data_cable_differecnes

Bandwidth for networks is like lanes for motorways. Doubling the bandwidth is like adding twice the number of lanes on a motorway. The trends of the past and the predictions for the future indicate that data rates have been doubling every 18 months. Current applications running at 1 Gb/s are really pushing the limits of category 5e cabling. As streaming media applications such as video and multi-media become commonplace, the demands for faster data rates will increase and spawn new applications that will benefit from the higher bandwidth offered by category 6.

This is exactly what happened in the early 90’s when the higher bandwidth of category 5 cabling compared to category 3 caused most LAN applications to choose the better media to allow simpler, cost effective, higher speed LAN applications, such as 100BASE-TX. Note: Bandwidth is defined as the highest frequency up to which positive power sum ACR (Attenuation to Crosstalk Ratio) is greater than zero.

What is the general difference between category 5e and category 6 ? 

The general difference between category 5e and category 6 is in the transmission performance, and extension of the available bandwidth from 100 MHz for category 5e to 200 MHz for category 6. This includes better insertion loss, near end crosstalk (NEXT), return loss, and equal level far end crosstalk (ELFEXT). These improvements provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio, allowing higher reliability for current applications and higher data rates for future applications.

Will category 6 supersede category 5e ? 

Yes, analyst predictions and independent polls indicate that 80 to 90 percent of all new installations will be cabled with category 6. The fact that category 6 link and channel requirements are backward compatible to category 5e makes it very easy for customers to choose category 6 and supersede category 5e in their networks. Applications that worked over category 5e will work over category 6.

What does category 6 do for my current network vs. category 5e ?

Because of its improved transmission performance and superior immunity from external noise, systems operating over category 6 cabling will have fewer errors vs. category 5e for current applications. This means fewer re-transmissions of lost or corrupted data packets under certain conditions, which translates into higher reliability for category 6 networks compared to category 5e networks.

When should I recommend or install category 6 vs. category 5e ?

From a future proofing perspective, it is always better to install the best cabling available. This is because it is so difficult to replace cabling inside walls, in ducts under floors and other difficult places to access. The rationale is that cabling will last at least 10 years and will support at least four to five generations of equipment during that time. If future equipment running at much higher data rates requires better cabling, it will be very expensive to pull out category 5e cabling at a later time to install category 6 cabling. So why not do it for a premium of about 20 percent over category 5e on an installed basis ?