As we all know, technology does not stand still. Not long after one product is released, there’s a new one to supersede it. While cabling is not quite as quick to supplant itself, there has been significant progression since the invention of CAT5 cabling in the 1990’s. Today, we have CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6a and CAT7 to choose from, with the new CAT8 standard in the pipeline. Most cabling installations, however, predominately use CAT6 and CAT6a.

Experts have estimated that by 2020, data production will be 44 times higher and that 80% of business data will need to be protected and processed. With the increasing demand to carry video streams and media, the cabling and technology has to be able to, not just cope, but to comfortably accommodate this foreseeable future volume. That’s going to require optimum level cabling for efficient data transfer.

But, what are the differences between the CAT5 and CAT6 cabling standards?


  • CAT5/CAT5e – CAT5 is now obsolete, although it is still in use in a large number of business networks. CAT5 cabling is a copper twisted pair data cable invented in the 1990’s for LAN transmissions.


  • CAT5e is the enhanced version of CAT5, with an improved capacity of up to 1 gigabit or 1000 megabits per second over Ethernet with a bandwidth of 100MHz. It cannot exceed this capacity.


  • CAT5e is an improvement on standard CAT5 cabling because it eliminates crosstalk, which means that signals don’t cross over so frequently so there’s less interference. However, CAT6 and CAT6a cables are even better, in this regard. CAT6 cabling has four pairs of wires with internal separators to eliminate interference or cross talk at a superior level to the CAT5e.


  • The lifespan of CAT5e cabling as a viable product is, arguably, coming to a close. This is because CAT5/e products are less capable of working competitively for the future and the inevitable increased bandwidth, capacity and speed requirements.


  • CAT6 cabling carries up to 10 gigabits or 10000 megabits per second with Ethernet, which is a significant increase on the CAT5 products’ capacity and bandwidth. This allows for greater network traffic handling.


  • Installing CAT6 cabling effectively removes the worry about bandwidth capabilities and limits. This is a product designed for future business needs.


  • CAT6 can be combined with existing CAT5 cables as it is backwards compatible.


  • CAT6 cabling is a safe future proof purchase.


  • CAT6A cabling can take speeds of up to 500 MHz, which is why CAT5/e cabling can’t compete with its superior bandwidth and capacity. It is the minimum requirement cabling level for data centres and computer rooms.


  • CAT6A is a heavier product that takes up more space, which reduces cable tray capacity and it is too weighty to lay over other cables lest it crushes them. It comes in reels rather than boxes.


  • CAT6A has an internal form like CAT6, but it also twists every pair around a flexible and twisted plastic support.


When choosing your cabling for either a new installation or an upgrade to your existing infrastructure, investing in CAT6 will serve you well for years ahead unlike the older CAT5 and CAT5e cables, which simply won’t keep you as competitive as you want to be.

Get in touch for more information, or for a highly competitive quote on your data cabling installation including Cat6a, Cat6 and Cat5 cabling.