Deciding between the three cables can seem like a daunting task. “What does my business need?” “Can I save money by just using Cat5?” “Do we really even need Cat6?”
Here are 9 quick facts to help you decide what’s right for you and your business.
- Cat stands for ‘category’. The higher the number, the faster the speed/reliability. The ‘e’ in Cat5e stands for ‘enhanced’. The enhancement Cat5e has allows the wire to block out more interference than the regular Cat5 cable.
- The maximum speed for Cat5 cables is 100Mb/s. The maximum speed for Cat5e is 1Gb/s. The maximum speed for Cat6 is 10Gb/s. A common misconception is that Mb/s and Gb/s stands for Megabytes and Gigabytes while it actually stands for Megabits and Gigabits.
- Cat5 first hit the markets in 1999. It became the industry standard and stayed that way until 2001 when Cat5e came out and replaced it. Cat6 was released in 2002.
- Cat3 was the industry standard used for things like faxes, telephones, alarm systems, etc. It has 4 pairs of copper wires but only uses 2 of them. Cat5e is better than Cat3 because it has shielding to block interference, has a higher data threshold, and can travel farther distances. Cat6 is better than Cat5e because it has insulation & shielding, it has a data threshold that is 10x higher, and the price of it vs Cat5e is very reasonable.
- Most businesses who use phone systems prefer to have Cat6 cable installed to use VOIP(Voice over IP) or phones that rely on an internet connection.
- Cat4 cable was used very briefly and only offered speeds 4MHz faster than Cat3. It was superseded by Cat5 cable only a few months after its release, which is why Cat4 cable is rarely seen in today’s world. It also offered no insulation(similar to Cat3) but was priced a bit higher.
- 100Mb/s is more than enough for most people. For example, Netflix uses 5Mb/s in standard definition. Netflix in 4k Ultra HD uses 25Mb/s. YouTube uses 6Mb/s. Online game consoles use around 1.5Gb/s. Facebook uses .075 Mb/s.
- While Cat5 is no longer recommended for installation anywhere, it can and still is being used worldwide with minimal complaints.
- Cat5e is going to around for at least another 10 years; however, if you are installing new cable in your house or business, spend the extra money and buy Cat6.
Written By Omar A.
October 16th, 2018