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CAT5e vs CAT6 – Which Should You Use?

At Omaha Communications we want our customers to have the information they need to make informed decisions about their computer networks. One of the most common questions that we get is what kind of cable to install in a new computer network. This article is written to help you understand the differences between the most common types of “computer and telephone” (CAT) cabling currently available – CAT5e and CAT6.

Cat5e

Network support – CAT 5e is an enhanced version of Cat5 cable. Cat5 cable was the original “twisted pair” cable designed for Ethernet (computer) networks. Cat5 cable was designed to support 10BASE-T and 100BASE-T networks, that is it supports networks running at 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. Cat5e cable is completely backwards compatible with Cat5, and can be used in any application in which you would normally use Cat5 cable. However, the added specifications of Cat5e enable it to support Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T), or networks running at 1000 Mbps. The Cat5e standard also includes enhanced features to protect your network from Crosstalk (see below).

Crosstalk

Crosstalk is the “bleeding” of signals between one cable into another, due to a process called induction. This effect can result in slow network transfer speeds, and can even completely block the transfer of signals over the cable. The Cat5e specification includes improvements which dramatically reduce crosstalk.

Bandwidth

The bandwidth of a given conveyance media is essentially it’s information carrying capacity. The greater the bandwidth of a system, the faster it is able to carry data across a network. Cat5 is rated at 100Mhz while Cat5e is rated at 350Mhz. This coupled with other more stringent specifications makes Cat5e ideally suited for networks which plan to operate at Gigabit Ethernet speeds.

Cat6

While Cat5e networks can support gigabit speeds, Cat6 cable is certified to handle gigabit Ethernet. Additionally, the Cat6 specification is better suited for environments that have lots of interference from things like power lines, lighting, and manufacturing equipment. Still, for many applications, Cat5e is perfectly suitable and it is more economical and performs almost as well. However, if you definitely intend to install a Gigabit network or you work in an environment with lots of interference we recommend that you install Cat6. The cable and components are more expensive, but you avoid the cost of ripping out and replacing the cable in the future. In general a Cat6 network will run between 10% and 20% more than the cost of an identical Cat5e network.

Omaha Communications is a leading provider of affordable network wiring and structured cabling solutions.

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  • Ethernet Cabling (CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6)
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