What is the difference between Cat6 and Cat5e Ethernet network cables?

Need to run an ethernet cable but unable to decide which one to buy between Cat5e cable and Cat6 cable? Well, stop worrying and read this updated guide to make an informed decision. 

Cat5e Cable

Cat5e cable is a fifth-generation enhanced ethernet cable. Before proceeding any further, let’s decipher the term first. The “cat” in the Cat5e cable refers to the category, 5 represents the generation, and “e” stands for enhanced. This cable supersedes Cat5 cable which is also a fifth-generation cable. 

The Cat5e Bulk transfers data at the rate of 1 Gbps over a distance of 50 meters (164 feet). The cable also transfers data at speed of 1000 Mbps when the length between the two devices increases to 328 feet or 100 meters. The cable has a bandwidth capacity of 350 MHz. It has eight conductors that are either made up of pure copper or copper-clad aluminum that are bundled together in 4 twisted pairs. Bundling conductors in twisted pairs help in preventing crosstalk and canceling EMI. As a result, these 2 elements do not mess with your signals and you enjoy complete and optimum connectivity. 

Cat5e Bulk is available in plenum jackets, riser jackets, and PVC jackets. Plenum jackets have fire-retardant properties and they are UV-resistant, too. Being fire-retardant cables, these jackets stop fire progression and emits no toxicity. You can use Cat5e Bulk plenum in riser and PVC spaces, too. However, it can’t be reversed due to safety reasons. Cat5e Riser is run in riser or vertical spaces as this jacket has fire-retardant properties, too. However, it is worth here to note that these cables are not made from as fine polyvinyl chloride as that of plenum jackets. 

PVC Cat5e ethernet cables make their way for installation in outdoor spaces. These cables are sunlight-resistant, UV-resistant, and also provide top-notch protection against usual outdoor chemicals. 

The Cat5e Cable comes in both copper and copper-clad aluminum conductors. The cable meets all standards such as FCC, CE, CSE, ISO/IES, and may even sometimes pass them. 

Cat6 Cable

Let’s decipher the term first. Cat points out towards category, and 6 points out towards its generation. It means Cat6 Cable is category 6th generation. The Cat6 Cable 1000ft transfers data at a rate of 10 Gbps when the distance between two devices is up to 50 meters or 164 feet. The same cable transfers data at the rate of 1 Gbps when the distance between two devices is up to 328 feet or 100 meters. The cable has a bandwidth capacity of 550 MHz. The higher bandwidth capacity means the cable keeps signal quality intact. 

Cat6 Cable is available in all three outer jackets: Plenum, riser, and PVC. Furthermore, Cat6 1000ft comes in both pure copper and copper-clad aluminum conductors. 

Difference between Cat6 Cable and Cat5e Cable

Following are the differences between Cat6 cable and Cat5 Cable: 

Data Transfer Rates

The first difference between the 2 cables is that of data transfer rates. Cat5e provides a maximum data transfer rate of 1 Gbps whereas Cat6 provides maximum data transfer rates of 10 Gbps. Cat5e delivers minimum data transfer rates of 100 Mbps whereas Cat6 delivers minimum data transfer rate of 1 Gbps. 

It means Cat6 delivers data transfer speed that is ten times faster than Cat5e. 


Cat5e cable comes with a bandwidth capacity of 350 MHz whereas Cat6 cable comes with a bandwidth capacity of 550 MHz. The more the bandwidth, the better will be the signal quality. 


Cat5e supports the following applications: ATM PMD 155 Mbps IEEE 802.3 Fast Ethernet:10 Base-T, IEEE 802.12:100 Base-VG, ANSI X3T9.5 TP-PMD (FDDI), 100 Base-T4, 100 Base-X IEEE 802.5:4/16 Mbps Token Ring.

Cat6 Cable supports the following applications: 100 Base-T4, ANSI X3T9.5 TP-PMD (FDDI), ATM PMD 155 Mbps IEEE 802.3 Fast, IEEE 802.12:100 Base-VG, Ethernet:10 Base-T, 100 Base-X IEEE 802.5:4/16 Mbps Token Ring.  

As far as the jacket material is concerned, the same material is used in the construction of the Cat5e plenum cable’s jacket as is used in the construction of the Cat6 plenum cable’s jacket. The number of conductors in both cables is also the same. Likewise, the numbers of twisted pairs in both cables are also the same. 

However, if there are no budget constraints, then you should always go for a Cat6 cable. This cable is not only backward compatible but installing it will also future-proof your network. Cat5e is an economical choice and is ideal for residential uses as well as gaming usage. 

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