What’s The Difference Between Cat5 and Cat5e Cables?

Even if you are using WiFi to connect, your underlying Internet connection relies on a series of data cables, such as Ethernet cables, to get online. Cat5, or Category 5, cables are the ones most commonly found in homes and small offices, but most people are unaware that the Cat5e is potentially a faster alternative.

While the differences and similarities between these two data cables can get pretty technical, we've created this article to make those key differentiators more understandable. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between Cat5 and Cat5e cables, how they work, and the types of applications that each is best suited for.

IT consultant connects a network cable into switch in datacenter

What do Ethernet Cables Do?

Ethernet cables carry broadband signals between modems, routers, computers, and other wired Internet-capable devices. Ethernet cables send and receive data between devices nearly instantaneously, unlike WiFi, which can fall victim to lagging.

Because Ethernet is a physical connection, connections are generally faster than WiFi and more reliable and secure.

What Are Categories?

Manufacturers name and label their Ethernet cables to help consumers understand the significance of each cable. The first part of the Ethernet cable’s name, “Cat,” is short for “Category.” These network cables are divided into categories based on their bandwidth (measured in MHz), maximum data rate (measured in megabits per second), and shielding. The number following “Cat” relates to where the cable’s bandwidth capabilities fall in relation to other Ethernet cables.

The earliest cable categories, Cat1-Cat4, were used for telephone wiring during the early days of data networks, with max speeds of up to 16 Mbps.

The Cat5 cable, which is still used today, was first introduced in 1995 and supports up to 100 Mbps. It is used for standard fast Ethernet (10BaseT and 100BaseT) networks and can distribute data, video, and telephone signals at distances up to 100 meters. The Cat5e cable was introduced six years after the Cat5 in 2001.

Cat6, Cat7, and Cat8 cables exist, but they are geared mainly toward industrial usage and futureproofing newly built office spaces. They boast such significant speeds that most common networks either can’t handle them or don’t find them necessary.

Ethernet Cable Wire Classes

Ethernet cables come in two classes: Solid and Stranded.

A solid cable has one thick copper wire running through each conductor, while stranded cables have several small copper wires twisted together, forming a single conductor. Each of these cables comes with its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. Some of those include:

Advantages of Solid cables:

  • Solid cables enable Ethernet data signals to travel further along a cable with less attenuation, commonly referred to as signal loss.
  • Solid wires resist corrosion better, making them the preferred choice for outdoor installations.
  • Solid cables are stiffer and more rigid, making wall installation easy.
  • Provides a better platform for the Power of Ethernet (PoE) usage.
  • They’re durable when it comes to their wear and tear over time, and their rigidity also makes them easier to terminate if needed.

Disadvantages of Solid cables:

  • Solid copper conductors are less flexible, only making them suitable for specific areas where they won’t be constantly handled or moved.
  • Purchasing bulk solid cabling requires an installer to terminate both ends, whether to a keystone jack, patch panel, or RJ45 plug.

Advantages of Stranded cables:

  • Stranded cables are much more flexible, making them the optimal choice for environments where they will be frequently moved around or handled.
  • Stranded copper patch cables are the commonly accepted way to connect a device inside a room to a keystone jack.

Disadvantages of Stranded cables:

  • Stranded cable wires have small air pockets between the individual copper strands, which causes signal degradation over distance. Using stranded copper Ethernet cables no longer than 75 feet is best.
  • The individual copper strands can cause additional DC resistance for PoE applications, especially across distances.
  • Stranded copper Ethernet cables do not come in the cable jacket variety needed for outdoor installations.
  • Because stranded cables are more expensive to manufacture, they are typically more expensive to purchase.

Cat5 vs. Cat5e

Cat5 cables have been in use since 1995 and, as a result, are one of the most commonly used Ethernet cable types today. But as technology and networks advance, it might be time to consider upgrading to the enhanced version of the Cat5 cable – the Cat5e.

The main differences between Cat5 and Cat5e can be found in their appearance, performance, and real-world aspects like cost and usage.


Cable cost varies by length and manufacturer, but Cat5e cables generally cost $0.20 – $0.30 per foot, while the Cat5 is slightly less.

Physical Differences

The function and arrangement of Cat5e are the same as Cat5. However, Cat5e can be more flexible, allowing it to bend and fit in smaller spaces.

Bandwidth Performance

The bandwidth capacity is the amount of data sent through a channel. It is determined by the difference between a given transmission path’s highest and lowest frequencies. The greater the bandwidth, the more information can be transmitted at once.

Both Cat5 and Cat5e cables have a bandwidth of 100 MHz; however, Cat5 provides transfer rates up to 100 Mbps, while the Cat5e cable transfers information from 1000 Mbps up to 1Gbps (Gigabits per second).


The main difference between Cat5 and Cat5e is the specification to reduce crosstalk. While Cat5 cables may have some crosstalk, or interference between wire pairs, it is much less common with Cat5e cables.

The Cat5e is a variant of the Cat5, specifically aimed to reduce the amount of crosstalk.

Max Cable Length

Both Cat5 and Cat5e have a max cable length of 100 meters.


Both Cat5 and Cat5e cables are compatible with most existing network builds.

Top Speed

Cat5 cable has a theoretical top speed of 100Mbps, while Cat5e has a theoretical top speed of 1000Mbps.

Future Usage

Though many existing networks contain Cat5 wiring, with demands of faster Internet speeds, they are rapidly becoming obsolete. Cat5e wiring is more common in newer systems and will remain until one day when internet speeds increase beyond 1000Mbps. At that point, CAT6 and CAT7 will be the cabling norm.


Both Cat5 and Cat5e cables use RJ45 (aka 8P8C) connectors.

Schedule A Cat5e Upgrade Consultation With Suncoast Power Today

If you’re frustrated with slow, unreliable Internet connections, upgrading your data cables to Cat5e may be exactly what your property needs.

Suncoast Power has over 30 years of experience installing, upgrading, and repairing data cables in retail, commercial, and industrial properties throughout Florida. Call us at 754-200-5872 or fill out a contact form to schedule a consultation today. Our representatives are standing by to answer any questions you have and get you booked!