What is the difference between Cat5 and Cat6 cables?

You’ve probably seen a cable at some point — whether this is at your home or at work. Cables are a vital part of any working network because they lay the groundwork for speed, bandwidth, and overall performance.

However, there are different standards of network cables, and this can lead to a great deal of confusion. What are the differences between all of these cables and how do you know which cable is right for you or your business?

Well, let’s go ahead and start with something simple. What’s the difference between Cat5 and Cat6 cables?

Cat5 (or Cat5e)

Cat5 cables can handle speeds up to 100 Mbps and at a bandwidth of up to 100 MHz.

The color of the Cat5 cable does not make a difference in speed or bandwidth. In fact, the color of a cable does not matter in any instance. The color simply helps keep cabling infrastructures organized.

About 15 years ago, however, Cat5 cables actually became obsolete and were replaced with Cat5e cables. Because of this, you probably won’t come across a Cat5 cable anymore.

Cat5e stands for Category 5 enhanced (“cat” always stands for category). Cat5e is an “enhanced” version of a Cat5 cable, and it can handle speeds up to 1000 Mbps. This newer model can also reduce crosstalk, which means it can limit the degree of signal interference.

You’re likely to find Cat5e cables inside homes with built-in network jacks.


Cat6 cables are capable of handling greater speeds and more bandwidth than Cat5e cables. These cables can handle speeds up to 10 Gb and at a bandwidth of up to 250 MHz. The amount of crosstalk reduced is also much greater than Cat5e cables.

Cat6 cables also come with internal separators and are “future proof” for newer technologies.

These cables are generally used in business settings where working professionals require greater speeds and overall better performance.

Which cable do you need?

The type of cable you need will vary depending on what type of performance you need. However, performance is typically determined by whether or not the cables are needed for commercial or residential purposes.

Like mentioned previously, commercial settings usually require better performance (which means Cat6 cables are ideal). And residential settings can probably get by just fine with Cat5e cables.

But this isn’t set in stone. Cost, maintenance, and longterm goals also need to be considered. If you need help determining which cable is right for your business, then send us a message today. We’d love to help.

If you’re looking for more information on cabling, networks, and business infrastructures, check out LAN 101: 3 things your team can do with a LAN.