If you’re researching the different types of twisted-pair copper cables used to transmit data in network, making the choice between Category 5 (CAT5), Category 5e(CAT5e) and Category 6 (CAT6) cables can be a rather confusing one. And in the following I will introduce you the differences between each version as well as getting to grips with the various related industry terms.
CAT-5 is rated to 100 Mhz
CAT-5e is rated to 350 Mhz
CAT-6 and cat6a network cable is rated to 550 Mhz or 1000 Mhz depending on your source
CAT-7 is supposedly rated to 700 Mhz or presumably 1000 Mhz
Cat5 and Category 6 are both made up of four twisted pairs of copper wire for carrying signals, used mainly for Ethernet computer networks. Cat5 is the older variation of the cables, especially as compared to Cat6. Cat6 is currently the most advanced of the three categories of cables, works faster than the Cat5 or Cat5e and can support higher frequencies.
What is Cat5 Cable?
Category 5 has four twisted pairs of copper wire terminated by RJ45 connector. Category 5 cable has a bandwidth of up to 100 MHz, support 10 or 100 Mbps Ethernet and speeds up to Gigabit (1000 Mbps). Category 5 cable can be used for ATM, taken ring, Ethernet 1000Base-T, 100Bast-T, and 10Base-T networking. Cat5 is one of five grades of UTP cabling described in the EIA/TIA-586 standard. Cables belonging to Category 5 are either solid or stranded: Solid Cat 5 is more rigid, and the better choice if data needs to be transmitted over a long distance, while Stranded Cat 5 is very flexible and most likely to be used as patch cable.
What is Cat5e Cable?
The most common type cable used in a network is cat5e network cable. Category 5e is an enhanced version of Category 5 (Cat5) cable, developed by TIA/EIA in 2001 to improve certain cable characteristics important to Gigabit Ethernet operation, for example, it adds specifications for far-end cross-talk. It supports 1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet.
Cat5 Cable vs Cat5e Cable
The differences between CAT-5 and CAT-5e show in all aspects of performance: capacitance, frequency, resistance, attenuation, and NEXT(near-end crosstalk). Cat5 and Cat5e cables look the same, but Cat5e cable is manufactured with a higher standard to allow for higher data transfer rates. Cat 5e cable goes along the same lines as basic Cat 5, except that it fulfills higher standards of data transmission. Cat 5e can handle data transfer at 1000 Mbps, is suitable for Gigabit Ethernet, and experiences much lower levels of NEXT than Cat 5. If you are using a 100Mbps switch, get CAT-5e cable instead of CAT-5.
What is Cat6 Cable?
Cat6 ethernet cable is being made with 23 guage conductor wire as opposed to the slightly smaller 24 guage for CAT-5e and also has a separator to handle crosstalk better. This separator isolates each of the four pairs of twisted wire from the others, which reduces crosstalk, allows for faster data transfer, and gives Category 6 cable twice the bandwidth of Cat 5! Cat 6 cable is ideal for supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and is able to operate at up to 250 MHz.
Cat5e vs Cat6
The general difference between category 5e and category 6 is in the transmission performance. While Cat5e can support gigabit speeds, Cat6 is certified to handle gigabit Ethernet. Additionally, the Cat6 specification is better suited toward environments that are generally unfriendly to twisted pair cabling. This includes areas that have lots of interference from things like power lines, lights, and manufacturing equipment. Still, for most applications, Cat5e is perfectly suitable and preferable to Cat6: it is more economical and performs almost as well. However, if you can be certain that all the components on your network are gigabit rated, and the volume of the data being transmitted calls for certified gigabit performance, then Cat6 is the way to go.
Since technology and standards are constantly evolving, it is always wise to install the best cabling available. Cat7 cable is in development, is not approved by the TIA, but is recognized by BICSI, NEMA, and the IEEE. Cat6 and Cat6a can both be run 100 meters or 328 feet without requiring the use of a switch. However, Cat6 supporting 10 Gbps can be run 55 meters or 180.45 feet.