A big question we receive from prospective customers is whether to go with Cat5e or Cat6 for their structured cabling needs. This is a very common yet confusing question, and can be answered in a simple manner. Below we will run through the two cables and what you should do.
Category 5 enhanced cabling, better known as Cat5e, is an improved version of Cat5 cabling. It is faster than Cat5 cabling and reduces crosstalk, the interference one can get from signals on different circuits or channels. Cat5e can handle 1000 mbps speeds at 100 MHz or “gigabit speeds”.
Cat6 is the next step in cabling and is faster than Cat5e. Cat6 can handle up to 10 gigabit Ethernet at 250 MHz. With Cat6 cabling you are getting better insertion loss, near end crosstalk, return loss, and equal level far end crosstalk. This gives you higher reliability and higher data rates.
Which cabling should you use for your structured cabling project?
According to most cabling professionals you won’t hear many say to go with Cat5e cabling, unless cost is your major concern. Cat5e can handle up to gigabit speeds and is lower in cost compared to Cat6. But like all technology becomes, Cat5e is becoming closer to being obsolete. This is due to the technologies that will be running off the cabling requiring faster speeds.
This is why most will tell you to go with Cat6. Cat6 is designed to operate at these speeds and is certified to do so as well (Cat5e is not). Cat6 is referred to as the “Future-Proof Cable”. This is because Cat6 allows your building, business, etc, to handle the faster speeds that will be coming very quickly. You will not have to redo your cabling to update your other technologies such as your routers and computers.
Another aspect to look at in regards to your decision and cost, is that your cabling will be running through your walls and ceilings. This makes replacing it in the not too far future more costly. So you would have to take that into consideration if you go with Cat5e.
So, if you are planning a new structured cabling project is is Cat6 that you would want to do with. Unless you are thinking really techy and want to go Cat6e. But we will save that for another blog.