Just a few years ago, the choice of Ethernet cable for residential usage was Category 5 or 5e. In most cases, Cat 5e is still perfectly fine. However, there can be a need for the more expensive Cat 6 cable. We will try to explain the difference between these two cables and then which should be selected and why.

First, the name category 5, 5e or 6 cables is wrong. The correct cable name is Unshielded Twisted Pair, UTP. UTP is the broad heading for the cable type and it refers to its construction. The cable is unshielded and the copper conductors are twisted together in pairs. The amount of pairs of copper wires can vary from 1 to thousands of pairs. There are 4 pairs of wires in each cable for Ethernet network use.

Ethernet cables are rated for performance into sequentially numbered categories (“cat”) based on different specifications specifically for use in Ethernet networking; sometimes the category is updated with further clarification or testing standards. As the category number gets higher, so does the speed and megahertz (Mhz) capibility of the cable.

Here is a very important point. As mentioned in the above paragraph the “category” rating is for Ethernet usage only. UTP cables are used for many things in the home and business. It is a very versatile cable type and can be used to carry audio signals, video signals, doorbells, lighting controls, landline telephones, etc. It is very easy to get confused about the functions of the cable can. In this article we are focusing on the use for Ethernet networking.

There are two main physical differences between Cat-5 and Cat-6 cables, the number of twists per cm in the wire, and the thickness of the copper wires. While cable twisting length is not standardized, typically Cat 5e has 1.5-2 twists per cm and Cat 6 has 2 or more twists per cm. The additional twists help cut down interference and increase speed. A nylon spline inserted into some manufacturers Cat 6 cable helps eliminate crosstalk in the wire and makes for a heftier cable.

We will go deeper into the uses of this cable type in future articles.

For a more indepth look at cables, go to http://www.howtogeek.com/70494/what-kind-of-ethernet-cat-5e6a-cable-should-i-use/