The Difference Between Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a

With new technology and automation advances, businesses can take full advantage of emerging opportunities concerning cabling infrastructure. Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a are the famous names you will come across when looking for Ethernet cable solutions for your business. Understanding the capabilities and distinctions between Ethernet cables is crucial, especially since these factors influence the speed, bandwidth, and stability. It will help you identify the best cable solution for your business needs. Below is a brief overview of the differences between these three Ethernet cables:


Cat5e is an enhanced version of the old Cat5. The suffix "e" stands for enhanced. Cat5 was the old standard that reached top speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) at a maximum (effective) distance of 100 meters. Cat5 cables had a bandwidth of 100 megahertz (MHz), which became significantly insufficient at the dawn of Gigabit internet. Cat5e cables offer speeds up to 1000mbps (or 1 gigabit per second) and a longer effective distance. Some of the benefits of Cat5e include better twisting and internal wire shielding, which reduces crosstalk, interference, and disconnect issues. Cat5e technology also minimizes the overreliance on shielding.


Cat6 was a significant leap from Cat5e, especially regarding speed. These cables offer top speeds of 10gbps (gigabit per second) at 55 meters effective distance and 250MHz bandwidth. Cat6 answered several problems that emerged from the Cat5e evolution. It came with a wide range of frequencies, supporting a lot of variation, different signal types, and sizes. Cat6 also allows robust data packages and more data waves to be packed and sent at a time. Cat6 also uses an enhanced way of twisting wires into tight pathways, offering a larger vehicle to transport data. What's more, it features a hollow core, which improves malleability and bending. However, despite its increased benefits, future-proof-conscious installers are currently phasing Cat6.


One of the immediate shortcomings of Cat6 cables was their short maximum effective distance. At only 55 meters, it necessitates additional cabling and extensions, especially for multi-property installations and data warehouse deployment. The introduction of Cat6a was to resolve this issue and maintain the same top speeds of 10gbps, albeit with a 100-meter effective distance and 500MHZ bandwidth. These adjustments make Cat6a ideal for modern cabling requirements, particularly communications that involve voice, extensive data, and video. Cat6a also provides an easy way to leap to high-speed cables such as Cat8.1. It is quite similar to Cat6 as multiple twisted wires and features hollow core.

Which Cable Should I Purchase?

Making network infrastructure decisions can be overwhelming if you have no previous experience or knowledge of what cable specifications mean for your business. As a rule of thumb, you should not deploy Cables lower than Cat5e, which is considered the low minimum requirement. If your network does not exceed 1gbps, there is no need to upgrade to better cables, unless you have some technology that cannot work with Cat5e. However, if you need more than 1gbps, and can reach all your routers, computes, and nodes within 55 meters, Cat6 would be the ideal solution. When your needs necessitate using a splicer, extender, or any other way to combine your Cat6 cables, it is time to upgrade to Cat6a. All in all, your unique needs will determine the type of Ethernet cables you install.