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Ethernet Cable Categories | cat5 vs cat6 vs cat6a vs cat7 vs cat8 [Differences]

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Are you confused with Ethernet cable categories? Do you want to choose the right one for your need? I will help you to get the details of the Ethernet cable categories.

What is an Ethernet Cable?

In wired Networks, Ethernet Cable is used to connect the devices to LAN, Computers, Routers, Switches etc..

This Physical cable is more or less similar to Phone cable but bigger than it. The number of wires also more in Ethernet. Port is needed to plug this Ethernet cable and this port is larger compared to Phone port. Simply we can say that

“THE COAXIAL CABLE WAS TAKE THE PLACE OF POINT-TO-POINT LINKS CONNECTED BY ETHERNET REPEATERS OR SWITCHES.”

This Ethernet cable has some limit for distance, Signals, and durability. Ethernet is categorized to support for faster the bandwidth, cancel noise and increase speed. According to this limit stretching the Ethernet cable have differed in their types.

Basic Categories of Ethernet Cable:

  1. cat5
  2. cat6
  3. cat7
  4. cat8

1. What is cat5 cable? How does it work?

cat5 is otherwise called “Category 5” Ethernet cable. This cable is used in twisted pair Ethernet technology of Fifth Generation. It uses RJ-45 standard connector.

This cat 5 cable consists of four pairs of copper wire that supports up to 100 Mbps of speed. The maximum distance that covers up to 100 meters/ 328 feet. Even though it having four pairs, cat 5 uses only two pairs for fast Ethernet connection. In later year EIA/TIA worked on this remaining two pair for greatest share to speed up to 1000 Mbps and they name it as ‘CAT5e’ otherwise called ‘CAT5 Enhanced’.

Note: Cat 5 is an unshielded twisted pair.

This Cat5 cable is categorized into two.

  • Solid
  • Stranded

Solid CAT5 cable suited well for longer length. For example: inside office or home.

Stranded CAT 5 cable suited for Shorter length. It is flexible compared to solid. For example: connecting two devices.

Buy Solid cat5 in Amazon

Buy Stranded cat5 in Amazon

Pros and Cons of Cat5 Cable:

Pros of Cat5 Cable:

  1. It is the Cheapest cable which are available in most of the electronic store.
  2. The Installation process of this cable is very easy. It doesn’t need any tools or well technical minded people to get install.
  3. High-transfer speed: It has the capability to sent four signals at a time.

Cons of Cat5 Cable:

  1. It does not allow your device to move from one place to other. That is the big reason for people to choose the wireless network.
  2. It is vulnerable to radio and electrical interfaces.

2. What are cat6 and cat6A cable? How does it work?

  1. cat6

cat6 is otherwise called “Category 6” Ethernet cable. This cable is used in twisted pair Ethernet technology of Sixth Generation.

This cat 6 cable consists of four pairs of copper wire that supports up to 10 Gigabit of Ethernet connection. The maximum distance that covers up to 164 feet for per cable. It is backward compatible with its previous versions such as (cat 5 and cat 5e). It uses RJ-45 standard connector which is used by the cat5 and cat5e categories.

Note: Cat 6 is unshielded / Shielded twisted pair.

Buy cat6 cable in Amazon

2. cat6A

In later cat6 enhanced version released in the name of ‘cat6 a’ which is otherwise called ‘Category 6 Augmented’. How it differs from cat6?

  • Cat6A is ranged up to 10 GBs but Cat6 is only ranged up to 1 GB.
  • The bandwidth of Cat6A is double than Cat6.
  • When compared to Cat6 it has better cancellation of noise.
  • Cat6A cable seems thicker than Cat6.
  • Cat6A cable is little more expensive than Cat6.

Note: Cat 6a is shielded twisted pair.

Buy cat6A cable in Amazon

Pros and Cons of Cat6 and Cat6a Cable:

Pros of Cat6 Cable:

  • Easy to install.
  • Less cost compared to cat7 cable.
  • Supports backward compatible.

Cons of Cat6 Cable:

  • Sometimes it absorbs water( moisture) from the ceiling. That cause damages in the cable as well as communication.
  • Expensive compared to cat5 cable.

3. What is the cat7 cable? How does it work?

cat7 is otherwise called “Category 7” Ethernet cable. It is protected shielded type of twisted pair cable that supports for high-speed Ethernet communication of 1 Gbps or above. The Cat 7 cable has backward compatible with Cat 6, Cat 5 and Cat 5e cable categories.

It has most of the similarity of cat6 cable. The cat 7 helps to avoid crosstalk compared to cat6.

Note: Cat 7 is Foil or Braided shielded twisted pair.

Buy cat7 cable in Amazon

Pros and Cons of Cat7 Cable:

Pros of Cat7 Cable:

  • It has more bandwidth compared to its previous categories.
  • The quality is good.So it has a longer lifespan.
  • Backward compatible.
  • Helps better to reduce crosstalk or noise when compared to others.

Cons of Cat7 Cable:

  • Difficult to install.
  • Costlier compared to other categories.
  • It has no TIA/EIA recognition.

4. What is cat8 cable? How does it work?

cat8 cables are under development it is expected to support bandwidths up to 2 GHz for the distance up to 30 meters. The speed range is 25Gbps / 40Gbps.

Types of Shielded Ethernet Cables:

Based on shielding it differs in three types.

  • Unshielded Twisted pair
  • Foil shielding Twisted pair
  • Braided shielding pair

1.Unshielded Twisted pair:

It wraps only the twisted pairs in foil.

2.Foil shielding Twisted pair:

It wraps all copper pairs in foil and also each twisted pair is wrapped in foil.

3.Braided shielding pair:

It will wrap braided shield over the unshielded / Foiled twisted pair.

Comparison Table: (cat5 vs cat5e vs cat6 vs cat6a vs cat7 vs cat8)


The following table helps you to understand more clearly about the categories of Ethernet cable.
Vs. Category 5 / cat5 Category 5e / cat5e Category 6 / cat6 Category 6a / cat6a Category 7 / cat7 Category 8 / cat8
PHONE LINE USAGE YES YES YES YES NO  —
HOME NETWORK USAGE YES YES YES YES NO  —
OFFICE NETWORK USAGE YES YES YES YES NO  —
DATA CENTER USAGE NO NO NO YES YES  —
BANDWIDTH COVERAGE 100 MHZ 100 MHZ 250 MHZ 500 MHZ 600MHZ  —
TRASMISSION SPEED 10 to 100 Mbps 10 to 100 Mbps 1 Gbps 1 Gbps 10 Gbps  25Gbps / 40Gbps
SHEILD TYPE unshielded unshielded unshielded /shielded shielded Shielded/ foil shielded  —
USAGE FROM THE YEAR 2000-2010 2000-2010 From 2005 From 2005 From 2010  —
DISTANCE up to 100 meter up to 100 meter 37-55 meters or less up to 100 meters up to 100 meters  —
 —
CHARACTERISTIC IMPEDANCE 100 ohms = 15% 100 ohms = 15% 100 ohms = 15% —- 100 ohms = 15%  —
NEXT (MIN. AT 100 MHZ) 32.3 dB 35.3 dB 44.3 dB 27.9 dB 62.1 dB  —
ATTENUATION (MIN. AT 100 MHZ) 22 dB 22 dB 19.8 dB —- 20.8 dB  —
EL-FEXT (MIN. AT 100 MHZ) NA 23.8 dB 27.8 dB 9.3 dB NA  —
PS-ELFEXT (MIN. AT 100 MHZ) NA 20.8 dB 24.8 dB —- NA  —
PS-NEXT (MIN. AT 100 MHZ) NA 32.3 dB 42.3 dB —- 59.1 dB  —
PS-ANEXT (min. at 500 MHz) —- —- —- 49.5 dB —-
PS-AELFEXT (min. at 500 MHz) 16 dB 20.1 dB 20.1 dB 23.0 dB 14.1 dB  —
Return Loss (min. at 100 MHz) 16 dB 20.1 dB 20.1 dB 8.0 dB 14.1 dB  —
Delay Skew (max. per 100m) NA 45 ns 45 ns —- 20 ns  —
Networks Supported 100BASE-T 1000BASE-T 1000BASE-TX 10GBASE NA  —
Cost Less Less Expense compared to previous Expense compared to previous High High

Hints:

ANEXT – Alien Cross Talk
NEXT – Near End Crosstalk
PSNEXT – Power Sum Next

Ethernet speed comparision:

Let us have test with this cable. Consider an hour of time within that how many DVD(4.5 GB) get downloaded by this cable.

  • Cat5: 10 Mbps = 1.2 Mbps (can able download 1 DVD).
  • Cat6: 100 Mbps = 12 Mbps (10 DVDs).
  • Cat6a: 1.0 Gbps = 125 Mbps (100 DVDs).
  • Cat7: 10 Gbps = 1.25 Gbps (1000 DVDs).

Conclusion:

Before buying Ethernet cable first analyze your need for your house or office and the choose the cable according to it. Hope you get a good idea about the Ethernet cable categories. If you have doubts you can post it below.

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View Comments (1)

  • Thanks for sharing such useful information about Ethernet cables. Keep sharing such posts.