What is the difference between CAT 6 and CAT 5e cable?

  • 1
  • November 27, 2015

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Lloyd Ainey, Senior Partner

There seems to be a great deal of confusion among Ethernet cable buyers as to whether  Cat5e or Cat6 cable is preferable. Most of this confusion comes from the misunderstanding that buying Cat6 cable will give them an “all gigabit” network. This is not the case. Unless every single component in the network is gigabit rated, you will never have a gigabit network because your it will always run at the speed of your slowest device.

Good quality Cat5e cable of can run near or at gigabit speeds, it just cannot be “certified” for this use. By comparison, Cat6 is designed especially for gigabit use and is certified to operate at that speed. It becomes a matter of whether you want to go to the added expense for little or no noticeable improvement in the performance of you network.

In most cases, it makes more sense to go with Cat5e cable. Most of new installations in the private sector are going in this direction. It is more economical, performs well and is readily available in many colours. When asked about why they specified Cat6 for a specific job, many IT Professionals often respond that they “want the best they can get.” This is the line of thought behind many cable purchases. The average consumer is often unaware that there is no functional benefit to using Cat6, so they let someone talk them in to buying it. When relying on outside help to make these types of technical decisions, it’s important to do your own research so you can be confident you’re getting what you need – no more and no less.

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