What are CAT5e and CAT6?
If the term ‘CAT5e’ and ‘CAT6’ are basically alien to you then rest assured; you’re part of the 90%.
Whilst the majority of us outside of the data cabling industry rarely refer to these cabling types, it’s key you have a partial understanding of their meaning to confidently select the most viable solution for you.
To put it simply, CAT5e and CAT6 are cables that can connect various devices to the internet using copper wire. Traditionally, CAT5 cables would be the first choice when connecting a computer to the internet. However, as with most things, time rendered CAT5 cables useless, as they were replaced with the superior CAT5e; the ‘e’ standing for enhanced.
Whilst a CAT6 cable uses the same copper wiring as a CAT5 or CAT5e, they’re considered more desirable as they offer increased functionality.
Which one is better; CAT5e or CAT6?
You can compare CAT5e and CAT6 based on three variables: bandwidth, maximum length, crosstalk and speed.
The biggest difference between CAT5e and CAT6 cables is the bandwidth; this describes the maximum rate of data transfer the cable can achieve.
CAT5e cables can handle 100 MHz, whereas CAT6 can achieve frequencies up to 250 MHz. This means CAT6 cables can transfer more data at any given time. You might want to think of them as toasters; CAT5e cable can toast 2 slices of bread at one time, whereas CAT6 cables can toast 4 slices of bread at the same time. They both achieve the same result, but one can handle more traffic than the other.
One large deciding factor when choosing between CAT6 or CAT5e cables could be their maximum length. After all if one cable cannot provide the length to suit your requirements, this can be eliminated from the running.
However, if you’re relying on cable length to make your decision you’ll be whole heartily disappointed as CAT5e and CAT6 cables offer the same length of up to 100m per network segment.
Crosstalk refers to any form of interference or unwanted signals in communication that occurs when one of the wires in a cable interferes with another wire in the same cable. We know that both CAT6 and CAT5e use twisted copper wires to operate, so the risk of ‘crosstalk’ is present with either cable.
However, it should come as no surprise that CAT6 cables offer better wire insulation than their predecessor. One of the ways they achieve this is through using a ‘spline,’ this is a sort of tube that runs longitudinally with the cable, ensuring that each individual wire is isolated. Whilst this can help prevent crosstalk, CAT6 cables can still be susceptible to some external noise.
As previously mentioned CAT6 offer a superior bandwidth when compared to CAT5e, because of this they can also provider an improved speed. CAT6 cables offer a speed of up to 10GBASE-T, whereas CAT5e cables only offer a speed of up to 1GBASE-T.
How do I know what’s best for me?
When considering which ethernet cable is better suited to your needs you should consider the following variables:
- Bandwidth – Both cables can offer 100MHz, which is more than optimal if your ethernet cables are for home use. However, if you’re looking to kit-out an office or commercial environment, you’ll probably be better suited to the 250MHz bandwidth offered by CAT6 cables.
- Budget – If you’re working with a restricted budget CAT5e cables can offer a cost-effective solution. They are more affordable than the improved CAT6 cable.
- Interference – As previously mentioned CAT6 cables are less susceptible to ‘crosstalk’ or interreference. However, you shouldn’t completely disregard CAT5e cables, as they do offer improved shielding when compared to their predecessor; CAT5 cables. If you are looking for cables with enhanced protection against crosstalk then look for CAT6 cables with preventative measures such as splines or shielding.
- Compatibility – Not all devices are compatible with the with the higher speed offered by the CAT6 cable. It’s important you asses device/network compatibility before choosing your cable. If your devices are not compatible with CAT6, you can still use this cable, you simply won’t benefit form it’s enhanced speed.
In a nutshell, CAT6 cables do offer improved features when compared to those offered by CAT5e. This cable can also prove the better choice if you’re wanting to future-proof your setup; whilst you may not require the benefits offered by CAT6 at this moment in time, there’s no telling what you might need in the future.
If you’re looking to secure ethernet connectivity for your business contact the team at JJ Comms. We will supply and install ethernet cables designed around your exact requirements.
We also install CAT6a, CAT7 and fibreoptic cabling – contact us today.