If you have ever viewed cables online, you may have noticed that they are almost always classified as “Cat5e“, “Cat6” or something similar. “Cat” represents only “category” and the following number indicate the manufacturing specifications of the cable. The general rule of thumb is that higher numbers represent faster speeds and higher frequencies in Mhz. As most technologies, newer cables tend to support higher bandwidth, which increases download speeds and faster connection speeds.
Keep in mind that longer Ethernet cables can result in slower transmission speeds, although the cable purchased for personal use rarely exceeds 100 meters and usually begins to experience a slowdown.
In September, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) introduced a new Ethernet standard that is expected to significantly increase the transmission speeds of Cat 5 and Cat 6 cables. Unfortunately, it may take several years to provide standards to the public compared to corporate customers. Below you can see the function of each cable type.
Max Transmission Speed (at 100 meters)
1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps
Shielded or Unshielded
1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps
10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps
10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps
Cat 3 and Cat 5
Both Cat 3 and Cat 5 Ethernet cables are currently obsolete. It’s not unheard of to find Cat 5 cables still in use, but you shouldn’t even consider buying these Ethernet cables. They are very slow and no one is making them anymore.
The “e” in Cat 5e stands for “enhancement.” There is no physical difference between Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables, but 5e Ethernet is built under more stringent test standards to eliminate crosstalk – that is, between communication channels. Signal transmission. Cat 5e is currently the most common type of Ethernet, due to its low production cost and faster support than the original Cat 5 cable.
Cat 6 cables support higher bandwidth than Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables, but they are also more expensive. Cat 6 cables are wound more tightly than their predecessors and are usually equipped with foil or braided shields. This shield protects the twisted pair within the Ethernet cable and helps prevent crosstalk and noise interference. Cat-6 cables are technically capable of supporting speeds up to 10 Gbps, but can be up to 55 meters.
The “a” in Cat 6a stands for ” Augmented “. Compared to conventional Cat 6 cables, the 6a cable supports twice the maximum bandwidth and maintains higher transmission speeds over longer cable lengths. The Cat 6a cable is always shielded and its jacket – thick enough to completely eliminate crosstalk – makes the cable denser and less flexible than Cat 6.
Cat 7 cables use the latest widely available Ethernet technology to support higher bandwidth and faster transfer speeds than Cat 6 cables. They are more expensive than other Ethernet cables, but their performance reflects their high price. Cat 7 cables can reach 100 Gbps in a range of 15 meters, making them an excellent choice for connecting a modem or router directly to your device. The Cat 7 cable is also always shielded and uses the improved GigaGate45 connector, which is backward compatible with regular Ethernet ports.
The Cat 8 cable is development. However, we can expect them to enter the market relatively quickly, with faster speeds and higher maximum bandwidth compared to Cat 7 cables.
How do you choose?
The easiest way to select a cable is to choose a cable with the required range and performance. But what do you need?
Start with the speed of your home Internet connection. If you have Gigabit Internet, the old Ethernet cable will hold you back. But if your connection is slow, such as 10 or 20 megabits per second, then you are good for any Cat 5 or newer.
Next, consider the speed required by the network. Frankly, this doesn’t matter to most home users. However, if you frequently move large files between computers or stream very high bandwidth video content, a better Ethernet cable can make difference.
Finally, consider your router. Therefore, cheap routers only support up to 100 megabits per second of Ethernet, so it will be more bottleneck than Cat 5. Even the best home routers rarely support better than Gigabit Ethernet, so there is a problem with the use of Cat 6a and Cat 7.
With all of the above consider, the Cat 6 cable is the most cable you might need, and Cat 5e is available for most homes.
The difference between the various types of Ethernet cables is actually very simple, but it is easily confused by the nomenclature. To help, we’ve put together a quick overview of the meaning of the different terms and what you should expect if you buy a cable with those designations.
Cat: stands for “category”. See the previous page.
TP: twisted pair. The term refers to the way in which the wires inside the cable are twisted together. Twisted pair has been the industry standard for many years and is second only to fiber optic cabling in terms of maximum length and speed.
UTP: Unshielded twisted pair. Cables that specify UTP do not have foil or braided shielding, which makes cable production cheaper and more flexible, but you’ll sacrifice signal quality and increase vulnerability for crosstalk.
FTP: Foiled Twisted Pairs. Cables with FTP or SFTP designations are protected by aluminum foil shields to help reduce noise and improve connection quality.
STP: Shielded twisted pair. Cables with STP or SSTP markings are protected by braided shields, which are usually made of copper or other conductive polymers. Shielding reduces noise and improves connection quality.