When deciding which Ethernet cable to buy it can be difficult to decide whether to purchase Cat5e, or to use Cat6. One point of confusion comes from a misunderstanding by the buyer that buying Cat6 cable will give them an "all gigabit" network. This is not the case. Unless every single component in the network is gigabit rated, then you will not be able to obtain gigabit network, because your network will always run at the speed of your slowest device.

Cat5e cable of good quality can run near or at gigabit speeds, it just cannot be "certified" for this use. By comparison, Cat6 is designed especially for gigabit use, and is certified to operate at said speed. It becomes a matter of analyzing your current network for speed capabilities and taking in to consideration the fact that cat6 will future proof your network. In most cases, it makes more sense to go with Cat6 purely for this reason even if the rest of your network isn't currently utilizing the cabling to its full potential. It is for this reason that most of your new installations in the private sector are going with Cat6. It is more efficient, performs well, and is readily available in many colors and saves the end user from recabling in the near future. Ultimately both cables will use an RJ-45 end, which will be able to plug into the same Ethernet jack on your computer, routers, and switches.

The main difference between category 5e and category 6 is in the transmission performance, and extension of the available bandwidth from 100 MHz for category 5e to 200 MHz for category 6. This includes better insertion loss, near end crosstalk (NEXT), return loss, and equal level far end crosstalk (ELFEXT). These improvements provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio, allowing higher reliability for current applications and higher data rates for future applications.

Quantility Group Blog - Network Cabling: CAT5 vs CAT6 Network Cable Switch

Category 5e (CAT5e)

When deciding on which cabling to purchase it is important to assess the needs of your business, as there is a great difference in price between the two when installing entire systems. If your business only runs online and requires a very reliable connection, then Cat6 may be the one for you. However, if your needs are not as high, or you are a small business it may be worth considering Cat 5e if cost is crucial.

Cat5e is currently the most commonly used in networks, so you would not be putting your business at a disadvantage by installing this cable. Its design allows reduced crosstalk, keeping signals on different circuits from interfering with each other. However saving money now can also mean spending more in the near future to replace your cabling. Cat5e is the most obvious choice for home networks, as they have the capacity for gigabit speeds just not the license. By designing your data centre so cables can be replaced easily it can avoid long laborious hours when you do eventually upgrade, however this is not always achievable. Changes of premise could occur in this time along with upgrades to other components of your system.

Category 6 (CAT6)

Statistical estimations and independent polls indicate that 80 to 90 percent of all new installations will be cabled with category 6. The fact that category 6 link and channel requirements are backward compatible to category 5e makes it very easy for customers to choose category 6 and supersede category 5e in their networks. Applications that worked over category 5e will work over category 6.

Because of its improved transmission performance and superior immunity from external noise, systems operating over category 6 cabling will have fewer errors vs. category 5e for current applications. This means fewer re-transmissions of lost or corrupted data packets under certain conditions, which translates into higher reliability for category 6 networks compared to category 5e network.

From a future proofing perspective, it is always better to install the best cabling available. This is because it is difficult to replace cabling inside walls, in ducts under floors and other difficult places to access. The rationale is that cabling will last at least 10 years and will support at least four to five generations of equipment during that time. If future equipment running at much higher data rates requires better cabling, it will be very expensive to pull out category 5e cabling at a later time to install category 6 cabling.

Quantility Group Blog - Network Cabling: CAT5 vs CAT6 Network Cables

Ultimately you have to assess your needs, whether they are business or personal and what you can afford to install. Depending on the rating of the other components in the system, both cable categories have their merits, though always remember to buy from good quality retailers as poorly manufactured cables can be dangerous.

If you want to take the hassle out of cabling your new office, Quantility Group can handle all your cabling needs for you. Our experienced technicians are fully qualified to run cables in any type of building and take pride in clean and efficient data cabling. Feel free to contact us today to discuss your cabling options with a free consultation.

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