Tag Archive Differences Between Ethernet Categories

Differences Between Ethernet Categories

You’ve seen the “cat” or category designations, Cat5e and Cat6 and Cat6a, plenty. If you work in more powerful internet settings you might even be familiar with Cat7. The general rule is that a higher number is a newer technology and can support higher data rates, but that’s just one of the main differences:

• Standard bandwidth (measured in MHz)
• Maximum data rate (measured in megabits per second)
• Shielding

Basic Specs for Cat8 Ethernet

CategoryCAT8ConnectorsRJ45 / RJ45
BootedYes, Ferrai-Style, SnaglessShieldedPair Foil shielded / 4 Pair Braid Shield
AWG24 AWGBandwidthup to 2GHz
JacketPVC (CM)ConductorStranded
Conductor MaterialPure CopperContact Gold Plating50 Micron
Backwards CompatibleYesMax Data Rate40 Gbps

Then again, that’s the obvious stuff. To be more specific, Cat5 operates at 100 MHz and can transfer data at speeds up to 1000 Mbps. Cat6 works at 250 MHz and can get up to 1 Gbps. Cat7 ups the ante substantially with 600 MHz and 10 Gbps rates. This is a simplification. There are variations on each cable and some arrangements can boost or inhibit performance, but these are the numbers for which each category is tested and vetted.

The reason Cat8 is turning heads is because it is jumping several iterations in performance. It uses 2 Ghz signals to move data from 25 Gbps (Cat8.1) to 40 Gbps (Cat8.2). It’s a serious upgrade, and the implications are turning heads across IT fields.

Ethernet Speed Comparison

CategoryStandard BandwidthMax Data RateShielding
Cat5e100MHz (up to 350)1000MbpsUTP or STP
Cat6250MHz (up to 550)1000MbpsUTP or STP
Cat6A500MHz (up to 550)10GbpsUTP or STP
Cat7600MHz10GbpsShielded only
Cat82000MHz25Gbps or 40GbpsShielded only