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Difference between Cat5 and Cat6

Technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate and it’s always changing and adapting to meet our modern-day necessities. This constantly evolving ecosystem has given birth to the digital era which keeps on updating, so does everything along with it. Take data capacity, for one which has already reached new heights and the amount of processing power required to handle that much data has also increased and the rate at which data is produced, there’s no easy way to process data requests that   big.

Difference between Cat5 and Cat6

Cat5 and Cat6 are by far the most efficient and faster cabling systems used for networking around the world. Cat5 and Cat6 are standardized twisted pair cables used for Ethernet and other networking installations.

What is Cat5?

While more advanced wireless devices continue to proliferate in this technology-focused digital era, wires have always been the backbone of any networking system that requires large-scale data communication.

In order to keep up with the constantly evolving networking ecosystem for faster and efficient data communication, more appropriate cabling is required. Cat5 has been around the networking space for quite some time now. Also goes by “Category 5”, Cat5 comes unshielded with a twisted pair configuration which is a common Ethernet standard cable for computer networks. It’s quite the outdated version of the twisted pair cables that are used presently, although it can efficiently handle speed up to 100 Mbps and support up to 100MHz frequencies.

To meet up the needs of modern networking infrastructures, an updated specification to Cat5 was later introduced. Due to its limitations, the Cat5 configuration has become obsolete and the more enhanced “Cat5e” comes to the picture. The “e” in the “5e” stands for enhanced, which as the name suggests, is designed to a higher standard for more reliable networks. Cat5e significantly reduces signal and noise interference with more stringent specifications for “crosstalk”. The interference created by a network of cables is referred to as crosstalk. The new specifications are able to mitigate the impact of crosstalk. The bandwidth remains the same at 100MHz, but with an increased transfer speed up to 350 Mbps, which is a major upgrade over the conventional 100 Mbps.

What is Cat6?

Then comes the more advanced Cat6 cables, which are more reliable and faster than the Cat5 and Cat5e configuration cables. While both the specification plug into the same ports, Cat6 adheres to the new industry-standard networking specifications. It’s the next iteration of the networking cables which utilizes a thick-gauge plastic casing to reduce signal interference, plus it’s exceptionally faster than the Cat5 and Cat5e. Unlike Cat5, it handles data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps and supports up to 250MHz frequencies. The idea was to reduce crosstalk to create a more reliable network. It virtually eliminates crosstalk that limits the older cabling standards. As a result, speeds are maintained at larger distances up to 100 meters. However, for 10GBASE-T, the maximum length is reduced to 55 meters.

In order to meet up with the global networking standards, an augmented version of the Cat6 was later introduced, Cat6A. It’s an enhanced industry-level standard among the twisted pair cable configurations and the future of data. The internet is flooded with high-definition video streams and media-heavy websites such as social networking sites and to handle that massive data, a more future-proofed cabling system was required. This is where the Cat6A specification comes to the picture. It’s able to maintain 10 Gigabit speeds for extended lengths, but it lacks the flexibility that is required for a residential deployment. Cat6A are ideal for industrial networking solutions.

Difference between Cat5 and Cat6

  1. Bandwidth of Cat5 and Cat6

    – While both are standardized twisted pair cables that use copper wires for the Ethernet, both differ dramatically in transmission performance. The main difference between the two is total bandwidth available on the cable. While Cat5 is limited to 100 Mbps transfer speed, Cat6 can go all the way up to 10 Gbps, which is a more reliable specification for residential installments.

  2. Frequency of Cat5 and Cat6

    – Both Cat5 and Cat5e operate at 100MHz frequencies which was ideal for previous models, but the more advanced Cat6 supports up to 250 MHz frequencies, which is significantly faster than the previous specifications. While the Cat5e only adheres to the 1000Base-T/TX standard, Cat6 adheres to the much faster 10GBASE-T industry standard.

  3. Safety Margins

    – Cat6 utilizes a thick-gauge plastic casing which is able to traverse longer distances without interfering with the signal, thereby reducing crosstalk issues which would limit the previous Cat5 configurations. Cat5 is not the ideal cabling system to tackle crosstalk issues. Plus the speeds are maintained at longer distances without affecting speed.

  4. Backward Compatibility 

    – Cat6 is backward compatible with Cat5 and Cat5e standards, so there will be no compatibility issues with Cat6, which accounts for almost 90 percent of cable installations of modern-day networking infrastructure.

  5. Future of Data 

    – Cat6 is the future of network infrastructure which adheres to the highest industry-standard specifications to future proof any business establishment for years to come. Cat5, on the other hand, is an outdated cabling system which was once the backbone of residential infrastructure. Large scale applications require a more stringent network configuration and Cat6 delivers.

Cat5 vs. Cat6: Comparison Chart



It supports data transfers up to 100 Mbps in an Ethernet network. It can go up to 10 Gbps in data transfer speeds in an Ethernet network.
It’s limited to 100MHz speed and allows lengths up to 100 meters. It supports up to 250MHz frequencies with 10x the speed of Cat5.
Cat5e is an enhanced version of the Cat5 which adheres to the 1000BASE-T/TX standard. Cat6A is the augmented model of the Cat6 which adheres to the much faster 10GBASE-T standard.
It is not able to tackle crosstalk issues due to its limitations. It significantly reduces crosstalk issues, thanks to the protective shielding.
Speed is not optimal for longer runs. Speeds are maintained at longer distances.
Ideal for residential installations. Ideal for large scale industrial installations.

Summary of Cat5 vs. Cat6

Cat5 is not ideal for business networks that would require a stringent networking installation, allowing data transfer speed up to 100 Mbps at 100MHz frequencies. Cat6, on the other hand, adheres to the much faster 10GBASE-T standard, making it ideal for large-scale industrial applications. Cat6 supports data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps and allows performance up to 250MHz. While Cat5 allows lengths up to 100 meters, Cat6 is limited to 55 meters when used for 10GBASE-T standard. While both the cabling standards utilize the same twisted pair cabling system, the specifications of Cat6 allow for better configuration for crosstalk issues.

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1 Comment

  1. The photo is unlabelled as to which one is which.|
    I would have assumed left 5e and right 6.
    I found the photo with labels and it’s actually Cat 6 on the left and 5e on the right.

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References :

[0]Wells, Quentin. Guide to Digital Home Technology Integration. Boston: Cengage, 2008. Print

[1]Wells, Quentin. Guide to Digital Home Technology Integration. Boston: Cengage, 2008. Print

[2]Ivens, Kathy. Home Networking for Dummies. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print

[3]Spurgeon, Charles E. Ethernet: The Definitive Guide. Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media, 2000. Print

[4]"Image Credit: https://serverfault.com/questions/350240/why-would-cat6-connectors-not-work-with-cat5e-patch-cable/647852"

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