Written by: Jason Gazaway

This is part 1 of a series devoted to the most asked questions about Ethernet cabling and accessories. If you have a question that you would like answered or addressed, please leave a comment below or feel free to contact one of our Awesome CK team members either by Live Chat or Email. Now on to the FAQ’s!


What are the differences between Cat5E, Cat6 and Cat6A Cables?

While a Cat5E Ethernet Cable is currently sufficient for most needs, it is predicted that Cat6 and Cat6A will take over in the future. Cat6 cables simply offer better performance.

Cat5E gives an available bandwidth of up to 350MHz, whereas Cat6 almost doubles that – with an available bandwidth of up to 550MHz. Cat6 is designed specifically for Gigabit Ethernet specifications. While most systems are not capable of running such speeds, many organizations are choosing to prepare for future needs by going with Cat6 cables.

Cat6 can run much faster speeds than Cat5E, and Cat6A only improves upon those abilities. Cat6 also benefits from improved insertion loss, return loss and several other improvements over the older Cat5E design.

Cat5E, Cat6 and Cat6A Ethernet Cables can all run about 300 feet reliably.


What is the difference between stranded, solid cable, and plenum rated cables?

Cat 5E, 6 and 6a can all be purchased in stranded or solid wire construction.  The core of the Ethernet cable is comprised of insulated strands of copper so that it can be flexed repeatedly without the copper cores of the conductors breaking.

Solid Cat5E is primarily used for in wall/permanent applications. The cable cores are comprised of one single solid strand of copper. This allows the cable to carry signals over longer distances but cannot be flexed too many times without the copper cores breaking.

Plenum is primarily used for in wall/permanent applications where the local building codes require its use as the low smoke/flame retardant jacket reduces the amount of toxic fumes that are released into air when the jacket is burned.


What is the difference between crossover and straight through cables?

Straight through cables provide a connection that only allows one end to communicate at any given moment. They are appropriate for connecting a computer to a switch, for instance. For applications where both devices are similar, a crossover cable is necessary so both can communicate at the same time.

With a straight through cable, two computers would attempt to use the same channel to transmit information, essentially cancelling one another out.


What is the definition of AWG? What is the AWG of Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a cables?

AWG stands for American Wire Gauge. It is the common measurement used in the U.S. and Canada to determine the thickness of a wire made for electrical purposes. First established in 1857, AWG originally measured basic solid wire. Now it is used to measure stranded wire as well, which can lead to some confusion when looking at a cable to determine AWG. Stranded wire contains air pockets, which can make a cable look much bigger than it is.

Gauge size can be counterintuitive for some, as smaller numbers mean larger diameters. Cat6 cables, with their improved performance abilities, run slightly thicker than their Cat5e counterparts.

Cat5E cables usually run between 24 and 26 AWG, while Cat 6 and Cat6A usually run between 22 and 24 AWG.


What are the differences between the connectors & couplers for Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A Cables?

With each improvement in technology, going from Cat5E to Cat6 to Cat6A cables, we see better performance. This holds true for the connectors and couplers as well as the cables. So a Cat6 connector will perform better than a Cat5E connector. If you use higher-grade cables like Cat6, you should also use connectors and couplers created for that level of performance.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of our FAQs to learn even more about our Ethernet cabling and accessories.

For more information on Ethernet cabling and network cabling check out our Untangling Network Cable Types blog.

Not familiar with CablesAndKits? Check out our Top 9 Reasons to Choose CablesAndKits.

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