Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a: What’s the Difference?

Written by
Home Controls
Published on
May 12, 2017 11:00:00 AM PDT May 12, 2017 11:00:00 AM PDTth, May 12, 2017 11:00:00 AM PDT

Having a smart home means there’s a good chance you might have to use Ethernet cable to connect various devices to your home network. Although some devices may offer wireless connectivity, a wired connection usually provides a faster and more reliable connection. But like everything else that has to do with technology, cables have also gone through various upgrades to keep up with faster LAN speeds. So the question is, what Ethernet cable to use: Cat5e, Cat6, or Cat6a?

Ultimately, each cable can be used to connect devices in a network since each has a standard RJ-45 end, but there are differences in their capabilities, primarily in the Gigabit Ethernet speed, the frequency amount, and their ability to reduce crosstalk.

A Quick Guide of Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a Cables

Cat5e Cable

An upgrade from the old Category 5 cable, Cat5e (Cat 5 enhanced) cable was designed to greatly reduce crosstalk and improve performance with up to 10 times faster speeds than its predecessor Category 5 cable. As the oldest of the bunch, Cat5e cable has been around for more than 15 years and was the first to deliver 1000 Mbps speeds (Gigabit Ethernet) at 100 MHz and at distances of up to 328 feet. But keep in mind that nowadays 1 Gigabit network speed is considered the bare minimum by some pundits in the industry. Cat5e cable is still used today and will work just fine in average home networks, so there isn’t the need to upgrade right away, unless of course you want to future-proof your home network.

Cat6 Cable

As the standard cable used for high-speed Gigabit Ethernet networks, Category 6 (Cat6) cable supports up to 10 Gigabits Ethernet at 250 MHz. But even though it supports up to 10 Gigabits of data, it does have a limited bandwidth up to 164 feet – anything beyond that reduces the speed to that of Cat5e cable, which is 1 Gigabit Ethernet. Cat6 cable also has more insulation on both the individual wires and outside sheathing, which helps reduce a substantial amount of crosstalk with other cables, making it ideal for office and commercial settings where cables tend to get bundled together.

Cat6a Cable

As the most advanced Ethernet cable available to date, Cat6a (Augmented Category 6) cable supports up to 10 Gigabits Ethernet at 500 MHz. And even though it provides the same 10 Gigabits of data as Cat6 cable, it does not have a limited bandwidth of 164 feet – it can actually maintain 10 Gigabit speeds for the full 328 feet of Ethernet cable. It has a thick plastic casing with additional, tighter twists and more insulation to reduce crosstalk. It’s also ideal for office and commercial settings, especially for when higher demands for internal network speed is needed.

If you need assistance with deciding which cable to use, please don’t hesitate to contact us for free tech support and product advice. Home Controls is always willing to help. Just call our toll free number at 858-693-8887 (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific, Monday – Friday).