Cat5e VS Cat6 VS Cat7 VS Cat6a: Which One to Choose?

In the era of information explosion, almost everyone can get access to the Internet, and almost everywhere is loaded with network and Ethernet cables. But you may be unaware of the fact that Ethernet cables, though look like the same, actually have different categories. Here, this post will introduce currently available cables in the market (Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7) and compare the differences. May it help with your choice in selecting the appropriate category of cable to support your network.

Cat5e VS Cat6

Both of Cat5e and Cat6 cables are twisted pair cables, performing the same job. They all have the same style RJ-45 plug, and it is capable of plugging into any Ethernet jack on a computer, router, or other similar devices. Despite all the similarities, they do have some differences as shown in the following chart:

Features/Categories Cat5e Cat6
Speed 1000Mbps 10 Gbps over 37-55 meters  of cable
Frequency 100MHz 250 MHz
Maximum Cable Length 100 meters 100 meters for slower network speeds (up to 1,000 Mbps) and higher network speeds over short distances. For Gigabit Ethernet, 55 meters max
Standard Gauges in Conductors 24-26 AWG wire 22-24 AWG wire
Performance Cat6<Cat5e (interference or crosstalk) <Cat5 Lower crosstalk, return loss and insertion loss, higher signal-to-noise ratio

As we can see from the chart, Cat5e (Cat5 Enhanced) offers gigabit Ethernet up to 100 meters, and can support 1000Mbps speeds at 100MHz. Cat6 can provide up to 10 gigabit speeds at 250MHz. Both Cat5e and Cat6 cable allow lengths up to 100 meters, but Cat6 has a lower max length (55 meters) when used for 10GBASE-T. The main difference between Cat5e and Cat6 lies in the transmission performance. Cat6 has an internal separator that lowers interference or near end crosstalk (NEXT). It also improves equal level far end crosstalk (ELFEXT), return loss and insertion loss compared with Cat5e. As a result, Cat6 has a higher signal-to-noise ratio than Cat5e.

Cat6 VS Cat6a VS Cat7

Features/Categories

Cat6

Cat6a

Cat7

Speed

10 Gbps with distance of 37-55 meters

10 Gigabit Ethernet with distance up to 100 meters

10 Gbps with distance up to 100 meters

Connector Type

RJ45

RJ45

GG45

Frequency

250 MHz

500 MHz

600 MHz

Performance

Cat6 (crosstalk) >Cat6a

Cat6>Cat6a (crosstalk) >Cat7

least amount of crosstalk

Standard

TIA/EIA recognition and standards

TIA/EIA recognition and standards

No TIA/EIA recognition

Best Use

households

households

multiple applications or offices

As is shown in this chart, Cat6 supports speeds up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet and frequencies of up to 250 MHz, and can be achieved with distance of 33-55 meters. Cat6a can support bandwidth frequencies of up to 500 MHz, twice the amount of Cat6 cable, and can also support 10Gbps like its predecessor. While Cat7 supports bandwidth frequencies of up to 600 MHz. It also supports 10GBASE-T Ethernet over the full 100 meters like Cat6a. Besides, it features improved crosstalk noise reduction compared to Cat6 and Cat6a. Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a are all equipped with RJ45 connectors but Cat7 requires special GigaGate45 (CG45) connectors. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) have set standards for wires and cabling, which help standardize installation and performance. At this time, Cat6 and Cat6a are recognized by TIA/EIA standards, but Cat7 is not. With respect to best application, Cat6 and Cat6a are suitable for home use. On the contrary, if you’re running multiple applications, or using it in a business environment, you’d better choose Cat7 cables because these can support multiple applications with fewer errors and less crosstalk.

Conclusion

This article reveals some comparisons between Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7, covering speed, frequency, performance, etc. They all have different features, performances and applications. So if you are considering installing Ether cable, be sure to take these factors into consideration, and opt for the one suited to your need most.

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