Ethernet cables have been in existence for decades now. We can probably not think of the Internet existing without them. Electronic Industries Association and Telecommunications Industry Association (EIA) standardized them.
They are available in following shield formats:
- U/UTP – Unshielded cable, unshielded twisted pairs
- F/UTP – Foil shielded cable, unshielded twisted pairs
- U/FTP – Unshielded cable, foil shielded twisted pairs
- S/FTP – braided shielded cable, foil shielded twisted pairs
Here in this article we are going to talk about types of Ethernet cables:
Let’s start with CAT5 and CAT5e Ethernet cables. We will explore Shielded cat5 and shielded cat5e cables:
CAT5 network cable is widely useful for 100Base-T and 1000Base-T networks as it provides performance for 100 Mbps or bit more. The Cat 5 cable replaced the CAT3 version and over the years it became the standard for Ethernet cables. According to the latest innovations Cat 5e cable replaced CAT5 cables.
Cat5 cables use twisted pairs to prevent internal crosstalk, XT and for external wires it uses AXT. These cables use 1.5 to 2 twists per centimeter.
Talking about Cat5e cables they got recognition by TIA/EIA and define TIA/EIA -568 as the latest version in 2001. It slightly has a high frequency specification which Cat5 cable extends up to 125 Mbps. Remember similar to other Ethernet cables you can find shielded cat5e cable.
Cat5e is useful for 100Base-T and 1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet and is a form of Cat5 cable but manufactured for high specifications.
It conducts tests at higher specifications to ensure that it can perform at higher data speeds. The twisted pairs within the network cables normally have the same level of twisting.
Now, let’s talk about Cat6 Network Cable:
It is the sixth version of twisted pair Ethernet cable and supports the Gigabit Ethernet Data rates i.e. 1 gigabit/second (Gbps). It has four pairs of copper wires and you can utilize these copper wire pairs for signaling and obtaining superior quality performance. The best part about it is that it can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections for distances of 50 meters or 64 feet.
Enhanced version of CAT6 is CAT6A and it can support the speed up to 10Gbps. Similar to previous versions of Ethernet cables, CAT6 cable also uses RJ-45 standard connector.
Now, let’s talk about the difference between them:
Difference: CAT6 and CAT6A
cat6 network cable supports 10 Gigabits Ethernet and covers distance up to 50 meters. Whereas, CAT6A enhances the performance of CAT6 cables. It also supports 10 Gigabits data on a single cable run but covers distance up to 100 meters. Twice the speed of CAT6.
Cost of CAT6A Ethernet cables is more compared to CAT6 and is thicker in density. It uses standard RJ-45 connectors.
Difference: CAT6 vs. CAT5e
To improve the previous versions of CAT5 cables, two key areas were developed. One was development of CAT5e i.e. CAT5 enhanced and the other one was CAT6.
Still, CAT5e lacked some technical enhancements which CAT6 overcame.
If you are thinking of purchasing a cable which supports Gigabit Ethernet installations at lower costs, then CAT5e is a good choice. CAT5e cable offers good performance for Gigabit Ethernet at cost effective rates.
It is widely known for wired Ethernet installations. Quite similar to CAT6, CAT5e also utilizes a four wire pair signal to provide smooth data rates. On the other hand, Cat5 cable has four wire pairs out of which two remain inactive.
Going further, let’s talk about the advantages of each of the above mentioned Ethernet cables:
- Cost:CAT5 cable is cheap in comparison to other types of cables and is useful for crossover cable because of its affordability.
- Transfer Speed:Cat5 cable affords high transfer speeds. They can reach high rates to transfer data in interpersonal networks or older forms of cabling. CAT5 cable is capable of transferring up to four signals at a time.
- Less interference:CAT5e overcomes the disadvantages of CAT5 Ethernet cables and provides less interference or cross talk.
- Backward compatibility:If you are unhappy with your cat5e Ethernet cable which is very rare; then you can easily roll back your wiring structure to CAT5 Ethernet cable.
Remember: Similar to CAT5; you can find shielded CAT5e and unshielded CAT5e cables.
- Speed:It can handle speeds up to 250 MHZ. Due to this they are useful in fast Ethernet networks including Gigabit Ethernet and 10-Gigabit Ethernet. CAT6 cables came into existence to complement Gigabit Ethernet and so today are useful in the majority of large organizations.
- Easily upgradable:If you are upgrading a network, then CAT6 is a must. The major reason to upgrade it is CAT6 will not run to its optimum speed if other network devices do not support gigabit speeds.
Understanding Ethernet cables can become difficult because of its types, specifications, and overlaps in specs of each of them. But, they are part of our everyday life and we heavily depend on them. Hence, gaining basic understanding about them is important.