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Patch Cable vs. Ethernet Cable: What’s the Difference?

Patch Cable vs. Ethernet Cable: What’s the Difference?

Posted by NavePoint on Feb 3rd 2022

If you Google “Ethernet patch cable” you’ll get almost 2 million hits. It’s no wonder that shopping for patch cables can be confusing. For starters, there can be uncertainty about the difference between the terms “Ethernet cable” and “patch cable.” Also, patch cables are offered in different categories, such as the popular Cat5e and Cat6.

This blog post clears up what makes a patch cable a patch cable and outlines the differences between Cat5e and Cat6.

What Patch Cables Do

In a typical corporate office, the PCs are connected via Ethernet cables to a central network hub or switch, located in an IT room or closet. The hub or switch allows the PCs to communicate with one another on the network and to access files from servers. Also in the room are other network devices such as servers, routers and network media players. All these devices are connected, typically through patch panels. With its multiple ports, a patch panel is a switchboard of sorts that employs short Ethernet patch cables with connectors on both ends to make it easier to reconfigure the routing of the devices.

So, Ethernet patch cables are basically short Ethernet cables with connectors on both ends. They are used with patch panels but also with VOIP phones and to connect workstations to wall outlets.

Cat5e vs. Cat6

Like the longer Ethernet cables, Ethernet patch cables are offered in different categories. Below we highlight the four most crucial items to consider when choosing Cat5e and Cat6 Ethernet patch cables:

  • The cable’s maximum data rate, which is measured in megabits or gigabits per second.
  • The longest distance it can maintain that data rate.
  • The cable’s bandwidth (in megahertz), which determines how much data can be transferred at any one time.
  • Whether or not the conductors are shielded − with unshielded cables being more flexible and thus easier to install, and shielded cables offering more protection against electromagnetic and radio interference (EMI/RFI).

Cat5e cable is the minimum standard unshielded twisted pair cabling used for LAN drops. It is used in 100Base-T Ethernet. It has a bandwidth of 100 MHz. Its maximum data rate and distance are 1 Gbps at up to 100 meters, a big upgrade over the 100 Mbps rate of Cat5 cables.

Cat6 offers more stringent specs for cross talk and system noise than Cat5e. Cat6 cables can carry gigabit Ethernet in commercial buildings. It is also used for phone lines and in residences. It is available shielded or unshielded. It has a bandwidth of 250 MHz, and its data rate and distance are 1 Gbps at up to 100 meters and 10 Gbps at up to 37 meters.

We hope this helps simplify your choices in selecting Ethernet patch cables. The category you choose depends largely on the cable’s data rate, the distance it can maintain that rate, the bandwidth you need, and whether you require shielding.

NavePoint has more than 120 Ethernet patch cables in Cat5e and Cat6. Our cables are available in several colors and a dozen lengths. Most are in-stock and ready to ship with FREE standard shipping. To see our Ethernet patch cable selection, click here. Also feel free to email us at or call us at 1-888-505-1363.