Written by Stu Kushner

Basic Comparison of Cat5e and Cat6a Cables

In the early 2000s, Cat5e became the standard network cable for new installations. When it was introduced, Cat5e provided speeds that were 10 times faster than Cat5 and was less susceptible to crosstalk. Soon after, Cat6 was introduced in 2002, and Cat6a was introduced in 2008, offering even greater speed and performance.

Physical Differences

Both Cat5e and Cat6a typically use four twisted pairs in each cable, incorporating copper wires. However, a Cat6a cable has more exacting specifications, featuring improved shielding and an outer sheath that significantly decreases crosstalk and system noise.

Unlike Cat5e, a spline or longitudinal separator is a design feature of a Cat6a cable, which isolates each pair of twisted wire, and makes it stiffer. Thicker Cat6a cables are both more costly and difficult to install than Cat5e. Thus, Cat6a cables are better suited for industrial rather than residential deployments.

Both types of cable are backwards compatible, which means they can work with older kinds of cabling and equipment.

Performance

Cat6a cables will provide lower crosstalk, higher signal-to-noise ratio, and are compatible for 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T). In contrast, Cat5e cables support only up to 1 GigE or Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T). Cat6a cables offer performances up to 500 MHz. In contrast, Cat5e provide only up to 100 MHz.

Cat6a has significantly less interference and NEXT (near-end crosstalk), than Cat5e. The ELFEXT (equal level far end crosstalk) performance of Cat6 cable is also superior. As a result, Cat6a systems perform with less errors and higher data rates in signal transmission than Cat5e. Healthcare facilities and educational institutions have made Cat6a the minimum standard for their new installations.

Pricing

Pricing of Cat5e and Cat6a cables will depend on the maker and dealer and the total length of cabling purchased. Generally, Cat6a cables are 50% more expensive than Cat5e. However, the leap in performance and speed provided by Cat6a may make the investment worthwhile in the near term. For the long run, Cat6a will help future proof a business because the data demands of enterprise applications will continue to expand rapidly into the future.

Progressive Office Cabling

Founded in 1986, Progressive Office’s success has been a direct result of years of commitment to seeking cost-effective solutions. Working together, Progressive teams are committed to getting your data cables installed and operating while minimizing disruption and downtime. Call our toll free number (800) 614-4560 today.

About Stu Kushner

Stu Kushner earned an Engineering Degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. From there he worked at Boeing Commercial Aircraft, Hexcel Corporation and Case-Rixon as a computer design engineer and systems manager. He now works as the marketing director and project manager here at Progressive Office since its founding in 1986.

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