Difference Between USB and Ethernet

USB and Ethernet are widely used data transfer technologies; however, they differ in their intended usage, data transfer speeds, and maximum cable lengths.

Ethernet is capable of transmitting data over far longer distances than USB. Ethernet cables can be up to 100 metres long, although USB cables are normally limited to 5 metres (with some exceptions).

Read this article to find out more about USB and Ethernet and how they are different from each other.

What is USB?

The USB communication protocol is a versatile and extensively used communication protocol that has become a standard for connecting electronic devices. Because of its ease of use, flexibility, and compatibility with a wide range of devices and platforms, it is an essential technology for modern computing and communication.

A Type-A connector is commonly found on one end of a USB cable, which is inserted into the host device, and a Type-B or Type-C connector on the other end, which is inserted into the peripheral device. Depending on the type of device being connected, the USB standard also offers various connectors, such as mini-USB, micro-USB, and USB-C.

Depending on the version of the USB standard used, USB enables varying data transmission rates. USB 1.0 provided data transmission speeds of up to 12 Mbps, whereas USB 2.0 boosted the speed to 480 Mbps. USB 3.0, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1, has a maximum speed of 5 Gbps, whereas USB 3.1 Gen 2 has a maximum speed of 10 Gbps. The most recent iteration, USB 4, can achieve rates of up to 40 Gbps.

USB also supports many data transfer types, such as bulk transfers for big data transfers, interrupt transfers for time-sensitive data, and isochronous transfers for streaming data like audio and video. USB also provides a power supply, which allows devices to be charged through USB.

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet uses a physical network topology based on a star topology, in which all devices are connected to a central device known as a switch or hub. The switch or hub handles the flow of data between network devices, ensuring that each device receives the data it requires. Twisted-pair copper wire, which is affordable and widely accessible, is commonly used in Ethernet cables.

Ethernet uses a packet-based communication protocol in which data is separated into packets and transferred across the network between devices. Each packet has a destination address and other information that allows it to be routed to the appropriate network device. To ensure reliable data delivery, Ethernet also features error correction and flow control methods.

Ethernet supports a variety of communication standards, including TCP/IP, the standard protocol for internet connections. As a result, Ethernet is a versatile technology that may be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from basic home networks to large enterprise networks.

Scalability is one of Ethernet's primary features. Ethernet networks are easily expandable by adding more switches or hubs, allowing the network to extend as needed. Ethernet is also a low-cost technology since it uses cheap copper wire and requires minimal configuration or setup.

Overall, Ethernet is a reliable, high-speed networking technology that has become the LAN communication standard. Its adaptability, scalability, and low cost make it a necessary technology for modern computing and communication.

Difference between USB and Ethernet

The following table highlights the major differences between USB and Ethernet −





Short-range (up to 5 meters)

Long-range (up to 100 meters)

Data Transfer Rate

High-speed (up to 10 Gbps for USB 3.2)

Variable, depending on the type of Ethernet used (up to 100 Gbps for 100 GBASE-T).

Cable Type

USB-A, USB-B, USB-C, and Micro-USB

Twisted-pair copper wire




Communication Protocol



Error Correction



Power Delivery




Peripheral device connectivity (e.g., keyboards, mice, printers, etc.)

LAN connectivity (e.g., computers, servers, routers, etc.)


USB is a protocol that connects peripheral devices to a computer or host device, whereas Ethernet is a protocol that connects devices within a network. Ethernet is often used for long-distance, medium-speed data transfers, whereas USB is typically used for short-distance, high-speed data transfers.

Updated on: 22-Aug-2023


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