Advice on Selecting Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a or Fibre Cable

by | Sep 18, 2019 | Article, Cabling

This article sets out to give you some advice on deciding between Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a or Fibre Optic cabling for your structured cabling network. Our data cable selector tool will ask the right questions and advise you on what data cabling system to choose and why. Click here to try it.

The tool considers several factors:

  • The network speed you need
  • Your Power over Ethernet (PoE) requirements
  • Distance
  • Indoor vs outdoor data cabling
  • The capacity of your cable routes
  • Your financial budget


Distance and speed vs Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a

Cat6a cabling can deliver speeds of 10Gbps up to 100m, including the patch leads. Cat5e is essentially limited to 1Gbps, but for the foreseeable future this is enough for most PCs and laptops. Cat6 can deliver 10Gbps but only at distances of up to 55m.














What about PoE?

Cat5e can cope with Type 1 and Type 2 PoE but you will need Cat6 or Cat6a for Type 3 and Type 4 PoE. Fibre cable doesn’t support PoE


Exterior and Outdoor Data Cabling

If your data cabling is going between buildings, it should be optical fibre to avoid the risk of damage during lightning storms.

If a cable is going outside but reentering the same building you can use copper cabling with an external grade polyethylene jacket but, because of its poor fibre properties, the regulations do not permit this cable to extend more than 2 metres inside a building. Therefore, it may have to be joined to an internal grade cable.


Size/thickness of data cables

The higher the grade of copper cable, the more space you will need in your cable routes and containment. For example, shielded Cat6a cable is typically two and half times the size/thickness of Cat5e and has a minimum bend radius of 32mm. Special trunking may be required.


Cost difference between Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and fibre data cabling

When you take the cost of containment into account Cat6a could be 50 to 100% more expensive that Cat5e, with Cat6 coming somewhere near the middle.

Optical fibre is much more costly particularly when you take the cost of the electronics into account.

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