How to Choose Between Cat 5, Cat 5e and Cat 6 Cables

Cat 5 vs Cat 5e and Cat 6 – The Need For Speed

As the world of digital networks expands into a seemingly near-infinite size, more and more questions arise over how data is transmitted.  People often hear terms such as Cat 5 and Cat 5e and wonder, is there any difference between the two besides just a letter?

There is a difference but to explain it requires us to look back and with technology, it’s imperative to look forward.  It is much more important to understand the difference between Cat 5e and Cat 6.

Speed has always been and will probably always be the most important characteristic of a network.  As users and technology generate more data more quickly, it will continue to become increasingly necessary to push that data through a physical pipeline like a network cable.  A single second in time is no different today than at any point in history so it is more important to make each one count.  Time is a limited resource so pushing as much data as possible during that given second is essential to keep up with data generation.

Network cabling serves as the physical transmission mechanism of the ones-and-zeros that make up computer binary logic.  These are transmitting electrical pulses at a mind-boggling rate of speed.  Cat 5 can send 100 million of these signals in a single second.  This is where the terms 100 Mbps and 100MHz come into play.  Each bit (electrical pulse) is transmitted down the cable and the cables are designed to allow 100,000,000 of these each second.  For many, this speed has been adequate for quite some time.   The expansion to Cat 5e increased the speed to a billion bits per second (gigabit), thereby extending the useful life of this technology.

Technology does not slow down and the growth of content transmission (think YouTube, 4K television, online video games, etc.) requires tremendous amounts of data to be transmitted.  In an office or in a factory, terabytes of information can be generated in a short period of time.  To ensure fast, real-time transmission one must pack more on-off signals into that same second of time in the same type of cable as before.  This is where Cat 6 becomes critical to the growing infrastructure of data transmission.

Cat 6 is designed to allow many more on-off signals to transmit over the same period.  In fact, it can handle up to 10 billion bits per second – 100 times more than Cat 5.  One way to think of this difference is that, if running at top speed, a file that would take 100 seconds to transfer over Cat 5 cable would only take 1 second over a Cat 6.  More data over the same period creates an efficiency that can handle the requirements of the most advanced technologies.

MISUMI is the leader in Cat 5e and Cat 6 cabling.  We offer cables that can withstand nearly any environment.  If you need cabling that goes into an air-conditioned office or in the hot dirty manufacturing environment, we have you covered with all the best brands and features to help you build your network.  Check out our website to find the cable that meets your needs.

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    August 8, 2019 at 1:26 pm



  2. Luke

    August 15, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Interesting article, but in this day and age talking about Cat 6 seems a little bit old news. What about Cat 6a and Cat 7? They’ve been out for years.

    Cat 5 and 5e should really be retired tech as Cat 6 is so much better and only nominally more expensive. The discussion should be around Cat 6 vs the newer standards.


    • Carlicia Layosa

      August 22, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for the feedback! We will definitely consider discussing Cat 6 in a future post!


  3. Jennifer Truong

    December 3, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Such a great and perfect information provide about cat5 and cat6. Easily understandable with image.


  4. Aaron MacEachern

    March 21, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Awesome articles. Perfect length and not high tech language. Dont have to be an engineer to grasp the concept


    • Michael Larmon

      March 26, 2020 at 9:12 am

      Thanks Aaron!


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