Yes, you might be enjoying a wireless internet connection, but deep down the ground lies Ethernet cables that facilitate the connection. These Ethernet cables offer high and consistent throughput with limited interference.
Today, these Ethernet cables come in different categories that make them suitable for different situations. They are grouped into Cats, which is short for Category. The Category of the cable will come with a number that shows the speed the cable can carry.
There are three main categories of Ethernet cables, and they include Cat 5, Cat 6 and Cat 7. We will be discussing each of them to educate you further about them. So, how do these Ethernet cables differ? Let’s find that out.
- Category 5 (Cat 5)
Category 5 cables come in Cat 5 and Cat 5e. Cat5 Ethernet cable was the first on to introduce 10/100Mbps Ethernet over distances that reach to 100mts. It is also called the Fast Ethernet, and some people are still using the Cat5 cable. Nevertheless, this Ethernet cable is obsolete and it was upgraded to or replaced by Cat5e.
- Category 5e Cable
The Cat 5e Ethernet replaced Cat5, but they are almost the same. Cat5e Ethernet can adhere to more strict IEEE standards. Cat5E is the ‘Enhanced’ option of the Cat5. This means that the Cat5e delivers a lower-noise version, which lessens the potential for crosstalk (interference transferred from wires adjacent to each other).
Cat5e is very common out there because it can support Gigabit speeds without being too harsh to the pocket. Both Cat5 and Cat5e support maximum frequency of up to 100MHz. however, Cat5e utilizes 4 data pairs compared to the 2 data pairs of Cat5.
So, Cat5e supports 1000Mbps, and it is flexible for small spaces installations. Furthermore, Cat5e is the most pocket-friendly when it comes to the current cabling options.
- Category 6 (Cat6)
Cat6 supports a maximum of 10Gbps, along with a maximum of 250MHz frequencies. The Cat6 cable can be tightly twisted at 3-6 twists per cm. Plus, Cat6 cables come with thicker sheaths compared to Cat5e cables. A thicker sheath offers better protection against Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT) and Alien Crosstalk (AXT).
Category 6 cables can only support between 37 and 55 meters when transmitting speeds of10Gbps. Nonetheless, this depends on the crosstalk effect.
- Category 6a Ethernet Cable
Category 6a cables are an upgrade of Cat6, it supports 10Gbps at 100 meters with frequencies of up to 500MHz. Cat6a also come with thicker sheathing than Cat6 to get rid of Alien Crosstalk and also boost the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). The A in Cat6a stands for augmented. Since the cable comes with a thick sheath, it means that it will be less flexible to work with. For that reason, a Cat6a Ethernet cable is best suited for the industrial environment at a relatively low price.
- Category 7
Cat7 is the most Ethernet Cable out there. This one can transmit 40Gbps at 50 meters and 100Gbps at 100 meters. Category 7 Ethernet Cable comes with the new Class F cabling. This cable can support top frequencies of up to 600MHz. Therefore, Cat7 is not the best cable choice for telecommunication.
Cat7 cables offer advanced shielding. With the extensive shielding, the Category 7 will reduce signal interruption. This means that the internet connection through a Cat7 is 100% reliable. These cables are also stiffer than previous cables. Each pair is shielded, and it comes with an extra shielding layer that runs along the whole cable.
The shielded cables must be grounded during installation. Furthermore, Category 7 needs special Gigagate45 (GG45) connectors so that it can take complete advantage of higher performance features. Usually, Cat 6a will perform similarly to Cat7, but Cat7 tends to be more expensive to install. Both these cables offer shielding from interference around high voltage lines and alien crosstalk.
In most cases, Cat7 will be used in data centers and other large enterprises.
Which Category Ethernet Cable Should You Choose?
Now, you have all the necessary information about the available category Ethernet cable. But, which is the best cable to choose?
First off, you should know that there is no specific ‘best’ device for everyone. It all depends on what you want/prefer.
- For Cost Effectiveness
If you are looking at the cables in terms of the price, you should go for Cat5e or Cat6. Cat5e is the cheapest, and Cat6 follows behind with a typically cheap price tag. Don’t forget that acquiring the Ethernet cable is not all that you should budget for. Instead, you should consider the labor and how much you will need for the labor. In most case, labor will take most of the expense.
- The installation (twists)
Suppose you want a cable that comes with not so thick sheathing, you will need to consider the Cat5e or Cat6. Specifically, Cat5e has proven to be the most flexible around corners and turns. It can turn and twist effortlessly. In terms of the DIY installation, Cat5e is the most hassle-free and user-friendly. Cat6 going up are all thicker, which might be somewhat challenging to install on your own.
Finally, you need to decide what you need in terms of the speeds of the cable. Cat5e is still able to deliver 1Gbps over 100mts, which is decent enough. If you will be using at home or a small commercial premise, you can enjoy the delivery of the Cat5e. But if you need extra high speeds, you will need to go for the Cat6 and above. Just keep in mind that the distance covered to support the speed will reduce. But still, you can be sure of enjoying over 10Gbps for your internet services.
All in all, consider things like installation needs and if you can do it on your own, along with the speeds needed. You can always contact a professional to install the Ethernet cable for you. Just make sure that you are aware of the delivery and if you can live with that. Remember that the cable that you choose for your internet will determine your connection experience. Here is a guide to help you find the right cables for your home network to enjoy uninterrupted services.