What are the differences? CAT5 to CAT8 explained.

What are the differences? CAT5 to CAT8 explained.

There are a few different "categories" of Ethernet cable available today. Each one has different capabilities, but the most important is the supported transmission speed. The table below summarizes the differences between the current standards.

Cable Category Maximum Length Transmission Speed
CAT5 100 Meters 0.1 Gbps
CAT5E 100 Meters 1 Gbps (2.5 Gbps with  IEEE 802.3bz devices)
CAT6 (250MHz) 100 Meters 1 Gbps  (5 Gbps with  IEEE 802.3bz devices)
CAT6E (550MHz) 100 Meters 100 Meters @ 1 Gbps
55 Meters @ 10 Gbps
CAT6A 100 Meters 10 Gbps
CAT7 100 Meters 10 Gbps
CAT8 30 Meters 40 Gbps

All categories of cables are available today (except CAT5), so the big debate is about what type or "category" of cable to use to give the best performance. It's not an easy decision, so we have outlined the differences below:


We are only mentioning this type for historical purposes; the maximum transmission speed was only 100 Mbps. Outstanding performance in 1995, now not so much.

CAT5 cable is no longer produced, mainly due to its lack of performance, and being superseded by the Cat 5e standard.


Today, this is one of the most widely used standards. CAT5E cable is capable of performing up to 350 Mhz and capable of speeds up to 1 Gbps.

The "E" stands for enhanced; the "enhancement" is due to a better design that significantly reduces crosstalk over the older CAT5 standard.

As you can see the answer to one of the most asked questions is YES CAT5E is capable of 1 Gbps networking!

The IEEE 802.3bz standard allows 2.5 Gbps speed over CAT5E cabling with the appropriate networking equipment.


The CAT6 standard gives higher performance than CAT5E. CAT6 can perform up to 250 MHz, and is also designed for 1 Gbps networking.

So, this is where there is a large amount of debate, if both the CAT5E and CAT6 standards are designed to support the same speed then what's the real difference? As we just mentioned, the CAT6 standard supports higher frequencies, and this means that it can provide that Gigabit speed more reliably and efficiently.

What does that mean? If you had a 100-meter run of both CAT5E and CAT6 in the same environment, the chances are that the CAT6 cable run would run at 1 Gbps more consistently. It is for this reason that it is recommended to use CAT6, being more "future proof" than using CAT5E.

The IEEE 802.3bz standard allows up to 5 Gbps speed over CAT6 cabling with the appropriate networking equipment.


There is no such standard, really… It has never been recognized or endorsed as a standard by the TIA or ISO, so why are we mentioning it?

CAT6E is more of a marketing term, it is used to indicate that the cable is rated at 550MHz instead of the 250MHz standard of CAT6. The big difference is that as it sweep tests to 550MHz you can get 10Gbps performance up to 180ft with these cables. That alone can be a game changer for some use cases.

All our CAT6 Patch Cables are rated at 550MHz.


This standard is the next evolution of the CAT6/CAT6E type described above. The "A" is for augmented. CAT6A has a significant performance increase over CAT6/CAT6E, designed for 10 Gbps networking over 100 meters.

There is not an increase in supported frequency (Mhz), but the construction of the cable significantly reduces cross talk of all types allowing much larger bandwidth.

CAT6A is still a copper, twisted pair cable using RJ45 connectors, so yes you can use it in your home network.


The CAT7 standard has even stricter specifications than CAT6A and unlike all the previous categories does not come in an unshielded variant.

CAT7 supports 10 Gbps networking just like CAT6A but is seen to produce more reliable results, mainly due to its double-shielded construction.

Additionally, this standard wasn't recognized by the TIA/EIA organizations.


CAT8 is for data center applications, primarily designed to interconnect switches, servers, blade chassis, etc. The standard has two classes:

  • Class I (CAT8.1) - Meant to be used with 8P8C RJ45 connectors
  • Class II (CAT8.2) - Meant to be used with Tera or GG45 connectors

The advantage of using copper over fiber in the cases mentioned above is that copper devices are more energy-efficient than their fiber counterparts. A definite advantage for data center providers seeking power and cooling savings.

Time to decide!

As you can see the decision on what cable type to use is not that black and white. Loosely speaking CAT5E and CAT6 are standards for home networking, anything above is for business and enterprise. Only you can decide, but take into account:

  • How much do you want to/can you spend
  • Am I going to be running near the maximum speed regularly
  • Does the environment have noisy electrical sources
  • How long will the cables be installed for (future-proofing)