What are CAT3, CAT5 and CAT6 Ethernet Cables
CAT3: Category 3 was the standard category used in the 1990’s for wiring homes and offices. Today it is still used in two-line phones, however, it has now been surpassed by CAT5e’s superior performance. CAT3 is reliable when expecting it to handle data speeds of up to 10 Mbps with two wires. That is all though. Its maximum frequency has been marked at 16 MHz. The cable utilizes copper wires for power and data transmission. It can be altered by adding an additional two wires in order to boost operating speeds up to 100 Mbps. To put those facts into perspective, it would take about one hour to download a 4.5 GB file (DVD sized) while it would take one hour through a 100 Mbps cable to download about 10 DVDs.
CAT5: Category 5 overtook CAT3 in the early 2000’s as the Ethernet cable of choice to be used in LAN networks. CAT5 utilizes either the 10BASE-T or 100BASE-T standards for transmitting data. CAT5 uses 8P8C modular connectors in order to connect devices, and it can also be used effectively for lengths of up to 100 meters. CAT5 was surpassed by the newer CAT5e because CAT5 is only rated for a maximum frequency of 100 MHz and is also only rated for top speeds of 100 Mbps. CAT5 is based on the EIA/TIA 568 Commercial Building Telecommunications Wiring Standard which was developed by the Electronics Industries Association in 1985. Using twin twisted wire pairs that are terminated with RJ45 connectors, CAT5 can also be used for ATM and token ring.
CAT6: Category 6 has much better cable insulation that its predecessors and as a result it reduces the potential for crosstalk. First introduced in 2002, it is compatible with backwards models. It also supports frequencies of up to 250 MHz and the 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T, 10GBASE-T, 100BASE-TX, and 1000BASE-T standards. In terms of throughput it can handle 10 Gbps, which is equivalent to the ability to download 1000 4.5 GB DVDs in one hour. The major problem with CAT6 wiring is that it is tricky and more costly to install. Compatibility with 8P8C does require some special adapters in order to achieve optimal performance.
CAT7: Category 7, also known as Class F cable, supports transmission frequencies of up to 600 MHz. It is able to transmit so much because its twisted wire pairs are fully shielded, which is a technique that is referred to as Screen Shielded Twisted Pairs (SSTP) or Screened Foil Twisted Pair (SFTP) wiring. It supports 10GBASE-T Ethernet (10 GbE) over the full distance of 100 meters, and it is also excellent for reducing crosstalk noise. Although CAT6e is the current standard, it will soon be replaced by CAT7. The CAT7 standard was first published in 2002 by the International Organization for Standardization (IOS) and it boasts a 15 year life cycle compared to the 10 year life cycle of CAT5e and CAT6.