We are often asked by Meridian if the colors of different wires or cables comply with any industry standards. Although the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a trade association worldwide, their guidelines do not address the specific details of specifying the colors of cables. The push for standardization in this area has been more focused on the private sector, with the telecoms industry leading. We’ll explore the vast world of cable colors and explain what they do.
Cable Color Standards 101
When it comes to standardizing cable colors, one should realize that although there are organizations like the IEEE which help to standardize, there is not yet an industry-wide standard or requirement. Depending on when the system was created, the color schemes used in different industries can differ.
Ethernet Cable Color Code
The iPhone, the first truly smartphone, didn’t arrive until 2007. With that came an enormous push for new infrastructure for telecommunications. Their color standards will cover almost all spectrums, depending on when they are installed in the respective systems.
Cable colors vary from one country to the other, which adds to the lack for standardization. A company in the United States may source its cables from many different countries due to today’s global logistics. Standardization can be achieved with the help of the IEEE, Telecommunications Industry Association, (TIA), as well as other industry requirements such the ones for the DOD. However, it may take some time. Next, we will see how different colors of cable can be used in specific applications.
What do different colored Ethernet cables mean?
Ethernet cables are the most common type of cable for computer networking. These cables are widely used in commercial and residential applications, where a wired network is required for data sharing and internet access. An internet router will use ethernet cables to connect to a cable modem. This kit is usually included with your first subscription to cable services.
If you have ever used more than one cable company, or for a long time, you will know that the color of your ethernet cables can change. What does the difference in ethernet cable colors mean? Do some colors work faster than others? We’ll be looking at color coding for Ethernet cables to find out.
- What color is an Ethernet cable?
Ethernet cables come in a variety of colors, just like all cables. While one color may not be “faster” or better than another, the colors can help to indicate the intended use. The most commonly used colors for ethernet cables include white, grey, yellow, orange and orange. To make it last longer outdoors, ethernet cables will be waterproof and black.
- Ethernet Cable Colors – Meaning
We’ve seen that the meaning of an ethernet cables color can change depending on where, who, or why it is being used. The Department of Defense (DoD) uses different colors of Ethernet cords to classify the data that is being transmitted through the cable. Yellow for top secret, Red for mid-level and Blue generally for unclassified information.
- Color Code to Ethernet Wires
While there is no industry standard for a particular color, there are some commonalities worth noting:
- Gray Ethernet – Ethernet cables that are gray are often indicative of a standard ethernet connection, such as those found in residential or commercial networks.
- Green Ethernet – These cables are used to create a crossover connection between two computers or devices.
- Yellow Ethernet – Yellow ethernet cables can be used to make what is known as power over internet (POE) connections. This standard was created by IEEE in 2009 to help classify cords that deliver a 30W current at port level when used with an Ethernet twisted cable pair.
- Blue Ethernet is used to connect terminal servers. Terminal servers allow connections to multiple systems within a network without the need for a modem or any other network interface.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which has accredited the TIA to develop and maintain industry standards. This includes color-coding for cable manufacturing. These are the closest standards to exist, but most of the TIA’s wiring management schema is still viewed more as a recommendation than a requirement. There will likely be many colors for ethernet cables colors until universal adoption occurs.
Patch Cable Color Standards
Although ANSI/TIA may have published patch cable color standards, they are not universally adopted. The University of Wisconsin Network Services Department leads the charge in patch cable color standards by setting the standard for colors to be used on every campus cable system.
The University of Wisconsin uses the following colors for patch cord jackets:
- Grey – Used for standard ethernet connections
- Green – Used for cross-over ethernet connections
- Yellow – Used for POE connections
- Orange – Used for analog connections that are not ethernet
- Purple – Used for digital connections that are not ethernet
- Blue – Used for connecting terminal servers
- Red – Used for IP cameras
- Black – Used as a general colour
- Pink – Used as an extra color option
- White – Used as an extra color option
The colors of the patch cables can vary depending on the client and their application. However, consistency is the key. A consistent color scheme will save you time and money when implementing and maintaining a new system. It can also prevent future headaches.
Cat6 Cable Color Standards
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Cat5, Cat5e or Cat6 ethernet cable. The color code on the cable’s outside should not be confused the internal twisted wires, which have their own color codes. The outside color scheme is more generic and serves to emphasize the connection’s purpose. Cat6 cables are twisted pair network cables that can be used to connect to ethernet networks. However, they are also compatible with other Categories such as Cat5e and Cat5e. We are again reminded that it is difficult to find industry standards that can be used throughout the board.
The following are some of the most common colors for Cat6 cable:
- Blue – denotes network connectivity
- Yellow is used for wired security cameras
- White is also used in wired security cameras
- Grey – also called “jumpers”, grey is used to interconnect.
- Black – Generally used to identify equipment, peripherals and/or workstations within a network.
- Red is a common color used in emergency communications systems and VoIP phones.
Network Cable Color Chart
You may have experienced frustration when trying to find color charts for network cables online. There was no consistency between the different schemes. We’ve already mentioned that the standards for color vary greatly. However, the ANSI/TIA helped us with our long standard – Administration Standard For the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings, or ANSI/TIA/EIA-606–A.
Although the standard is very detailed for labeling and easy identification, it’s difficult to find a color chart. We were able find a third-party website that published their version ANSI/TIA/EIA-606A standards by searching the internet.
This chart was provided by a third party. It is intended to provide informational purposes only and help our readers get an idea of how a color chart for network cables can look.
The Final Look: Cat5e blue vs. grey
Although the subject of many internet forums is Cat5e grey and blue, it’s the same as the differences between the other cables we’ve examined. This is up to the designer choosing the color. This is subjective as it depends on many factors, such as the date the Cat5e cable was made, the location it was manufactured and the industry for which it was produced.
How to Color-Code a Custom Cable Assembly Correctly
We custom make more than 70% of all products at Meridian. Each custom cable is created to the specifications of the customer, so it will work in the intended electrical system. Our ability to design a unit that can be easily integrated into existing systems is a key to our success. We have decades of experience in the field of custom cable manufacture and can create a color scheme that is both logical and easily integrated.