Choosing between Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 It was superseded by Cat5 cable only a few months after its release, which is why Cat4 cable is rarely seen in today’s world.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.
  7. 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.
  8. While Cat5 is no longer recommended for installation anywhere, it can and still is being used worldwide with minimal complaints.
  9. 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

 

 

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