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What is the difference between Cat 5 and Cat 6?

A network consists of different systems which are linked together and can exchange data with each other. With large internet providers and hosting companies, this exchange of data is done by means of light. The system used for this is called optical telecommunication, better known as fiber. The advantage of optical fiber is the lack of theoretical limit in the bandwidth and speed of the data stream. Many and very fast data can be communicated internally. Impediments in this system, however, lay in the equipment that has to send the data: the routers and switches.

The use of fiberglass in a home is actually superfluous. For example, if you have connected a media server to your television and want to stream an 8K resolution film on it, then the required bandwidth is 'only' 100 Mbit / s. While a copper Cat5 cable can achieve a bandwidth of 1000 Mbit / s. For this reason, and the relatively high purchase costs of fiber optics, a Cat5 or Cat6 cable is often used in homes. The big difference between Cat5 and Cat6 cables is the amount of data that can be sent. Cat6 has a higher bandwidth compared to Cat5. You can compare this with a water pipe: more water can flow through a wide water pipe, should you compare it to a more narrow water pipe.

A nice practical example of this is when you want to back up your photos. For example, the photos you want to back up have a total size of 10GB (10,000MB).

Imagine that you have connected a computer to a NAS on which you want to place the backup. The bottleneck in this situation is the UTP Cat5 or Cat6 cables and not the switches. In order to calculate this, the difference in Bit and Byte must first be calculated. Data communication is always indicated in bits and stored in bytes, where one byte is equal to eight bits.

Situation 1, making a backup with a Cat5 cable:

The computer is connected to the NAS with a Cat5 cable.
The bandwidth of a Cat5 cable is 100 Mbps.
10,000MB (byte) is 80,000 Mb (bit). 80,000 / 100 = 800 seconds.
The time required for making a backup, with a total size of 10GB, will be 800 seconds with a Cat5 cable.

Situation 2, making a backup with a Cat6 cable:
The computer is connected to the NAS with a Cat6 cable.
The bandwidth of a Cat6 cable is 1000 Mbps.
10,000MB (byte) is 80,000 Mb (bit). 80,000 / 1000 = 80 seconds.
The time required for making a backup, with a total size of 10GB, will be 80 seconds with a Cat6 cable.

As the mentioned example shows, when making the backup with a Cat6 network cable, it is ten times faster than a Cat5 network cable.

17 November 2020 11:41
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24 July 2020 09:19
Probably you use the Cat5e cable instead of Cat5 cable, Cat5e is also for Gigabit connections, only difference then is the MHz, for Cat5e 100 MHz and for Cat6 250 MHz.
Rich Kellett
22 July 2020 11:20
We use Cat5 for Gigabit connections all the time - the only difference is the pointless plastic cross that runs throughout Cat6 cable making it an absolute nightmare to work with.
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