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Cat5 & Cat6 Ethernet Cables Vs. Newer Networking Cables

Cat5e Ethernet Cables and Cat6/Cat6a Networking Cables Still Dominate the Market

Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a Ethernet Cables remain excellent choices for the needs of most residential and business Internet installations.

by Vikas Dayal • August 07, 2022

Cat5e / Cat6 Cables


Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a Ethernet Cables remain excellent choices for the needs of most residential and business Internet installations.

Cat5 and Cat6 Ethernet Cables, including Cat5e and Cat6a cables, have topped the industry in sales for the past several years. Though Cat7 and Cat8 cables have come onto the market, many contractors and business owners remain unsure whether these newer networking cables offer benefits or performance superior enough to warrant the additional expense.

While newer generations of ethernet cables offer enhancements in some areas, there are a few specifications and limitations that change very little across the board. For example, no matter which generation you’re using, you can expect optimum performance by limiting its length to roughly 100 feet. Cat6 cables for example can deliver 10 Gbps speeds, but only up to about 120 feet. The maximum length recommended for any networking cable is around 300 feet. Using a longer cable may cause data loss and very poor performance.

Cat5 and Cat6 Ethernet Cables – A Review

  • Cat5 Ethernet Cables came on the scene in 1995 offering speeds up to 100 Mbps. When enhanced Cat5e cables came around, they increased that maximum speed 10-fold, becoming the first ethernet cables to offer Gigabit Internet which has since become the minimum standard for nearly all types of Internet installations. Both Cat5 and Cat5e offer max bandwidths of 100 MHz. Today, Cat5e cables represent a money-saving option for residential and other sub-Gigabit installations.
  • Cat6 Ethernet Cables, introduced in 2002, increased network cabling’s maximum speed to 10 Gbps at 250 MHz. It also increased the distance that Gigabit Internet speeds could travel through a networking cable to the full 300 feet. Augmented Cat6a ethernet cables do all this while increasing bandwidth to 500 Mhz. Both Cat6 and Cat6a cables are backwards-compatible with Cat5 and Cat5e networking cables. Today, Cat6a cables represent much of the professional Internet infrastructure for businesses and organizations across many industries. 

With the impressive performance levels offered by Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a ethernet cables, you may be wondering if the additional investment in Cat7 or Cat8 cables is worth it. It’s true that augmented Cat7a cables doubled the maximum bandwidth up to 1,000 MHz and Cat8 cables offer speeds from 25 to 40 Gbps, up to100 feet.

Cat6 and Cat6a Ethernet Cables Ideal for Most Businesses and Organizations

However, businesses and organizations outside of industries providing core infrastructure still rarely need to support these high speeds and bandwidths. For some perspective, think about all the buzz in the last few years over 5G wireless networks’ high bandwidth and speed. While their touted maximum speed ranges from 1 to 10 Gbps, an Opensignal report from January of 2022 found that more common download speeds right around 50 Mbps, especially when many users connected at once.

Add to this that most Internet service providers’ offerings max out at 1 Gbps (also dependent on any number of factors) and the wisdom of choosing Cat6 or Cat6a cables quickly comes into focus. Don’t forget too, that prices for those top-of-the-line Cat7/8 cables can be five or even 10 time or more the price of Cat5e or Cat6 cables. A forward-thinking business with increasing Internet speed and bandwidth requirements still does well to use Cat6a networking cables which will handle higher speeds and bandwidths as they become available from Internet service providers.

Here at Cables.com, we stock all the ethernet cables mentioned here, and we’d be happy to help you decide which kind is the best and most cost-effective option for you. We have fast shipping available and easy returns for most items. Buy online or give us a call to place your order.

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