Category 5 Cable vs. Category 6 Cable
***Scroll down to the “Conclusion” section to view the hard numbers***
Category 5 and 6 cables are commonplace in most office buildings and homes. This is because they are the standard cable in Ethernet networks; moreover, they can be used to transmit telephony and video signals. This document will compare the 2 categories and note technical differences. The reader should note that Category 6 is an improved version of Category 5, making the differences between the 2 essentially in performance.
What is Category 5 and 6 Cable?
|Category 5 Cable||Category 6 Cable|
Category 5 and 6 cables are 100-ohm balanced twisted pair cables that usually terminate into 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) modular connectors, referred to as RJ45s. There are 8 copper wires coated in colored plastic to demarcate which wires pair up. The twists among the wires are used to negate noise, such as electromagnetic interference (EMI) and crosstalk between pairs. 8P8C modular connectors are used to terminate each end of cable, allowing the wires to connect devices and therefore transmit signals. There are 2 different but interchangeable schemes that designate how a Category 5/6 cable should be terminated: the T568A scheme and the T568B scheme. These 2 wiring schemes are interchangeable in a network but not on the same cable i.e. a single cable can’t have a T568A termination on one end and a T568B termination on the other; however, a cable can be terminated on both ends with a T568A scheme and work with a device that is connected to a cable that is terminated on both ends with a T568B scheme.
Differences Between The 2
Category 5 Cable is divided into 2 classes: Category 5 and Category 5e (which stands for enhanced). Like the difference between Category 5 and Category 6, the difference between Category 5 and 5e lies in performance, as the latter supersedes the former.
The standard Category 5 cable is tested at frequencies of up to 100 MHz per the TIA/EIA 568 specification, meaning that the cable will transmit a repeating event (in this case a signal) every 0.01 seconds. This equates to a line speed (transfer rate) of 100 Mbit/s. This speed allows for Category 5 cables to be used in 10/100BASE-T networks (networks that have data rates of a minimum 10/100 Mbit/s) at a max length of 100 meters (328 ft). Category 5e has specifications for greater noise resistance and therefore can be used in 1000BASE-T networks (where data rates are at a minimum of 1000 Mbit/s); however, this can only happen with cable runs of 50 meters (164 ft). As the twisted pairs is the cause of noise negation, the greater twists per meter in a cable results in less noise and promotes greater data rates. Category 5 cables average 59.5 twists per meter and normally use 24-gauge wire.
Category 6 is similarly divided into 2 classes: Category 6 and Category 6a (which stands for augmented). The augmented version of Category 6 is obviously superior to the standard version.
Category 6 cable is tested at frequencies of up to 250 MHz per the TIA/EIA 568 specification. This transmits data signals every 0.004 seconds, which allows for data transfers of up to 1Gbit/s (1000Mbit/s) at a max length of 100 meters (328 ft) or 10Gbit/s at a max length of 55 meters (180 ft). Augmented Category 6 ups the ante by clocking in at frequencies of 500 Mhz, double that of standard Category 6! This translates to data signals transmitted every 0.002 seconds, which allows for data transfers of up to 10Gbit/s at the maximum 100 meters (328 ft). Aside from operating at higher frequencies and data rates, Category 6 also features stricter specifications for noise negation; on average, Category 6 features no less than 127 twists per meter. Also, Category 6 uses 22-gauge wire which is larger than the 24-gauge used in Category 5 and allows for the bump in frequency and therefore data transfer.
As previously stated, the difference between Category 5 cable and Category 6 cable is in performance. This stems from the fact that one is an upgraded version of the other. Category 5 is the old standard that operated at 100 Mhz, transferred data at speeds of up to 100Mbit/s at 100 meters and 1Gbit/s at 50 meters (Category 5 enhanced only), used 24-gauge wire, and featured around 59.5 twists per meter. Category 6 is the new standard that operates at 250 Mhz (500 Mhz for Augmented Category 6), transfers data at a rate of up to 10 Gbit/s at 50 meters (100 meters for Augmented), uses 22-gauge wire, and features no less than 127 twists per meter. Greater performance demands greater value, and that is what you get with Category 6 cable.