Comparison of Two Commonly Used Network Cables: Cat5e vs. Cat6

26. september 2017 at 12:18
If you are reading this article, I assume you are undecided between Cat5e and Cat6-the most commonly used network cables used to connect network devices to a router or a switch. Understandably, there is much confusion in the market about which cable is better and why. Here are some helpful bits of information which can help you to decide which is right for you.
coloful network cables
About Cat5e
Category 5 enhanced cabling, also known as Cat5e, is an improvement on Cat5 cabling. Cat5e Ethernet adheres to more stringent IEEE standards. Cat5e is a common type of cabling used for deployments due to its ability to support Gigabit speeds at a cost-effective price. Even though both Cat5 and Cat5e support a maximum frequency of up to 100MHz, Cat5e has completely replaced its predecessor. Gigabit Ethernet utilizes 4 data pairs in comparison to Fast Ethernet which utilizes 2 data pairs.

About Cat6
Cat6 cabling is the next step up from Cat5e and includes a few more improvements. Cat6 wiring can support up to 10 Gbps and frequencies of up to 250 MHz. While Cat5e cable features 1.5-2 twists per cm, Cat6 cables are more tightly wound and feature 2 or more twists per cm. (The amount of twists per cm varies upon each cable manufacturer).

Similarity Between Cat5e and Cat6
It is worth noting that both Cat5 and Cat6 cables utilize the same end piece, i.e. they can "plug in" to the same ports. The "end" that all the cables have in common is known as RJ-45, and it is capable of plugging into any Ethernet jack on a computer, router, or another similar device.

Differences Between Cat5e and Cat6
cat5e vs cat6
Physical Differences
Cable twisting was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1881 for use on telephone wires that were run along side power lines. He discovered that by twisting the cable every 3-4 utility poles, it reduced the interference and increased the range. There are two main physical differences between Cat-5 and Cat-6 cables, the number of twists per cm in the wire, and sheath thickness. Typically there are 1.5-2 twists per cm in Cat-5(e) and 2+ twists per cm in Cat-6. And Cat6 cables are often thicker than Cat5e because it uses thicker copper wires.

Speed1000Mbps10 Gbps over 37-55 meters of cable
Frequency100MHz250 MHz
Maximum Cable Length100 meters100 meters for slower network speeds (up to 1,000 Mbps) and higher network speeds over short distances. For Gigabit Ethernet, 55 meters max
Standard Gauges in Conductors24-26 AWG wire22-24 AWG wire
PerformanceCat6Lower crosstalk, return loss and insertion loss, higher signal-to-noise ratio

Both Cat5e and Cat6 cable allow lengths up to 100 meters, but Cat6 has a lower max length (55 meters) when used for 10GBASE-T. The main difference between Cat5e and Cat6 lies in the transmission performance. Cat6 has an internal separator that lowers interference or near end crosstalk (NEXT). It also improves equal level far end crosstalk (ELFEXT), return loss and insertion loss compared with Cat5e. As a result, Cat6 has a higher signal-to-noise ratio than Cat5e.

The price of Ethernet cables vary by length, manufacturer and seller. In general, Cat6 cables are 10-20% more expensive compared with Cat5e cables. However, FS.COM offers both cheaper and good quality Cat5e and Cat6 cables compared to other brands, and all the cables can be customized according to personal needs. Cables are generally cheap and the speed boost offered by FS.COM Cat6 cables usually makes the price premium well worth it, even for home use.

Cat5e vs. Cat6: Which One Should I Choose?
In a nutshell, 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.

This post mainly explains the similarity and difference between Cat5e and Cat6 network cables. I hope it will be helpful to you if you are planning to install network cables.

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