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Cat6 cable instead of a Cat5?

Can I use Cat6 cable on Cat5e?

Firstly, the modern standard for Cat5 is Cat5e which stands for Cat5 Enhanced.
This forms part of the current structured twisted pair cabling options which include:

  • Cat5e
  • Cat6
  • Cat6a
  • Cat7
  • Cat8

Cat5e or Cat6 cabling?

The question therefore should be which is better suited to my requirements, Cat5e or Cat6 cabling?

You can use a CAT6 cable instead of a Cat5e cable in almost all situations. The question is do you wish to or even need to?

All of the above data cabling standards work in a very similar way regarding how the cable and connectors are constructed. It is only in Cat7 and Cat8 that the connectors change slightly.

The main difference between Cat5e cables and Cat6 cables is the construction of the cable. The modules and patch panels pretty much look identical.

The cable construction with Cat6 usually has an additional plastic spacer through the middle of the cable to get the 4 copper pairs separated to reduce noise interference between the pairs.

This is the only time we have seen where a Cat5e cable had to be used instead of a Cat6 cable. The situation was inside a laboratory where Cat6 cables couldn’t be used as pathogens could potentially move along a broken sheath of a cable. The central plastic separator would be the cause of this as the pathogens could move the length of the cable and outside the sealed clean areas.


Comparing Cat5e Cabling and Cat6 Cabling

Are Cat6 cable and Cat5e cable connectors the same?

Yes, Cat6 and Cat5e cables typically use the same type of connectors. These are commonly known as RJ45 connectors.

These connectors have eight pins and are designed to terminate 4 sets of twisted pair cablesThus, allowing them to be connected to various network devices

The RJ45 connectors used in both Cat6 and Cat5e cables have the same physical dimensions and pinout configuration. This means that Cat6 and Cat5e cables can be plugged into the same network devices using the same connectors.


Data Cable Compatibility

However, it's important to note that while the connectors may be the same, the performance of the cable itself is different between Cat6 and Cat5e.

CAT6 cables have the same connectors as Cat5e cables. These are referred to as RJ45 connectors. Therefore, they can physically connect to the same network devices such as

  • PC’s
  • Switches
  • Routers
  • Wireless Access Points
  • CCTV Cameras
  • VOIP Telephones
  • Access Control
  • Audio Visual

Network Cabling Network Speed

CAT6 cables are designed to support higher network speeds and have stricter specifications for crosstalk and noise reduction compared to CAT5e cables.

Cat6 cables are designed to support higher network speeds than Cat5e cables.

So, while the connectors are compatible, using a CAT6 cable with CAT5e specifications will not provide the full performance capabilities of CAT6.

Thus, any copper cabling system will only ever be as good as the weakest part of the link

With regards to transmission speed, the bandwidth of a Cat6 cable is 250Mhz in comparison to only 100Mhz in a Cat5e cabling network.

Both cables have a standardised network speed of 1 Gigabit. However, Cat6 is capable of 10 Gigabit transmission up to 55 metres. Therefore, that extra headroom might be desired even with a 1 Gigabit network.

Cat5e and Cat6 Cable Length

Both Cat5e and Cat6 cables have a maximum recommended length of 90 metres permanent link and 100 meters direct link for reliable data transmission. This is the distance all copper cabling standards are tested and ratified at

As mentioned Cat6 is capable of higher transmission speeds such as 10 Gigabit at 55 metres but it isn’t a ratified standard

Therefore, when installing any type of network cabling it is important to keep to this limit to ensure signal quality and minimise potential data errors or performance issues.

Network Cabling Cost

Cat6 cables are typically more expensive than Cat5e cables due to their enhanced performance and construction. On a like-for-like manufacturer Cat6 cabling is on average around 20-25% more expensive.

Therefore, you should consider the specific requirements of your network before choosing between the two.

On a full installation, the difference will depend on:

  • The overall number of cables
  • Difficulty of installation
  • The Labour time involved.
  • Access Equipment
  • Containment

The more non-data cabling material elements there are on a project the close the average cost between Cat5e and Cat6 becomes as the set costs take up a larger part of the overall payout

Containment Requirements

The central plastic core of a Cat6 cable contributes to an overall larger diameter in the cable.

When individual cables are compared there isn’t a large distance between a Cat5e and Cat6 ethernet cable. However, when these cables are put into large looms or bunches the difference in overall size makes a big difference.

There is also the issue of the Cat6 cables needing a slightly bigger bending ratio and therefore tighter corners require larger room for the cables to fit

If these cables are to be put into a certain existing containment or within a set space, the overall size might be a very important consideration.

For example, if you have existing Dado trunking and the expected number of Cat6 cables won’t fit, it may be better to install Cat5e cabling. Thus, you save the cost and disruption of installing new containment by choosing a different cable

However, the first consideration should also be what performance my network requires

In summary, if your network infrastructure supports higher speeds and you're looking for future-proofing or better performance, using CAT6 cables can be beneficial. However, if your network operates at lower speeds and you don't require the additional capabilities of CAT6, then using CAT5 cables is a viable and cost-effective option.


Read more about the difference between cat5 and cat6