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What is the Difference Between Cat5e, Cat6 & Cat6a Ethernet Cables?

Joe Roberts

Ethernet cables come in different categories. Each category is different from the other in certain ways and if you are a novice or don’t have ample knowledge about the different types of ethernet cables, chances are you will spend money on the wrong one. For instance, a novice will not be able to determine factors that make a Cat6 Ethernet Cable different from a Cat5e Cable 1000ft. Well, you need not worry as our experts are here to give you a deep peep into each category so that you acquire a deep understanding and make an informed decision. 

Let’s discuss each cable separately so that you have a better understanding. 

Cat5e Ethernet Cable

Cat5e Ethernet Cable is the 5th generation ethernet cable. The “e” in the Cat5e represents its enhanced features such as data transfer rates and bandwidth capacities.

As far as the jacket material of Cat5e cable is concerned, it comes in 3 ratings: CMP-rating for installation in the plenum spaces, CMR-rating for installation in the riser spaces, and PVC rating for installation in the outdoor spaces. 

The inner structure comprises 8 conductors that are tightly bundled together in 4 twisted pairs. The 8 conductors are made from either pure copper [also known as bare copper] or from copper-clad aluminum. Also, the conductors are either STP (shielded twisted pair) or UTP (unshielded twisted pair) – STP are meant for harsh environments whereas UTP is meant for environments where EMI is either very less or non-existent. 

This cable supports data transfer rates of 1Gbps over a distance of 50 meters or 164 feet and 100Mbps over a distance of 100 meters or 328 feet. It supports the following applications: ATM PMD 155 Mbps IEEE 802.3 Fast, Ethernet:10 Base-T, ANSI X3T9.5 TP-PMD (FDDI), 100, Base-T4, Ring, IEEE 802.12:100 Base-VG, and 100 Base-X IEEE 802.5:4/16 Mbps Token. 

Cat6 Ethernet Cable

The 6 in “Cat6” points out towards the generation. This cable takes the whole concept of data transfer speed to the new level; it increases the same by as many as 10 folds to 10 Gbps up to a length of 50 meters and 1Gbps up to a length of 100 meters. Thanks to its enhanced bandwidth capacity of 550 MHz, this cable can keep your signal quality intact over long distances with ease. 

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The Cat6 Ethernet Cable also comes in plenum, riser, and PVC variants; plenum is designed for installation in the plenum spaces, the riser is designed for installation in the riser spaces, and PVC is meant for outdoor installation. 

This cable supports 10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet, 1000BASE-T (IEEE802.3), 550 MHz Broadband video, voice, and SDN 155/ 622 Mbps ATM Power over Ethernet applications. It comes in both copper and copper-clad aluminum conductors. Like Cat5e, it also comes in a shielded and unshielded version. 

Cat6a Ethernet Cable

The Cat6a Ethernet Cable is also a 6th generation cable. However, the “a” in Cat6a indicates that the performance of this ethernet cable has been enhanced. The cable can support data transfer rates of 10Gbps up to a distance of 100 meters with ease. It comes with an impressive 750 MHz bandwidth capacity that keeps your signal quality intact. 

This cable also comes in plenum, riser, and PVC variants that are meant for installation in the plenum, riser, and outdoor spaces, respectively. The 8 conductors — either copper or copper-clad aluminum — are tightly bundled together. It also comes in both shielded and unshielded versions. 

Thanks to its lightning-fast data transfer speed and mammoth bandwidth capacities, the cable is used in 100BASE-TX Fast Ethernet, 10BASE-T, 1000BASE-T (IEEE802.3), 750 MHz Broadband Video Voice, 100VG-AnyLAN (IEEE802.12), T1, ISDN 155/ 622 Mbps ATM PoE, and indoor data, voice, video, and other large security networking applications.

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