As one type of copper cabling, twisted pair wiring is widely adopted for Ethernet networks which wraps the two conductors of a single circuit together. Nowadays, many kinds of twisted pair cables are available in the market. To specify the cable wiring standards, the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) and Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) have defined twisted pair cables into a series of categories, such as Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat 7, etc. This article will put emphasis on the two common categories of Cat 5e and Cat 6 to see their differences and which one to choose for your application.
Two standards of T568A and T568B can be used to wire Cat 5e and Cat 6 Ethernet cables. The only difference between T568A and T568B is that the green/green strip and orange/orange strip wire positions are swapped. In general, T568B is more popular for office and commercial networks. But no matter which wiring standard you choose, the most important thing is to continue with the selected standard for consistency. The following picture shows the concrete structure of T568A and T568B wiring.
Data speed is important for cable selections. You have to choose the cable that is equivalent to what is running on it. As for Cat 5e cable, it can support 1 Gigabit Ethernet. While Cat 6 can support higher data rate of 10 Gigabit Ethernet. This is because Cat 6 cable performs up to 250 MHz, which is more than twice that of Cat 5e cable with 100 MHz.
The common ground for Cat 5e and Cat 6 cables is that they are all designed for short distance data transmission because they are made of copper wires. If the cable is used for lower data rate transfer, both Cat 5e and Cat 6 are able to reach the maximum length of 100 meters. However, when the data rate achieves the maximum speed, Cat 5e cable can only reach 50 meters and Cat 6 with 37 meters.
Compared with Cat 5e cables, the cost of Cat 6 cables is typically 10 to 20% more expensive because of higher transmission speed. But the price of these cables are comparatively cheap, which only takes up a small portion of the total budget. For the consideration of your application, Cat 6 might be a better choice if higher data rate is required. The additional cost can save you more money in the long run.
Traditionally, Cat 5e cable is run for the business telephones. But using Cat 6 cable with a phone might be a waste. Cat 6 is suited for broadband video and digital video applications because of the lower signal losses and better transmission performance at higher frequencies compared with Cat 5e.
The answer is yes. Regardless of a possibly different coating on the pins, Cat 5e and Cat 6 are both employing the RJ45 plug standard which makes them compatible to each other. But you can only receive a limited speed of the lowest link in the chain. Therefore, if you want to receive the best performance of cables, you should better use the matching components for your application.
Cat 5e and Cat 6 are two different categories of twisted pair cabling. The major difference between them is the data speed. Cat 6 has a higher speed than Cat 5e which accordingly varies their maximum length, cost and application. All these factors are important for you to make a choice between Cat 5e and Cat 6. Moreover, if higher speed over long distance is demanded, fiber optic cables might be a better solution.