Written by Veronika Vigliano

Criteria of Cat5 and Cat6 (what cable should I use?)

Note here that all Ethernet cables are not created equally. However, you may wonder – what’s the difference and how do I know which to make use of? Now, let us take a look at the technical and physical variations in the Ethernet cable categories that will help us decide.

The Ethernet cables are grouped into serially various numbered categories which is the cat, and is based on a variety of specifications. Essentially, often the category is then updated with advanced clarification – for example; 5e and 6a. These categories, are methods in which we can know what the type of cable easily and we there is a need for precise application. The producers are then expected to obey the existing standards, which can make our lives easier.

You want to ask the pressing question; what are the differences between these categories and how can I be sure as to know when I should make use of unshielded, shielded, stranded, or rather the solid cable? Stay informed and continue reading for cat for more information for you to stay enlightened.

Technical differences

The variance found in cable specifications is not as easy as to what you can see in the physical changes. However, for better understanding, let us take a good look at what each of the categories actually does and doesn’t support. You can find a chart below for reference when you are picking cable for your application implanted on the standards for such kind of category.

As with the category, the numbers actually shoot high and so does the speed as well as the Mhz of the wire. However, this isn’t a concurrence, that is because, each of these categories, however it may seem, bring more inflexible testing used for eliminating the crosstalk (XT) and also including the isolation that is present between both wires.

You must also note, that this doesn’t necessarily mean your experiences remains or rather have been the same. You can make use of the Cat-5 cable for a 1 Gb speed, and I personally have made use of the same cable that is longer than 100 meters. However, since the standard is yet to be tested for it, you will unlikely have mixed up the results. If you think because you have a Cat-6 cable, it is not a guarantee that you have a 1 Gb network speed. Be informed that each and every connection present in your network, needs to be supported with the 1 Gb speed and moreover, in some cases as such, the connection will require you to be told that in software, you have to make use of the speed available.

The category 5 cable was modified and mostly replaced with the Category 5 Enhanced in other words the Cat-5e cable, which hasn’t changed anything or whatsoever in the real cable, but instead has applied more inflexible testing standards for the crosstalk.

The Category 6 was being revamped with an augmented Category 6 that is the Cat-6a, which further provided the testing for 500 Mhz communication in comparison to the Cat-6’s 250 Mhz. However, the higher communication frequency is being able to take out the foreign crosstalk (AXT) which permit for longer size at 10 Gb/s.

Physical Differences

The million-dollar question we must inquire is, how does a real cable remove interference and permit for faster speeds? This is possible through the use of wire twisting and also isolation. The invention of Cable twisting was by Alexander Graham Bell in 1881, it was first used for telephone wires that was being used alongside the power cables. He then discovered this by twisting the cable every 3-4 utility poles, however, his invention shrunk the interference as well as increased the range. Fat forward to today, the twisted pair became the basis for all Ethernet cables used to remove any interference present between internal wires (XT), and external wires (AXT).

There are two important physical variations between the Cat-5 and the Cat-6 cables, as well as the number of twists to use per centimeter in the wire, and also the thickness of the sheath.

Essentially, it is right for you to know that Cable twisting length is not regulated, but precisely there are 1.5-2 twists per centimeter in the Cat-5(e) and also the 2+ twists per centimeter in the Cat-6. However, within the single cable, you will realize that each of the pair of colored will have various twist lengths – and this is based on the prime numbers more so, that two twists don’t get to align. You must also know that the quantity of twists that should be used per pair is usually different from each of the cable manufacturers. From the above picture, you will see that no two pairs have the same amount of twists per inch.

However, a lot of Cat-6 cables, get to include a nylon spline used to remove crosstalk. Although this spline is not needed for any Cat-5 cable, furthermore, some of these manufactures go ahead to include it anyway. For the Cat-6 cable, the spline is not needed either as the cable tests in accordance with the standard. Displayed in the above picture, the Cat-5e cable is the only one with a spline.

In retrospect, the nylon spline goes as far as helping to reducte the crosstalk in the wire, you must note that, the thicker sheath tends to protect against the near end crosstalk better known as NEXT and also the alien crosstalk (AXT) – In which, they both occur more often as the frequency (Mhz) increases. In this image, you will observe that the Cat-5e cable has the slimmest sheath, and it is also the only one that has the nylon spline.

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