When you’re wiring up your internet cabling, you need to know you’re getting the best service. You need fast, secure, and powerful results, and that relies on a number of factors. One of those is your choice of cable. When you’re running a large network, you have the choice between the Cat 5e, Cat 6, and Cat 6A. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. It’s the most common question we get here about our cables. Is there a big difference, and which one is the right choice for me?
Unfortunately, there is no right answer. Every company comes to us with different needs, and we suggest the best cable for the job. But, we also want to make sure you have a good understanding of why that specific cable is the right one. With that in mind, we’ll introduce you to each of the three options, and tell you a little about them. We’ll also sum up the best application for each one. Hopefully, you’ll leave this blog with a little more clarity and understanding.
First of all, what’s similar about them?
Before we go any further, understand that they all do roughly the same job. They all feature an RJ-45 end, and will plug seamlessly into your ethernet ports. Whether it’s on a computer, router, or switcher, they’ll all do the job. The difference comes predominantly with speed, capacity, and of course, price.
The first thing you’ll notice is the variety in price. The Cat 5e is the cheapest of the bunch. The Cat 6 is next in line, costing you roughly 30% more than 5e. As for the Cat 6A, that will set you back about 30% more again. That puts the Cat 6A at a much higher price than the Cat 5e. So, where does the performance difference come in?
The Cat 5e is now 15 years old. When it was introduced, it was the first cable to hint at the potential for 1 Gigabit networks. Although 1 Gigabit networks are now the minimum we suggest to customers, this was revolutionary. The cable itself is made from 24 gauge twisted pair wires and rated to 350MHz. It will allow a Gigabit network with an ethernet cable length of 328ft. You’ll also find patch cables at either end.
As you can expect, the Cat 6 is an upgrade from the Cat 5e. The introduction of the Cat 6 meant that the network capability rise to 10 Gigabit. Now, that sounds like a phenomenal leap. But, in reality, there are some restrictions. The Cat 6 cable became the standard connector between routers and switches. But, as soon as the cable length exceeds 164ft, the capacity is limited to 1 Gigabit (the same as the 5e cable). Despite that, the Cat 6 has a two-way communication and is rated to 550Mhz. That lowers delay and lag time, making the cable seem faster.
The Cat 6A is the most recent upgrade. It’s thicker, with more copper per inch of the cable. Best of all, it allows 10 gigabit capacity along the full length of the cable. It is rated for speeds of 650Mhz or higher.
If you’re looking for ultimate performance and future-proof cabling, opt for the Cat 6A. However, if your cables are no longer than 150ft, then you might as well save the money, and purchase the Cat 6. You’ll still get 10 gigabit performance at this length.
For most customers, the Cat 5e is more than powerful enough, especially if you’re hosting most of your information on the cloud. The ultimate choice comes down to your needs and your budget.