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The Difference Between Cat5 and Cat6

Updated on October 29, 2011
Panduit  Cat6 Patch Panel
Panduit Cat6 Patch Panel | Source

The difference between Cat 6 Cable, Cat 6a and Cat 5 cable

The difference between Cat 6 Cable, Cat 6a and Cat 5 cable is the performance and available bandwidth. A standard Cat5 cable has runs at about 100MHz and Cat 6 runs up to 250MHz. Cat 6 has pretty much over double the speed for transmission compared to Cat 5. You could also take it a little further by going with Cat 6a that runs up 550 MHz, over four times as fast as Cat 5e.

Some of the reasons why Cat 6 is able to achieve this because of better near end crosstalk (NEXT), equal level far end cross talk (ELFEXT) and better insertion loss. Cat 6 cable also has higher signal-to-noise ratio which provides better reliability for demanding application now and in the future. Cat 6a is able to achieve this through grounding the cable and shielding the individual pairs, by doing so the amount of interference and resistance is drastically reduced.The Cat 6 cable will provide your network with less errors and fewer re-transmission loss and/or corrupted data packets because Cat 6 is more resistant to external noise and provides better transmission performance than Cat 5.


Cat 5e Applications

  • IEEE 802.3: 1000 BASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet), 100 BASE-TX, 10 BASE-T
  • 155 Mp/s, 622 Mp/s ATM
  • ANSI X3.263: 100 Mb/s
  • 4/16 Mb/s Token Ring
  • Broadband and Baseband Analog Video

Cat 6 Applications

  • IEEE 802.3: 1000 BASE-T (GigabitEthernet), 100 BASE-TX, 10 BASE-T
  • ANSI/TIA/EIA 854: 1000 BASE-TX
  • 155 Mp/s, 1.2 Gb/s ATM
  • ANSI X3.263: 100 Mb/s
  • IEEE 802.3af DTE Power (PoE)
  • Digital Video
  • Broadband and Baseband Analog Video
  • Draft IEEE 802.3at for PoE Plus

Cat 6a Applications

  • IEEE 802.3 10G BASE-T, 100 BASE-T
  • 100 BASE-TX, 10 BASE-T, 1000 BASE-TX
  • 155 Mb/s ATM
  • IEEE 802.3af for PoE
  • Draft IEEE 802.3at for PoE Plus
  • ANSI X3.263: 100Mb/s

The Future of Cat 5

As for the future of Cat 5 cabling, you can expect most that it will fade away like Cat 3 did when Cat 5 was introduced in the 90's. 80 to 90 percent of analyst predicted that all new installations will consist of Cat 6 cable for the simple fact that it is backward-compatible, meaning Cat 5e equipment will work across a Cat 6 network with no problems, but your unable to go the other way expecting your Cat 5e network to perform as a Cat6 network. Installing Cat 6 cable is a good way to future proof your office network guaranteeing that your network infrastructure is good for the next 10 years.

Cable Comparison


The Build

Although Cat 5, Cat 6 and Cat 6a cables look alike they are designed differently for optimal performance. From higher gauge wire that allow for more voltage, divider's to provide more separation to reduce interference and aluminum shielding that guards against (alien sources) noise from external cable sources. The Cat 6 connectors as well are made are also different providing 12 times less noise than Cat 5 cable. with that said Cat 6 cable is the better choice when looking for performance that will last.

Patch Cables

Another thing that you should be aware of when working with Cat 6 is that the standards are higher when it comes to connecting cables and patch cables. With Cat 5 cable you could sit back and make your cables to the right size without a worry. Cat 6 and Cat 6a precision standards are not easily met, it is recommended that Cat 6 patch cables should be made in the factory.



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    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 6 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      Great hub! Thanks for making this hub understandable to people that do not work in this business. Great information!

    • Ringandping profile image

      Ringandping 6 years ago from Santa Ana, CA

      Thank you Dubledore!

      I'm Glad you enjoyed it

    • Dumbledore profile image

      This Old Guy 6 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio

      Very informative hub about the differences in the different categories of cable. I often wandered what the exact differences are.

      I especially appreciate the cross-sectional views of the cable; they really illustrate your point.

      Great hub!