Network Cable – Cat 5e/Cat6/Cat6a

network racks and cabinets

Network Cable

There are various types of network cable types.  Each has it’s own pros and cons.  The most widely used are fibre optic cables and Twisted Pair cables. The most widely used twisted pair cables are Cat 5e, Cat 6 and Cat 6a.

Network cables are used to carry data between hardware, such as between a computer and a router.

Cat 5e

The Cat 5e cable provides performance of up to 100 MHz and is suitable for 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX (Fast Ethernet), 1000BASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet), and 2.5GBASE-T. Cat 5e cables can also be used to carry other signals such as video and telephony.

As most Cat 5e

This cable is cables are unshielded noise rejection, which would create an issue with data transfer, is obtained through the twisted pair design.  This allows for a maximum length between network hardware of 100m.

Cat 6

Like Cat 5, the Cat 6 cable is a twisted pair cable for ethernet networks.  It is backward compatible with Cat 5, Cat5e and Cat3 cable standards.  Compared to older standards, Cat 6 offers more stringent specification for system noise and cross talk.  Performance standards of Cat6 cabling are up to 250MHz.

Cat 6a

Defined in 2009, the Cat6a standard is defined at frequencies of upto 500MHz, twice that offered by Cat 6, and offers higher distances between network end points.

Cat 5e vs Cat 6 vs Cat 6a

Cost Differences of Network Cabling

One of the frequent dilemmas arising when installing a network is which cable to use.  Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a?  They all have their pros and cons.  We at InterTek stock and install all types of network cables.  Through our know how and experience we can guide you to the best suited network cable for your requirement.

Any of Cat5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a will use an RJ-45 end, which will allow your cable to plug into the Ethernet Jack on your hardware, be it a computer, router or switch.  As explained above, each type of cable has it’s pros and cons, however one must point out that there is a difference in price between cables.  Cat 6a is more expensive than Cat 6 which in turn is more expensive than Cat 5e.  However it does not end there.  There are other variants, such as shielded or non shielded cabling, which also varies in price.

When seeing this, cost can play a factor in the choice of cable.

Technical Differences between Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6e

If cost is not a hurdle there a several technical issues that have to be considered.

Cat 5e has been around for a long time.  At the time 1Gbit networks were not widely available, and any hardware being able to handle such speeds was very expensive.  As in recent years hardware costs have come down higher speeds have become the norm.  Whilst a 1 Gigabit speed on the network is acceptable it is the minimum that should be allowed, since most hardware allows for higher speed, and thus cable becomes a limiting factor.   Cat 5e are normally 24 gauge twisted pair wires which allows for network lengths, between points of up to 100m.

The Cat 6 standard of network cables came out just 5 years after Cat 5e.  However Cat 6 offers a speed that is ten times faster than Cat5e, ie 10 Gigabit.  However it is important to note that the 10Gigabit speed is  obtainable for distance of upto 50m, after which the speed is similair to the Cat5e cables ie 1 Gigabit.

One most also point out that since Cat 6 has a higher twist in cables, two way communication on the cable is allowed.

Cat 6a, is the most recent standard.  It is considerably thicker than Cat 6 cable due to extra plastic covering on the wires themselves, and tighter winding of the pairs.  Cat 6a takes the speed of Cat 6, ie 10 Gigabit, but extends the length of transmission at such speed to 100m.

Which cable to choose?

As explained in the previous sections deciding on which standard of cable to choose depends on a number of factors.  Whilst cost is one, the speed and the length between point to point are factors that must be taken into consideration.

The general rule of thumb would be that since Cat 6a offers the best performance over a long distance it is the best option.  However if the distances between points is not higher than 50m, then Cat 6 cables will do the job.

On the other hand, if you use your network just for internet access, Cat 5e cables offer higher speeds than most internet connections.

One note of caution.  Choosing the wrong network cable can be an expensive mistake.  So before you decide we would suggest you contact us for further guidance.