Differences between Category 5, Cat5e, and Cat6 Patch Cables


Easy way to tell the difference between a Cat5e and Cat6 Patch Cable   

       Cat6                          Cat5e      

Will category 6 supersede category 5e?

Yes, analyst predictions and independent polls indicate that 80 to 90 percent of all new installations will be cabled with category 6. The fact that category 6 link and channel requirements are backward compatible to category 5e makes it very easy for customers to choose category 6 and supersede category 5e in their networks. Applications that worked over category 5e will work over category 6. - See more at:


Cat5 vs Cat6 Twists


Category 5e Cable


Category 5e (CAT5e) cable, also known as Enhanced Category 5, is designed to support full-duplex Fast Ethernet operation and Gigabit Ethernet. The main differences between CAT5 and CAT5e can be found in the specifications. The performance requirements have been raised slightly in the new standard (see comparison chart below).


CAT5e has stricter specifications for Power Sum Equal-Level Far-End Crosstalk (PS-ELFEXT), Near-End Crosstalk (NEXT), Attenuation, and Return Loss (RL) than those for CAT5. Like CAT5, CAT5e is a 100-MHz standard, but it has the capacity to handle bandwidth superior to that of CAT5. CAT5 cable is typically used for Ethernet networks running at 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps.


Cable twisting length is not standardized, but typically there are 1.5-2 twists per cm in Cat-5(e) and 2+ twists per cm in Cat-6. Within a single cable, each colored pair will also have different twist lengths based on prime numbers so that no two twists ever align. The amount of twists per pair is usually unique for each cable manufacturer. As you can see in the above picture, no two pairs have the same amount of twists per inch.


Category 6 Cable


Category 6 (CAT6) cable provides higher performance than CAT5e and features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise.


The quality of the data transmission depends upon the performance of the components of the channel. To transmit according to CAT6 specifications, jacks, patch cables, patch panels, cross-connects, and cabling must all meet CAT6 standards. The CAT6 components are tested individually, and they are also tested together for performance. In addition, the standard calls for generic system performance so that CAT6 components from any vendor can be used in the channel.


All CAT6 components must be backward compatible with CAT5e, CAT5, and CAT3. If different category components are used with CAT6 components, then the channel will achieve the transmission performance of the lower category. For instance, if CAT6 cable is used with CAT5e jacks, the channel will perform at a CAT5e level. 


Many Cat-6 cables also include a nylon spline which helps eliminate crosstalk. Although the spline is not required in Cat-5 cable, some manufactures include it anyway. In Cat-6 cable, the spline is not required either as long as the cable tests according to the standard. In the picture above, the Cat-5e cable is the only one with a spline.

While the nylon spline helps reduce crosstalk in the wire, the thicker sheath protects against near end crosstalk (NEXT) and alien crosstalk (AXT) which both occur more often as the frequency (Mhz) increases. In this picture the Cat-5e cable has the thinnest sheath, but it also was the only one with the nylon spline.

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