Cat5E vs Cat6 Network Cables: What’s the Difference?

Internet Network Cables that keep us connected

What’s life without the internet? It’s hard to imagine a time when network cables weren’t keeping us connected. Now we rely on our internet connection for everything from getting information, to booking a flight, and even ordering food. And if you like online gaming, a fast and stable internet connection is a must-have. Even though your Internet speed depends on the package you bought from your provider, it can also depend on the network cables that the provider used in their infrastructure.

Cat 5E and Cat 6, also known as Category cables, are most commonly used in network cabling. They are suitable for 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T), provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio, and lower crosstalk. Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between Cat 5E vs Cat 6 cables.

Tech Specifications and Price of Cat 5E vs Cat 6 Cables

The cost of Cat 5E network cables varies by manufacturer and length and you will probably get it for $0.20 to $0.30 per foot. Their frequency goes up to 100 MHz and the maximum cable length is 100m, their theoretical top speed is 1,000Mbps. And performance? They have less interference/crosstalk than Cat 5 but more than Cat 6.

Cat 6 cables cost $0.40-$0.60 per foot and come in 55m max (for Gigabit Ethernet) and 100m max for network speeds of up to 1,000Mbps. Their frequency is up to 250 MHz, performance in SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) is higher, while their theoretical top speed is at 10Gbps.

Cat 5E and Cat 6 are backward compatible, which means that older Cat 5E and Cat 5 equipment can be used with newer Cat 6 network cables.

How Network Cables Work

Both Cat 5E and Cat 6 are made of twisted pair cables with copper wire (with 4 twisted pairs in each cable). Cat 6 network cables have less noise and crosstalk, and provide a performance of up to 250 MHz. This was achieved by using a spline in the wiring which isolates each of the four pairs of wire. However, regardless of whether a spline is used as a separator, Cat 6 cables provide a near crosstalk or lower electrical interference in the transmission. With Cat 6, the data rates in the transmission are higher and there are fewer errors.

Maximum Length

Cable specifications allow lengths no longer than 100m for both Cat 5E and Cat 6. However, when used for 10GBASE-T, Cat 6 has a lower maximum length of 55m. If you want to run 10GBASE-T for 100m, you need to use Cat 6A or Augmented Category 6 cable which allows performance of up to 500 MHz. The signal can be amplified with switches or repeaters if the distance longer than 100m needs to be covered in a network infrastructure.

The most common type of cable used for network deployments is Cat 5E (“E” stands for “Enhanced”) because it can support higher speeds at a cost-effective price. And even though Cat 6 offers a higher performance rate, many Ethernet networks still go for Cat 5E. However, Cat 6 use a thicker sheath for insulation that protects against Alien Crosstalk (AXT) and Near End Crosstalk (NEXT).

What is the best choice for you? Well, it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Cat 6 clearly has better specifications while Cat 5E is widely utilized and cost-effective. So, Cat 5E can definitely meet your needs for your home network. The speeds supported by Cat 5E are likely faster than what your Internet connection can provide. Commercial users with high demands for fast Internet and internal speeds for products, like VoIP phones and/or security cameras, should opt for Cat 6.

Rhode Island Telephone can supply the technology needed for setting up a great Ethernet and internet network that suit your requirements. We can help you determine what works better for you – Cat 5E vs Ca t6 cables – and make sure that both your external and internal connections are meeting your expectations. Reach out to us for more information and visit our Youtube channel for more information.


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