Today, there are two types of Ethernet cables that are being used to connect electronic devices worldwide. These cables are the CAT5 and CAT6 Ethernet cables. Although they are both twisted pair cable designed primarily for carrying signals, there are noticeable differences between the two.
Cat5 is the much older variation of the Cat6 cable. This cable is connected by utilizing modular connectors and punch down blocks. Cat5 has the capability to support frequencies that can reach up to 100MHz and provide speeds that can reach 10 Mbps.
These are the most common networking cables used today. They can be utilized in token ring, ATM, 100BASE-TX, 10BASE-TX and 1000BASE-T networking. Additionally, these cables can carry signals such as video and telephony.
They rely on differential signaling and their twisted pair design for noise reduction. Unlike other Ethernet connections, this Ethernet cable consists of four twisted pairs of copper wire that are unshielded and terminated by RJ45 connectors.
However, much faster Ethernet connections only utilize two of the four pairs while the other two go unused. This is one of the main factors why people are saying that this Ethernet cable does not live up to its fullest capabilities. The Cat5e can run over 328 feet or 100 meters without the need for a switch that could extend the length of this cable.
Cat6 is the most advanced Ethernet cable among the two. Similar to the Cat5, it consists of four pairs of twisted copper wire. However, it works much faster than the Cat5 and has the capability to support much higher frequencies. This is because it can provide speeds that can reach up to 10 Gbps and frequencies up to a maximum of 250 MHZ.
These cables can do this because they contain a unique structural feature that is called a longitudinal separator. This feature helps isolate each of the four pairs of twisted copper wire from each other. It also helps reduce crosstalk for much faster data transfer compared to the Cat5.
The Cat6 is backward compatible. It means that it can be used effectively with Cat5e and Cat5. Cat6 Ethernet cables have a unique advantage over Cat5 cables. They are more modern and much faster. However, they are not as widely used as the Cat5.
This is primarily due to the fact that they are more expensive than Cat5 cables, and the majority of people do not require or use 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Similar to Cat5, Cat6 cables can be run up to 328 feet or 100 meters without the need for a switch. However, cables that have the capability to support 10 Gbps can be run 180.45 feet or 55 meters.

Due to its superior immunity from a wide range of external noise and its improved transmission performance, Cat6 has fewer system operating errors than Cat5. This also leads to much less re-transmission of corrupt or lost information packets under a variety of conditions.  Now you can truly understand the differences between CAT5 and CAT6 ethernet cables and how they work.

About the Author

Michael Alvarez has been working in the electronics and technology field for over 20 years.  He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise of CAT5 and CAT6 ethernet cables with others; while continuing to grow his knowledge.