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What is the difference between Cat5e and Cat6?

What’s the difference between cat5 and cat6 cable? - A question typically asked by customers. In this article I am going to explain to you the difference, hoping to widen your understanding of the two.

Cat5e: This table explains the decibel loss allowed for CAT5e at a frequency of 100 MHz, during testing all of these requirements must be reached for the link to pass.

Frequency 100mhz 250hmz 500hmz
Insertion loss 21.0db - -
Return loss 12.0db - -
NEXT 32.3db - -

The original Category 5 standard was suitable for LAN transmission standards up to 155Mb/s, including all the various forms of fast Ethernet up to 100Mb/s.

Changes had to be made when Gigabit Ethernet was introduced in 1998, due to the lack of performance of CAT5. CAT5E was manufactured with requirements such as: return loss, delay and delay skew and power sum cross talk measurements. This was to ensure performance reliability of Gigabit Ethernet. The improved parameters allow a quicker speed of Ethernet.

CAT5 cable design is simply for twisted pairs with a long string of Kevlar running down the centre covered in a jacket.

Cat6: The new generation of cable, Cat6 was brought in to allow an even greater reliability and performance speed of Cat5e. Cat 6 is more demanding when it comes to electrical parameters, working at 250 MHZ rather than 100 MHZ.

Frequency 100mhz 250hmz 500hmz
Insertion loss 18.6db 31.1db -
Return loss 14.0db 10.0db -
NEXT 41.8db 35.3db -

As you can see CAT6 is a higher performance system to CAT5 supporting over double the frequency. This allows greater support for faster protocols and therefore is consider more reliable. There are also changes to the protection methods on the cable. To prevent cross talk more effectively a plastic divide is placed between the 4 cores during manufacturing.