Category 5e vs. 6

September 2007 Reel Time Article - Cabling Business Magazine

LM350&LM2000 image rgb           Category 5e still accounts for the majority of installed base of horizontal cable for voice and data applications in the LAN and enterprise market. But according to the latest study by FTM Consulting, Category 6 is gaining significant ground with new installations and will outpace Category 5e by next year. Category 5e is expected to fall off significantly in two years, primarily being used in existing and lower-end installations. So, why does this question continue to arise over and over, “Why should I choose Category 6 over Category 5e?”

     Today’s data and voice applications, such as one Gigabit to the desktop, have been designed to run over Category 5e. After all, Category 5e is the minimum performing solution that meets the TIA 568-B specifications. But, Category 6 allows better signal integrity at higher bandwidth, which will become critical for the cabling plant to support some future applications. Category 5e is defined at 100 MHz bandwidth capacity with Category 6 over twice that at 250 MHz. In addition, significant improvements in the design and manufacture of Category 6 provides improvements over simple bandwidth. Following the history of increasing needs for higher bandwidths which, according to Moore’s law, doubles every 18 months, the need for speed and capacity may obsolete your cabling plant, depending on your requirements.

     Category 6 uses a larger conductor size and tighter twist ratio to improve basic electrical characteristics, such as crosstalk. Some Category 6 cables include a spline to further separate the pairs. The reduced attenuation and larger gauge size makes Category 6 a more robust cable, which is necessary in higher bandwidth applications and also in temperature fluctuations. In addition, some Category 6 cables are designed and manufactured to have exceptional balance. Cable balance enables the cable to resist interference from noise, both internal and external to the cable.

     But let’s take a closer look at how the physical differences affect overall network performance. The Nexans Data Communications Competence Center (DCCC) lab in New Holland, PA, conducted several comparative tests on signal integrity in Category 5e and Category 6 cabling systems from various manufacturers. You can be the judge on whether these are important when making your cable selection.

Read the entire article.Cat5evCat6 ReelTime Article, Sept 2007

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Carol Oliver Berk-Tek Marketing Analyst