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Cat 5e vs Cat 6

Cat 5e vs Cat 6

Posted by NavePoint on Oct 30th 2020

“Cat” is short for Category. There are many different varieties of cable categories including Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat 7, Cat 8… etc. Cat 5 and Cat 6 are by far the most common cable categories in the market.

Although these cables are used for a variety of purposes, they are most used as network cables alongside with RJ45 connectors.

Although Cat 6 comes with a marginally higher price tag, Cat 6 outperforms Cat 5 in most performance categories including less crosstalk, less power waste, higher data transfer rate, and higher data transfer speed.

If cost is not a concern, Cat 6 or higher is the better choice to future proof the system.

However, why spend more if you do not need to?


As mentioned previously, Cat 6 comes with a marginally higher price tag then the CAT 5e. Comparing similar products on the market as of today, CAT 6 cables are roughly 25% to 35% more expensive than CAT 5e cables. The difference in cost may be significant for larger installations, but (for 1000 ft. bulk cables) the $13 to $17 USD difference may be insignificant to mid and small installers where future proofing the system is far more valuable.

Contact NavePoint’s sales representatives for more information about NavePoint’s offerings and prices.


Crosstalk is the electromagnetic signal interference between the electronic equipment (including cables) when they are too close with each other. Crosstalk increases errors, lost packets and more.

Newer versions of cat cables reduce the impact of crosstalk through a variety of methods, including improved shielding and twisted cable design.

For example, a CAT 5E Ethernet patch cable from NavePoint has an average insulation thickness of 0.185mm, while the CAT 6 Ethernet patch cable from NavePoint has an average insulation thickness of 0.21mm, or 13.5% thicker.

Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Power over Ethernet PoE) is a system that safely transfer electrical power, along with data, to other devices over standard data cables in an Ethernet network. The technology is most often standardized by Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standard IEEE 802.3 since 2003 under alternative A, alternative B, and 4PPoE.

Under the IEEE 802.3at-2009 standard (Type 2 PoE+) for Cat 5 cables or better, PoE device manufactures can supply up to 30W of power over a 328 ft (100m) distance.

This technology allows low voltage applications or devices such as wireless access points, IP cameras, VoIP phone systems, IPTV decoders, access controls, and more to be connected via Cat 5e cable reducing cable clutter, and eliminating the need for dedicated power supplies to allow PoE devices to be installed in remote locations.

Under the newest IEEE 802.3at-2018 standard (Type 3 & Type 4 PoE++) for Cat 5 cables or better, PoE++ enables the maximum power delivery by PSE to reach 60W and 100W for Type 3 and Type 4 respectively.

However, it is important to note the importance of picking Cat 6 over Cat 5e for applications requiring the higher data transfer speed, power delivery, and lower signal noise because, generally, the smaller conductor in Cat 5e cables compared to Cat 6 will have a higher resistance, leading to higher heat generation, which leads to lower performance and longevity.

As data consumption continues to grow at a astounding pace, current low voltage applications, such as IP cameras, may soon require the faster speed and the lower conductor resistance offered in Cat 6 cables. Therefore, it is important to review both the current and future needs of each applications to prevent a future overhaul due to infrastructure limitations.

Cat 5e (Max. speed up to 1 Gbps at 100 MHz)

Comparing Cat 5 enhanced (Cat 5e) to Cat 6, Cat 5e is less expensive, easier to install because the cable is thinner, and slower. It supports data transfer speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) at 100 MHz up to 328 feet. It will provide capable performance for most of today’s applications, but Cat 5e also leaves less opportunity for upgrading in the future.

Check out the NavePoint Cat 5e Ethernet Patch Cables

Cat 6 (Max. speed up to 10 Gbps at 250 MHz)

As mentioned previously, Cat 6 is pricier and faster than Cat 5e, but Cat 6 limited by distance. Cat 6 supports data transfer speeds up to 10 Gbps at 250 MHz. However, its 10 Gbps speed is effective only up to 164 feet, which is half the distance of Cat 5e’s 328 feet (at 1 Gbps). 

Despite this limitation, most ethernet cables are traveling in relatively short distances, and Cat 6 cabling is more qualified to handle the fast pace of Gigabit Ethernet networks.

Check out the NavePoint Cat 6 Ethernet Patch Cables

Choosing Cat 5e vs Cat 6

It is important to note that network transmission speed depends on all the components being able to operate on the higher speed.

Imagine an ethernet cable as a highway, the maximum transfer rate (MHz) is the number of lanes, and the maximum transfer speed (Gbps) is the speed limit. In the end, the effectiveness of the highway depends on the traffic it will receive today and in the future.

If a higher speed is required in the future, in less than 164 feet, we recommend the Cat 6 cables. A higher upfront cost is a small price to pay when comparing the cost of labor and time required to replace the Cat 5e cables in the future.

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