Cat 5 & Cat 6 Ethernet Cables – Similarities and Differences Analyzed

A network comprises different systems that are interconnected and exchange a huge amount of data. This data exchange is ensured through various types of cables. Over the years, internet speeds and technology has evolved, and so have cables. For several Cat 5 and Cat 5e Ethernet Cables have been popular. Cat 6 cable have been added to this list recently. Although used as network cables, they also find use in various application environments. When examined from outside, Cat 5 & 6 cables look like twisted pair of cables that are regularly used for making connections, but they differ in many ways. How do they differ? Which is the right cable for your application? This post examines these factors and everything else you need to know about these cables.

Cat 6 & Cat 5 Ethernet Cables

Crosstalk and System Noise: How Do They Affect Electronic Devices?

All electronic equipment and their accessories like cat cables emit signals of their own. A network comprises several cables, which are near each other, and their signals interfere with one another. This creates cross talk, which not only increases the chances of errors, but also leads to data loss, slow speeds, and other issues. Cat 6 cables are designed to minimize crosstalk and system noise.

Different Categories of Ethernet Cables Analyzed

Ethernet as a technology has evolved and advanced over the years, and the categories of Ethernet cables imply the advanced versions developed along the way. There are newer versions still being developed and all of them comply with the IEEE 802.3 standards. All of these cables can be connected to network devices such as switches with the help of RJ45 connectors. These categories start from Cat5 onwards because although not recognized, cat5 was the first category to be used in official networks at a data rate of 100 Mbps. The later versions from Cat5e are recognized by the Telecommunications Industries Association (TIA/EIA). The first four versions before Cat5 cables were neither recognized nor officially used for data transmission. They had very low speed and frequencies of maximum around 16 Mbps. Cat1 was used for standard telephone cabling (POTS). Here are the categories of Ethernet cables defined so far.
  • Cat5: These are one of the earliest versions and are primarily used for small networks such home-based businesses for LANs. This was an advanced version of Cat3 and find applications in small scale Ethernet networks. It is no longer used.

  • Cat5e: This was recognized by TIA more than 20 years ago. This is better than Cat5 and can work at a data rate of 125 Mbps. It is used for Gigabit Ethernet networks and uses unshielded twisted pair to reduce noise. This is still in use for small applications.

  • Cat6: The twisted pairs here have more than two twists per centimeter and also may have a spline, all of which helps reduce electromagnetic interference or noise. They may be shielded or unshielded. As long as the transmission distance is less, these cable types support high data rates up to 10Gbps. However, with the increasing distance, there may loss of signals.

  • Cat6a: This is an advanced version of Cat6 and the “a” stands for augmented. This means everything here is augmented or increased, be it the transmission speed, bandwidth, and more. Here the twisted pairs are shielded to further reduce noise. Both Cat6 and Cat6a are still in use.

Cat 6 & Cat 5 Ethernet Cables: A Discussion on Similarities and Differences

There are several similarities and differences between these two types of cables and you need to understand them before making a decision.
  • Bandwidth: Cat 5 Ethernet cables have been used in computer networks for several years now. Cat 5e is the popular variant of cat 5 cables which are used since 2001. Of these two variants, Cat 5 cables can support speeds up to 10/100 Mbs at 100MHz bandwidth and Cat 5e can support up to 100/1000 Mbs at 350 Hz bandwidth. These cables are also used to carry video and telephone signals. Cat 5 and Cat 5e Ethernet cables are unshielded. Cat 6 Ethernet cables can support up to 1000 Mbps speed at a 250 Hz bandwidth. The better performance of Cat 6 cables makes them an ideal choice for applications that demand high-speed data transfer.

  • Twists: Among many factors, the performance of a cable is influenced by a twist. The distance between the twist is known as a pitch. If you notice, each four pairs of twisted wires in a Cat 5 cable will have a differing but precise pitch. These pitches help minimize crosstalk. A Cat 5e cable may possess 1.5 to 2 twists in a centimeter. In comparison, the Cat 6 Ethernet cable is tightly wound and possesses two or more twists in a centimeter.

  • Diameter of Cables: In data centers, airflow is an important consideration. As many cables are included in the patching area, the airflow will decrease. This is where the diameter of cables can make a difference. Cat 5 Ethernet cables have a diameter of 0.204 inches, while Cat 6 Ethernet cables possess slightly larger diameters of 0.250 inches.

  • Maximum Cable Length: For Cable 5, the maximum cable length for 10BASE-T application is 100 meters. This length runs between two active devices, and this features solid-core permanent wiring measuring 90 meters and two stranded patch cables measuring 5 meters at each end and two connectors. When it comes to Cable 6, the maximum cable length for 10/100/1000BASE-T application is 100 meters. However, for 10GBase-T applications, the unshielded cable length for Cat 6 cable is 55 meters, and Cat 6a cable is 100 meters.

  • End Piece:  Cat 5 & 6 cables use the same plug to connect to their end destination, which can be a modem or patch panel. The cables use an RJ-45 plug.

Cat 5 Ethernet Cables or Cat 6 Ethernet Cables: Which is the Right Choice for My Application?

The answer will depend on the type of application. Network cables are commonly used in two types of applications – commercial and residential
  • Residential Applications: With technology growing at rapid speeds, there is an increasing demand for high-speed internet. Many applications such as printers, computers, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and other electronic devices used in homes are driven by network cables. Most times, Cat 5e cables can meet the requirements of these applications. They can support speeds demanded by these applications.

  • Commercial Applications: As the trend of remote working has increased in recent years; the systems demand high internet speeds. These speeds can be easily achieved using Cat 6 Ethernet cables. These cables also support internal speeds when it comes to editing photos, videos, and audio files, 3D rendering Auto CAD files, and so on. Cat 6 would be the best choice if your business requires fast transferring speeds.
If you are looking for Cat 6 or Cat 5 Ethernet cables for your application, you must source them from trusted manufacturers. Owing to the increasing demand for high-speed data transfer, today, it is easy to find these cables with several manufacturers; however, you must ensure to confirm their utility in your applications. Versitron is one of the well-known manufacturers of copper-to-fiber connectivity products for video, data, and audio applications. They also provide cat 5 and cat 6 cables, and other connectivity solutions.

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