CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, ... What is the best option for you ?

03.12.20 02:45 PM By Julie

Understand the challenges and advantages of the different Ethernet cable categories

Often defined as the "plumbing pipes of the Internet", Ethernet encompasses an entire range of twisted pair and fiber cables that are constantly being upgraded and standardized by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Each new category of Ethernet improves upon noise cancelation and supports increasingly faster bandwidth speeds.

Different Twisted Pair Ethernet Categories

Each new generation introduces copper pairs with tighter twists and more complex sheathing. Many earlier Ethernet generation cables have become obsolete as the CAT3 and CAT5. However, CAT5e is now the default Ethernet category of choice thanks to its ability to support faster speeds and frequencies.

 CAT5 CAT5e CAT6 CAT6e
 Max Data Transmission Speed (Mbit/s) 100 Mbps
(100BASE-TX)
1 000 Mbps (with 1000BASE-T) 
2 500 Mbps (with 2.5GBASE-T)
5 000 Mbps (with 5GBASE-T) **
5 000 Mbps (with 5GBASE-T)
10 000 Mbps (with 10GBASE-T)**

 10 000 Mbps (with 10GBASE-T)
Cable rating (Mhz)
 100 MHz 100 MHz 250 MHz 500 MHz

 ** At shorter cable length, it is possible to use cables of a lower grade than what is required for 100 m. For example, it is possible to use 10GBASE-T on a CAT6 cable of 55 m or less. Likewise, 5GBASE-T is expected to work with Cat5e in most use cases up to 55 m.

CAT5

The CAT5 cable provides a bandwidth of up to 100MHz, and its speed can range from 10Mbps to a maximum of 100 Mbps. The downside of Cat5 cable is that it is more susceptible to crosstalk (interference). Therefore CAT5, considered obsolete, has been replaced by CAT5e.

CAT5e
"E” for enhanced, CAT5e cable supports higher speed than CAT5 cable and adheres to more stringent IEEE standards. 
More flexible, you can bend it to fit it in smaller spaces. Moreover, CAT5e offers a lower-noise version where the potential for crosstalk, meaning interference that transfers from adjacent wires, is reduced. 
Today, CAT5e is the most common type of cabling used due to its flexibility and its ability to support Gigabit speeds at a cost-effective price.
You have billions of meters of CAT5e deployed in the world. They can support up 1Gbps or up 2.5 Gbps.
CAT6

CAT6 cables, more tightly wound, also sport thicker sheaths in comparison to CAT5e. Though standard Ethernet supports distances of up to 100 meters, CAT6 cable only supports 37-55 meters when transmitting 10 Gbps speeds. Its thicker sheath protects against Near-End Crosstalk and Alien Crosstalk.

Even though CAT6 and CAT6e cabling offer higher performance rates, many LANs still opt for CAT5e due to its cost-effectiveness and ability to support Gigabit speeds. 

CAT6e
CAT6e supports bandwidth frequencies twice the amount of CAT6 cable, and can support 10Gbps.
But the stronger sheathing makes CAT6e cabling considerably thicker than CAT6, making it less flexible to work with. Therefore better suited for industrial environments.


Do you know why copper pairs are twisted?

Twisting the copper cable every 3-4 utility poles allowed for the reduction of electromagnetic interference and an increase in range. Ethernet copper cables adopted the same technique to reduce crosstalk between internal wires (XT) and external wires (AXT).


Source: Demystifying Ethernet Types


Why we should all like CAT5e ?

    • CABLES : With more than 70 billion meters of CAT5e cables deployed today across the world, we do not want to open every wall to replace the cables. Assuming it is even possible, … cost estimates to remove cat5e can scale to unreasonable budgets per building. 
    • INTERFACES Most of the devices having an Ethernet port always supports CAT5e, laptop, switchers, PC, ...
    • COST : CAT5e is still the most common type of cabling used for deployments due to its ability to support Gigabit speeds at a cost-effective price. Therefore, we have to find a solution to move on with these cables whatever the video resolutions. 
    • intoPIX innovationsCompression is a MUST if we don't want to change all the existing infrastructure. Great news, intoPIX has developed unique video compression solutions preserving pristine quality and offering extremely low latency. Exactly what is needed for you to leverage existing CAT5e IP infrastructures. Ever heard about TICO-XS? 

"The lightweight low-power intoPIX TICO-XS solutions distribute true 4K60 444 over standard CAT5e cables & switchers, while preserving low latency & high quality with super-low complexity and cost"

From HD to 4K to 8K, your AV journey starts with intoPIX & CAT5e 

The lightweight low-power TICO-XS FPGA cores and FastTICO-XS SDKs software implementations allow preserving low latency & high quality with super-low complexity: it offers upgrade capability to new formats (4K/8K) on existing cables (CAT5e). Interoperability can even be guaranteed thanks to the use of open ST2110 & JPEG XS standards.

TICO-XS IP-Cores
FastTICO-XS SDKs

Uncompressed is not an option anymore !

intoPIX compression technology helps to manage more pixels over a limited bandwidth using existing devices and infrastructures. The TICO-XS technology helps you to manage higher resolutions, frame rates and number of streams, while keeping the uncompressed visual quality with no latency and a very low hardware/software complexityIn addition to power consumption savings, intoPIX compression reduces BOM cost thanks to cheaper switches, less cabling, smaller FPGAs and a better use of CPU/GPU processing power. 

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