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You are here: Home / Our Story / Blog / What you need to know: What's the difference between CAT 5e, CAT 6, CAT 6A and Optical Fiber?

What you need to know: What's the difference between CAT 5e, CAT 6, CAT 6A and Optical Fiber?

Here at TSAChoice, we have the expertise to help you choose the right media and category of networking cable for your business.

Choosing the right media and category of networking cable for your business can be a tricky task. Here at TSAChoice, we have the expertise to help you make the right decision both for now and into the future.

So what is the difference between CAT 5e, CAT 6, CAT 6A, and Optical Fiber anyway? We explain all of that below:

CAT 5e: This is the superseded version of the Category 5 twisted pair cable, with the “e” standing for enhanced. This can often be the best, and most cost-effective choice for many small businesses as it allows for data to be transferred at a rate of up to 1 Gigabit per second while operating at a frequency of 100 MHz and beyond. Cat 5e also allows for the cables to be run up to 100 meters without signal degradation.  For most small businesses with this cable, any noticeable slow down of speed is more likely to be caused by a device on the network, rather than the cable not being able to handle the rate of data transfer.

CAT 6: This cable adds more stringent specifications for crosstalk than CAT5e and is backwards compatible with CAT5/CAT5e systems. The most common application for CAT 6 is Gigabit Ethernet while operating at a frequency of up to 250 MHz, doubling the bandwidth capability of CAT 5e. Like CAT 5e, CAT 6 can also be run for distances of up to 100 meters.

CAT 6A: This copper cable category takes CAT 6 one step further. The ‘A’ in CAT 6A stands for augmented, meaning it performs at improved specifications, particularly in the area of alien crosstalk as compared to Cat 6. CAT 6A has been tested to 650 MHz and provides guaranteed performance out to 500 MHz. CAT 6A demonstrates superior capability for 10 Gigabit Ethernet and all other bandwidth intensive and legacy applications.

Optical Fiber: Unlike copper cable media, optical fiber cables are made up of hair-line filaments drawn from molten silica glass. There are numerous advantages to optical fiber cables which come in two basic types, multimode and singlemode. One advantage is that they can be run for much longer distances, are immune to electrical interference and disturbances, and they can take much less space in cable pathways. Another and perhaps the most important advantage are the tremendous bandwidth and transmission speed capabilities of optical fiber. Depending on the transmission source technology, multimode fiber is capable of delivering 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 550 meters, and singlemode can deliver 10 Gigabit Ethernet at 40,000 meters.

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