Cat5 vs. Cat5e - What is the real difference?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bryan Acevedo, Oct 15, 2002.

  1. Bryan Acevedo

    Bryan Acevedo Second Unit

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    OK wiring gurus - here is my dilemna.

    I am building a new house, and the builder uses Brinks to do the structured wiring standard in the house.

    Brinks uses OnQ products.

    All of the literature states that they use Cat5e cabling for all telephone/network outlets. However, I noticed that the cable they used in the wall actually says rated to Cat5 (there is no e on it). I checked the neighbors house under construction and their cable says rated to Cat5e. My cable jacket is a royal blue, theirs is more of a light magenta.

    I brought this up to them, and the Brinks representative says that they don't even stock Cat5 cable, and that the jacket of the cable is probably labelled wrong. He says they only use Cat5e.

    Has anyone else seen this? Are they just feeding me some bull? (I have this sneaking suspicion the installer may have tried to pull a fast one, putting in cheaper Cat5 and maybe selling the Cat5e to someone else and making some money on the side? I hope not, but that is the only explanation I can think of.) Could it be the manufacturer just sells Cat5e as Cat5 because it is cheaper to just make one kind of cable?

    I am not that concerned, but it bugs me because they tout Cat5e, and if they only put Cat5 in my house, I want some monetary reimbursement because I have been told Cat5e is much more expensive than Cat5. Since I was originally going to just do Cat5, I was very happy to see that they used Cat5e instead. But now it just puts a sour taste in my mouth.

    Can anyone tell me the real differences between Cat5 and Cat5e, and is there any way to tell if the cable really is a Cat5e and the jacket is wrong? Someone told me that Cat5 has the pairs individually twisted, where Cat5e has all 4 pairs braided together.

    Will I notice a performance hit with Cat5 vs Cat5e on a 100BaseT network? I am guessing not, as I know that Cat5 is rated for that, and Cat5e is rated to 1000BaseT (gigabit over copper).

    Any info would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Bryan
     
  2. Bill_Weinreich

    Bill_Weinreich Second Unit

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    Bryan,

    I believe the only major differences is in the bandwidth capacity.

    cat5 - 200 Mhz? (Networkers, help me out here)
    cat5e - 350 Mhz.
    cat6 - 500 Mhz.

    Bill
     
  3. Rick Wilson

    Rick Wilson Stunt Coordinator

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    Cat5e cable should be clearly marked as such. It is a little more expensive. Also, to provide a fully capable gigabit network, your jacks should also be rated for gigabit. (And get 5e connecting cables initially)

    If they spec'd 5e, I would get them to correct the problem now. Even if they didn't specifically spec Cat 5e jacks, you can change them out later should the need arise if they don't initially chose jacks with this rating. However, the wiring would be a different story. If this is a prewire (before sheetrock) they will probably stable the wire to the studs making it impossible to use the current wire to pull 5e later.

    Since this is a new house, I would wire it 5e since you do not know what will happen in 5 or 10 years and 5e may become necessary for the new toys.

    Regarding the statement that Brinks doesn't stock Cat 5, he may be correct in that they don't USUALLY. Sometimes a supplier can ship the wrong item and the mistake isn't caught until the end user notices a difference. Or it may be the bean counter found a supplier that sold cable cheaper and didn't know there was a difference between having an "e" or not havine the "e".

    Get them to fix it now. When it is covered in the wall, it will be too late.
     
  4. Bryan Acevedo

    Bryan Acevedo Second Unit

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    Thanks Rick - unfortunately the house is almost complete - the sheetrock is in, mudded, taped and painted.

    I didn't catch this until after the sheetrock was up, since I hadn't thought to actually check what cable they put in.

    My only concern is with future toys. They may be able to network Tivos, etc. using Cat5e to do full video streaming, or from the net to a connected video server. I know my immediate needs won't use the capacity, but the future may.

    Bryan

    P.S. Can anyone tell me what the physical differences are between the wire? Is it different copper, different twisting? What gives it the higher rating?
     
  5. Rick Wilson

    Rick Wilson Stunt Coordinator

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    Again, if you have the specs in writing, I would force the issue now and make them rewire. It won't be real easy for them but it will save you time, $$ and headaches down the road. They should also repair any damage they cause (if any) while rewiring. Afterall, it was their mistake whether the installer read the printing on the cable or not.
     
  6. ArtG

    ArtG Extra

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    To answer your actual question, here's a Siemen source for Cat 5 vs Cat 5e:
    http://www.siemon.com/white_papers/9...mystifying.asp
    Another important issue: Did they use Plenum (PLN) cable or PVC? I'd definitely verify this since it's inwall. The issue is fire safety.
     
  7. Ronald Volkman

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    For most cable manufactured in the past year or two, there isn't much difference in Cat5 and Cat5e. the Cat5e was just Cat5 that was measured and verified for a little better ACR. Anything marked Cat5e is guaranteed to meet the spec, Cat5 PROBABLY does. In reality, if you have a question, your INSTALLED wiring should be tested with a scanner. That way, you verify the capability of the actual installed wire AND connectors, etc. The recently standardized CAT6 is different. The 4 pairs are actually separated by a separation layer in the cable.

    Ron Volkman
     
  8. Boka

    Boka Stunt Coordinator

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    Bryan,
    The prime physical difference between 5 and 5e is the number of twists per foot. The effect of this is that 5e is able to carry a balanced digital signal at higher speeds/frequencies (due to less interference). If your cable does not say 5e then it is not. I've never seen a cable that was mislabeled by the factory on the jacket. That being said, I personally wouldn't push the issue with the builder. The practical difference to you for now and the foreseeable future is nill. By the time (say ten years) the Cat 5 cable does not meet your needs, it will be a moot point wether it was 5 or 5e, it will be obsolete either way.

    Boka
     
  9. Lee Petty

    Lee Petty Stunt Coordinator

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    both cat5 and cat5e only run at 100mhz. only cat5e+ runs at 350mhz. 5e is required for a gigabit network.
    cat6 is only proposed at this moment. there are cables and parts being built as we speak, but no big implimentation being done.
     

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