What’s the Difference Between Cat5 and Cat6 Cables?

Difference Between Cat5 and Cat6 Cables

Probably, the first time you heard the words “Cat5” and “Cat6,” you thought of the small domestic animal. Well, this article is not about domestic animals.

The term “cat” in this article is an abbreviation for “category.” Cat5 and Cat6 are Ethernet cables. Due to the ever-changing pace of technology, Ethernet cables are continuously upgraded.

Cat5 and Cat6 are the most efficient cables used for networking globally. Although they are similar, this article will discuss the differences between Cat5 and Cat6.

However, before the differences are discussed, let’s get a virtual picture of Cat5 and Cat 6.


Cat5 is also called Category5. This cable comes in an un-shielded but twisted pair configuration typical for standard Ethernet computer networking cables.

However, in today’s world, Cat5 is quite outdated as it handles a speed of 100Mbps and supports up to 100MHz frequencies.

Due to its limitations, Cat5 was upgraded, and Cat5e was introduced. Cat5e means Category5 Enhanced. Just like the name suggests, this cable is an upgraded version of Cat5.

This upgraded version reduces signal and noise interference with more stringent specifications for crosstalk. Although the bandwidth of Cat5e remains at 100 MHz, it has an increased transfer speed of 350mbps.

This is a significant upgrade when compared to the 100Mbps transfer speed of Cat5.


Cat6 is more efficient than Cat5 and Cat5e. Though all three types of cable have specification plugs that enter the same ports, Cat6 specifications are built according to the new industry standard for networking.

It comes in a thick-gauge plastic which reduces signal interference and is significantly faster than Cat5 and Cat5e.

It has a transfer speed of 1Gbps (1000Mbps) and supports up to 250MHz frequencies. This creates a more reliable network by reducing crosstalk.

Unlike older cables that are limited by crosstalk, Cat6 virtually eliminates crosstalk. Due to this, speed is maintained at larger distances, even up to 100 meters.

Although, for 1Gbps, the maximum length is 55 meters. Over the years, an augmented version of Cat6 was created.

It has specifications that help stream HD videos and media-heavy websites (e.g., social networking sites) and manages massive data. It has a transfer speed of 1Gbps and a bandwidth of 500MHz.

Unlike Cat6, it can handle the transfer of 1Gbps data for a longer length. However, it is less flexible and is recommended for industrial networking solutions instead of residential ones.

Differences between Cat5 and Cat6

1. Bandwidth and frequency

Although both Cat5 and Cat6 are standardized cables for Ethernet, there is a difference between Cat5 and Cat6 in transmission performance. Cat5 has a 10/100Mbps speed at a bandwidth of 100MHz.

In contrast, Cat6 has a rate of 1000Mbps at a bandwidth of 250MHz, which is more reliable. Usage Cat5 is generally recommended for residential use, smaller areas, while Cat6 is ideal for a large area, industrial use.

2. Safety Margins

Cat6 has a thick-gauge plastic which enables it to transfer data at a longer distance without interference with the signal and speed. Cat5 lacks this modification. Cat5 is limited by crosstalk. Thus, it is not the ideal cable to tackle crosstalk issues.

3. Coverage and speed

Cat5 covers quite a distance, up to 100 meters, with lesser speed when compared to Cat6. In contrast, Cat6 covers a greater distance than Cat5 and maintains the same rate across space. Cat6 has faster internet and internal speed than Cat5.

4. Diameter of wire

Airflow is one of the significant considerations in a data center. If more cable is added to the patch area, it will restrict the airflow needed to cool the servers and equipment. Cat5 is narrower, having a diameter of 0.204inches, while Cat6 has a broader diameter of 0.250inches.

5. Number of twists of wire

Twists of the wire in a cable also affect performance. Cat5 has one and a half to two twists per centimeter, while Cat6 has more tightly wound ropes featuring two or more twists per centimeter.

6. Cost

Cat6 is more expensive than Cat5, with about a 10%-20% increase in price compared to the cost of Cat5.

7. Crosstalk

Cat5 is not ideal for crosstalk issues as it does not tackle it, while Cat6 protective shield is designed to reduce crosstalk, virtually eliminating it.

8. Future of data

Cat5 is an outdated cabling system that used to be the backbone of residential infrastructures. While Cat6 is the future of cabling, adhering to the highest industry-standard specifications to future-proof businesses for coming years.

Both cables are efficient, depending on their usage. For instance, for home appliances such as gaming consoles, smart TV, printers, etc., which need network cables, you can use Cat5 or Cat5e.

They are more than capable of managing the bandwidth for those appliances. Cat5e is more likely to support a speed faster than the internet connection can provide.

While commercial, industrial applications such as transferring large files, 3D Auto-CAD files, edited videos, etc., Cat6 is the best choice.

It is worth noting that both Cat5 and Cat6 have RJ-45 modular plugs on each end. This means the modular plugs look the same, having eight position gold-plated conductors.

This allows both cables to be plugged into the same Ethernet jack on a patch panel, computer, router, etc.

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