What is the confusion about Cat 6 network cable?

Within the networking fraternity there is debate on-going about the Ethernet cable that is being used. Today there is Cat 5, Cat5e bulk cable and Cat 6 cable available on the market and the confusion appears to be focused on whether Cat 5e or Cat 6 is the best solution.

Much of the misunderstanding comes from the fact that the proponents of Cat 6 say that you will have “all Gigabyte” network when you are finished; unfortunately this is rarely the case. Although the network cable will be Gigabyte, unless every component in the network is Gigabyte rated then your network will only be rated at the speed of the slowest device. Although Cat 6 cable is designed and manufactured to guarantee 1 Gbps and Cat 5e is not, high quality Cat 5e bulk cable can run at or very neat these speeds, it just can’t be certified as such.

What it boils down to is whether you want to spend the money for a Cat 6 cable which is certified to perform at 1 Gbps or use Cat 5e cable which can operate at that speed. Is an imperceptible improvement in performance worth the extra money? In most cases the answer is “No” and sticking with cat 5e is the best solution. Most new installations in the private sector are being made using cat 5e cable, it is far less expensive, it performs very well and it is readily available in bulk form or in made up assemblies complete with the Ethernet plugs and it comes in a variety of colors to make installations easier. For those who insist on using Cat 6 for their network, when asked why the usual reaction is “I want the best that I can get”. People who think this way are often not aware that Cat 5e cable provides them with all the benefits of Cat 6 at far less money.

There are significant benefits to step up to Cat 5e from Cat 5 however. Cat 5 cable supports 10/100 Ethernet which is Ethernet and Fast Ethernet, Cat 5e will support these two as well as Gigabyte Ethernet. It is backwards compatible and can comfortably be used anywhere that Cat 5 cable has been used. There is less interference between the wire pairs and the cable has enhanced bandwidth carrying capabilities.

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