what does cat mean for ethernet

Ethernet Cable Categories. The “Cat” in Cat5e, Cat6, etc. is short for “Category.” Network cables are divided into categories based mainly on bandwidth (measured in MHz), maximum data rate (measured in megabits per second) and shielding.

What does Cat mean?

You’ll quickly notice that Ethernet cables are categorized by “Cat” numbers when you begin looking for specific cables that meet your needs. What does that mean?.

“Cat” simply stands for “category. The number that follows denotes the cable’s supported version of the specification. Higher numbers, expressed in megahertz (MHz), generally correspond to faster speeds and higher frequencies. Like most technologies, newer cables usually support higher bandwidths, which translates to faster connections and higher download speeds.

Advanced Cat numbers might also be a sign of improved distance performance and dependability. As performance does tend to decline over long distances, you’ll notice that Ethernet cables normally have two speed ratings: one at about 10 to 30 meters and another at 100 meters.

For future-proofing, you can choose to ignore the remaining Cat numbers and simply select the most recent one, which is currently eight. Alternatively, you could review our useful list below to see what each Category is appropriate for:

Cat 1 through Cat 5

These categories have been discontinued or are too slow to be useful because they are extremely old, technically not even official Ethernet standards, and they have been abandoned.

The “e” in Cat 5e stands for “enhanced. The physical characteristics of Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables are the same. To prevent undesired signal transfers between communication channels, however, manufacturers construct Cat 5e cables in accordance with stricter testing guidelines (crosstalk). Because it can support speeds faster than Cat 5 cables and has a lower production cost, Cat 5e is currently the most widely used cable.

Higher bandwidths are supported by Cat 6 Ethernet cables compared to Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables. They are typically covered in braided or foil shielding and are tightly wound. By shielding the twisted pairs of wires inside the Ethernet cable, crosstalk and noise interference are less likely to occur. Technically, Cat 6 cables can support 10Gbps speeds up to 55 meters. However, the cost of a Cat 6 cable is higher than that of Cat 5 and Cat 5e versions, so that speed has a cost.

The “a” in Cat 6a stands for “augmented. By offering twice the maximum bandwidth of Cat 6 versions, cables built to this standard are an improvement. Additionally, they can continue to transmit data at faster rates over longer cable distances. Sheathing on Cat 6a cables is thick enough to prevent crosstalk, and the cables are shielded, making them less flexible and much denser than Cat 6 cables.

Cat 7 and Cat 7a

Although Cat 7 and Cat 7a cables are very effective, most people rarely use them. Let’s get into why:

Compared to Cat 6 cables, Cat 7 cables support much higher bandwidths and much faster transmission speeds; they are much more similar to Cat 6A cables. Cat 7 cables are among the most capable types of Ethernet cables, with a maximum speed of 100Gbps at a distance of 15 meters. Cat 7 cables utilize a modified GigaGate45 connector that is backwards compatible with RJ45 Ethernet ports and are always shielded.

However, that modified GG45 connector is a proprietary part, and although some benefit is provided by backward compatibility, adhering to earlier Ethernet standards still presents challenges. Because of this, most manufacturers decided not to use the Cat 7 standard, which is why it’s so uncommon these days. Due to this challenge, Cat 6a was created, but it also caused a great deal of confusion in the marketplace when some retailers began referring to Cat 6a as the new Cat 7. Prior to making a purchase, always review the specifications. If in doubt, we advise choosing Cat 8 instead.

One of the highest-specification Ethernet cables available is Cat 7a, however it’s not very common and only comes with a limited selection of networking hardware options. Like Cat 207, but with an improvement to the overall bandwidth, the %20207a%20standard%20was%20designed%20to%20support%2040%20Gigabit%20Ethernet%20connections%20up%20to%2050%20meters%20and%20E2%80%94%20more%20than%2050% While Cat 7a cables are significantly more expensive than any other option and do not have the industry support of Cat 8, you can avoid these issues and still benefit from this improvement in certain situations.

This standard promises a maximum frequency of 2,000MHz and speeds of up to 40Gbps at 30 meters. That high frequency also requires shielding, meaning you’ll never find unshielded Cat 8 cables. Even more, Cat 8 supports two connectors. Thus it only allows for three connected cables with a combined length of 30 meters. Cat 8 cables cost more than other options, but they have become more affordable in recent years. You can find options for a 10-foot Cat 8 under $15.

Aside from being the only cable to meet the most recent IEEE standards (the previously mentioned 40Gbps and 2,000MHz frequency), Cat 8 is also a great option for future-proofing, even though its costs are much higher. Additionally, it avoids the Cat 7 connector mess as a bonus.


Is higher cat better for Ethernet?

More advanced Cat numbers may also indicate more reliable performance, as well as better performance over distance. You’ll notice that Ethernet cables typically have two speed ratings, one at around 10 to 30 meters and one at 100 meters, because performance does typically drop off over long distances.

What’s the difference between Cat5 6 7 8?

Ethernet Cable Differences To put it in simpler terms, CAT 5 is 100 MHz with data transfer at speeds up to 1000 Mbps. CAT 6 is 250 MHz and can get up to 1 Gbps. Cat7 ups the ante substantially with 600 MHz and 10 Gbps rates.

Is Cat 8 overkill?

Cat8 Ethernet cables are designed to support extremely high data transfer speeds, up to 40Gbps. While they may provide a future-proof solution for gaming, they are generally considered overkill for most gaming setups.

Is Cat 8 better than Cat6?

The key distinction is that CAT 8 cabling has faster throughput over short distances — 40Gbps up to 30 meters and the standard CAT 6 rate of 10Gbps at up to 100 meters. This evolution from CAT 6 also has a bandwidth of 2000 megahertz, twice that of CAT 7.