Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What is the difference between Cat 5e and Cat 6?

This is one of the most common questions we're asked. There are two major differences:


  • Signal to noise ratio

  • Bandwidth used to test the cable

The first difference is the most important. Cat 6 Cat 6 is twelve times less "noisy", than Cat 5e. When your computer sends data across your network some data packets are lost or corrupted along the way. These packets have to be resent by the system. The better the signal to noise ratio is on your network, the less often this happens.

As computer networks become faster, the signal to noise ratio becomes more important. If the network is racking up packets that must be resent faster than it can resend them, the network may eventually fail or slow to a crawl with the backlog. Using cable and components that have better signal to noise ratios, such as those rated to Cat 6, can help to prevent this potential problem.

As for the testing bandwidth, the official Cat 5e standard calls for testing across a bandwidth of 100 MHz. The Cat 6 standard calls for testing across a bandwidth of 250 MHz. The reality is that most computers and networking equipment only transmit across a frequency range of 100 MHz. (In the future, of course, actual utilization of greater bandwidth may become more common.)

When it comes down to it, however, this particular stat isn't all that important. Many cable companies tout the high bandwidth of their cable. Some even test up to as high as 700 MHz. It sounds great for marketing, but the truth is that the MHz rating is not the same as speed. All cable rated Cat 5e or Cat 6 is capable of Gigabit Ethernet. The MHz rating is just the frequency range used for testing the cable.

46 Comments:

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At January 30, 2011 at 11:59 PM, Blogger ammy said...

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At May 16, 2011 at 2:04 PM, Blogger JEMCables said...

Take a detailed look at the Standard Cat5e & Cat6 Network Cabling Structure.

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At June 28, 2011 at 4:17 AM, Anonymous Wire Guys said...

Thanks for sharing such a useful post. It certainly clears my knowledge on Cat cables and their difference.

 
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At December 13, 2011 at 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post on the 2 different category cables - makes me wonder how noisy wireless things are!
-Jackie

 
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Thank you for explaining the difference!

 
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At May 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM, Blogger Adam said...

There is a better comparison available which also includes cat5 cable and cat6e.Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Cabling - What is the difference?

 
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Very useful material, thank you for the article.

 
At December 20, 2012 at 10:30 AM, Anonymous Elliott Broidy said...

Good to know.

 
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At July 22, 2013 at 5:03 AM, Anonymous Vincent said...

Nice blog I really like your post thanks for sharing good information about Cat5e cable and Cat6 cable.

 
At November 5, 2013 at 11:40 PM, Anonymous Cat 5 said...

CAT5e: Cat 5e (Cat 5 enhanced) is currently the most commonly used in new installations. It’s designed to greatly reduce crosstalk. A step above Cat 5, it can handle 1000 Mbps speeds (gigabit Ethernet) at 100 MHz.

CAT6: Category 6 is a major improvement over Cat 5e. It is suitable for up to 10 gigabit Ethernet at 250 MHz. For improved crosstalk/interference performance, Cat 6 cable has an internal separator that isolates pairs from one another. For those who want to “future-proof” their residential or commercial network as much as possible without a significant cost increase, Cat 6 is a great choice.

 
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Thanks for this great post. Current applications running at 1 Gb/s are really pushing the limits of category 5e cabling. As streaming media applications such as video and multi-media become common, the demands for faster data rates will increase and create new applications.

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