.

Using a modem to send data over the exact frequency as voice traffic eliminates the need for dial-up Internet. Phone cables are one of the key advantages of the phone line network. In this network system, the phone cable is already set up, making it unnecessary to connect them separately.

You can link your computer to the network from any room of your house with a phone jack. Also, you can see these cables to connect phones to phone jacks and modems to phone lines.

What Are Ethernet Cables?

Ethernet cables, also known as network cables or Ethernet patch cables, are the most common choice for network connectivity in homes and businesses. These cables play a crucial role in connecting with the Internet and thus connect computers, modems, and routers to an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

When it comes to network cables, they can be categorized into different types as per various standards of classification. One common categorization is between unshielded twisted pair and shielded twisted pair cables. Also, Ethernet cables are rated by various types, with Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a being the most common categories.

Cat5e supports a 1G network. On the other hand, Cat6 and Cat6a offer higher capacity, supporting 10G network connectivity. As per the various polish types, Ethernet cables can also be classified as APC and UPC. All Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a cable types utilize twisted pairs to minimize signal loss. 

They come with terminating connectors, known as RJ45s, which are a little bigger compared to the RJ11 phone connectors. These connectors are essential for establishing reliable connections.

The Differences between Phone Cables and Ethernet Cables

We want to begin by pointing out that Ethernet and phone cables share a common goal, which is they both transfer data. They take information from the cable’s one end and send it to the cable’s other end. However, that is where their similarities stop. There are many key differences between Ethernet cables and phone cables. Let’s explore some of them.

1. Construction

A phone cable is generally much thinner compared to an ethernet cable. One key difference between them lies in what is inside them. It all begins with the construction of both these cables. Both ethernet and phone cables are basically bundles of copper wires. These copper wires play a crucial role in facilitating the data transfer between the endpoints of the cables. 

Data is transmitted via these copper wires utilizing electronic signals. When you plug in an Ethernet or phone cable to a device, the device can interpret these electronic signals into the messages that were transmitted to it from the cable’s other end. It’s somewhat like the Morse code. Now, if both phone and ethernet cables are built from copper wires, what sets them apart?

The difference lies in the number of wires they are built up of. Ethernet network cables comprise 8 wires, twisted and built into 4 pairs. Every one of these wires is color-coded with solid colors and their corresponding dashed or striped white cables. On the flip side, phone cables consist of four wires.

2. Bandwidth

Ethernet cables have a higher bandwidth rate compared to phone cables. It happens because of their additional pins and wires. This means people can receive and transmit more data at faster speeds through Ethernet cables. On the other hand, phone cables generally have a smaller bandwidth, causing data to move more slowly across a network.

3. Usage 

Choosing the right cable between these two depends on your usage and requirements. Phone cables are commonly used in Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and home telephone line connections. On the other hand, Ethernet cables are generally used to connect IP networks and computers. They also help to connect the switches, routers, and hubs. 

Therefore, if your needs are minimal, and speed isn’t a top priority, a phone wire would be sufficient for you. However, if you prioritize stability and good speed, opting for Ethernet cables would be the better choice.

4. Data Transfer Speed

Another significant difference between Ethernet and phone cables lies in the data transfer speeds they can handle. This difference is closely tied to the number of wires present in each cable. 

Phone cables have a maximum data transfer rate of 24 Mbps (megabits per second). On the other hand, Ethernet cables can handle data transfer rates much quicker. Ethernet cables come in various categories, each supporting a different data transfer rate. 

The commonly used ones, like cat 5e and cat6, can handle maximum data transfer rates of 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps, respectively. In simpler terms, ethernet cables can handle data transfer rates up to 40 times quicker than phone cables. This speed difference is because of the specific tasks these cables are designed for.

5. Security

Both Ethernet cables and phone cables offer high security. However, certain types of Ethernet cables can be weak in specific situations, like damp conditions, the presence of squirrels in forests, or encounters with high-clearance trucks. 

Also, certain Ethernet cables might be fragile to environmental factors like heavy rain or abrasion from repeated movement. In contrast, phone cables stand out for their robustness and ability to withstand harsh conditions, which makes them notably more reliable compared to Ethernet cables.

6. Connector

One big difference between Ethernet cables and Phone cables is the connectors they use. Each cable has plastic connectors on its ends. These connectors fulfill several functions. The connectors attached to phone cables are known as RJ11 connectors. The term “RJ” refers to “Registered Jack.” 

The term “RJ” in this name means “Registered Jack,” and it points to the standard that guides how the connectors are crafted. On the other hand, Ethernet cables use RJ45 connectors, which follow a different standard of making. When you compare these connectors, it is important to notice the gold pins on them. 

RJ11 connectors on phone cables have four gold pins, while RJ45 connectors on Ethernet cables have eight gold pins. The reason behind the varying number of gold pins is related to the number of copper wires inside each cable. These pins enable the data flowing via the wires inside the cables to reach the gadgets connected to the cable.

As we mentioned above, phone cables contain four copper wires inside them, whereas Ethernet cables contain eight copper wires inside them. This difference in the number of wires is responsible for the different connector standards observed in Ethernet and phone cables.

7. Cost

Ethernet cables, like Cat6 cables, are pricier compared to phone cables. However, they prove their value. If you are on a low budget, phone cables remain a good option. The benefits of Ethernet cables, such as the availability of prebuilt cables, the flexibility to run them anywhere, and their fast data transfer speed, make them worthwhile.

Nevertheless, it’s important to note that using Ethernet cables requires particular equipment like switches or hubs. These devices are considerably more costly than the typical equipment used for phone connections. Switches and hubs can even cost you hundreds of dollars.

Can A Phone Cable Serve As An Ethernet Cable?

No, the phone cable won’t work for modern Ethernet use as it’s of lower quality and outdated. Phone cables, with their 4 wires in 2 pairs, are less capable than Ethernet cables, which have 8 wires in 4 pairs. The CAT 3 phone cable has fewer twisted pair wires compared to the CAT 5e and CAT 6 Ethernet cables. 

Therefore, the CAT 3 phone cable has a slower speed as phones don’t require a high-speed connection. Also, both of their connectors are different. Phone cables use RJ11 connectors, while Ethernet cables use RJ45 connectors. Moreover, the devices we use for the internet nowadays don’t have slots for RJ11 connectors.

If you check any of your gadgets connected to the internet, you’ll notice that the majority have ports specifically designed for RJ45 connectors. It’s because they are made to be used only with Ethernet cables. Therefore, even if you wish to, using phone cables as Ethernet cables wouldn’t work, as they wouldn’t fit into the ports of your internet-connected devices.

Can You Convert A Phone Jack into An Ethernet Port?

Yes, you can convert a phone jack to an Ethernet port. To make this happen, you’ll need a DSL modem, which allows your computer to get an internet connection. In this case, connecting the DSL modem to a phone line is essential for sending and receiving online signals. 

If you would like to turn a phone jack into an Ethernet port for your computer, the process involves installing a DSL modem in your home through the phone jack. Keep in mind that the telephone cord used shouldn’t exceed 10-15 feet in length, as longer cords can weaken the signal flowing to the modem.

Final Thoughts

Now, it should be clear to you that Ethernet and phone cables have different features and purposes. So, it’s not advisable to use them interchangeably. Ethernet cables excel in high-speed transmission of data, while phone cables are designed for voice transmission. 

Nowadays, people use Ethernet cables more commonly. However, phone cables still play a vital role in connecting phones to phone ports. 

Understanding the differences between the phone cable vs ethernet cable is essential for selecting the appropriate one for your particular use, and we are hopeful that you have done that now. Keep in mind that using the correct cable type can significantly impact a network’s reliability and performance.

David Huner
David Huner
I have completed my graduation from The University of Phoenix. Being a graduate, I’ve been writing on tech tips and products for several years. I love to write about all the latest trends in technology, as well as give my personal take on new products. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just want to read more articles like this one, check out our website!
More from author


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts
Latest posts

100 Amp vs 200 Amp Panel: How to Pick The Right Panel?

When you're upgrading an older home or making a new one, you have plenty of choices to make about how the rooms will be...

Integrated Amplifier vs Receiver: Which One is Right for You?

When you are building a sound system, a crucial choice is whether to go for an integrated amplifier or a receiver. To help you...

Apple TV 32 vs 64 GB: Which Storage Size Is Ideal For You?

Do you have a liking for Apple products? The new Apple TV goes beyond just streaming media as it includes game features and an...