Question Need a lesson in CAT5 vs CAT6


Apr 2, 2018
The basics:

We have a 300 mbps Charter cable connection for internet. The feed comes into the basement in the corner where the modem is located. There is a 35' to 40' line that zig zags it's way to the center of the basement where the ASUS AC1900 wireless router was always located. It's a 2500 sq. ft. house with a 1st and 2nd floor over the basement. There is also a large room off one end over the garage, and a back porch.

I set up the CAT5 cabling for all this 10+ years ago and it's worked adequately all this time. I built my own cables and they've always worked fine. However now we are working on ditching cable TV and have purchased several ROKU devices for the TVs. After setting them up we were getting what I felt was too much buffering so I began looking at my network speeds. The 300 mbps was confirmed coming to the modem but I was only getting 45 to 55 (or lower at the extremities) around the house. So I contacted Charter tech and began looking at new wireless routers.

What I've done:

After doing some online reading I purchased the Netgear ORBI RBK50 with one satellite. This MESH system seemed to be highly rated and was the easiest router to setup that I've ever used. I place the router in the center of the basement and the satellite at one end of the first floor.

However even with the new router I was only getting about 65 to 75 mbps speed at the laptops in the house. I'd made an appt. with Charter for the next day so just waited for the tech.

The tech replaced the modem, removed unnecessary splitters and basically brought the system up to date. We still had the 65 to 75 mbps speed though. The last thing to try was bringing the router into the corner of the house with the modem and connect them with a short NEW LAN patch cord.

VOILA.........275 mbps.


Turns out there is nothing wrong with my original 35' to 40' CAT5 cable. I know this because it works just fine. And it's not the long length of the LAN cable because I've now replaced the short patch cable with a newly purchased 40' CAT6 cable and I have maintained the high speed.

So my question is just what is the difference between a CAT5 and CAT6 cable. Online reading has told me that the CAT5 is good for up to about 100 mbps while the CAT6 goes way past that. Does this speed capability only affect communication between the modem and the ORBI router or do I need to replace other long CAT5 runs I have in the house to devices that are not wirelessly connected? Most importantly I have another 35' to 40' run of a home made CAT5 cable that goes from the ORBI router to my Ubiquity wireless bridge transmitter. Will replacing that CAT5 cable, or changing the setup so the Ubiquity transmitter plugs into an ORBI satellite instead of a home run back to the ORBI router in the center of the basement make a difference for the wireless bridge performance?

I hope I've given a complete picture here and appreciate those who've taken the time to read it through.

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The only cables you should buy is either cat5e or cat6a. All other cables you pay extra for nothing really.

I doubt you have cat5 it is likely cat5e. Cat5 has not been manufactured in many years.

Normal not cat6a.... pretty much has been a dead cable since it was introduced to the market getting close to 20yrs ago now. It was designed to allow 1gbit to be sent over just 2 pair of wires instead of 4. This is what is called 1000tx. A competing design used 4 pair of wires and would run on a lot of the existing cat5 cables even though they were not cat5e in many cases. This is called 1000t. The manufactures of the equipment went with four wire plan which meant the cable manufactures spent lots of money on worthless technology. They of course didn't want to lose their investment so they brought in the marketing guys who would sell it to customers who always thing bigger number "must" be better. I mean all we do is stamp "gamer" on it and that will increase sales too.

Cat6 cable does not run better or faster than cat5e at 1gbit It can run 10gbit at shorter distances but this is not in the official standards. It very recently was updated to run 2.5 and 5g but the price of copper metal has made it almost not matter.

If you need faster than 1gbit you buy cat6a which is rated to 10gbit at 100 meters. Cat6a cable does cost more to manufacture than cat6 cable. The price of the copper metal has increased the price of all cables that the manufacturing costs are now only a small part so the cost difference is less....just everything is more expensive.

Note because of the cost of copper there is massive amount of fake cable sold. The 2 most common ones are CCA which is not pure copper wire and that flat or thin cable that uses wires smaller than the allowed 22-24 awg in the standards.
Reactions: Unolocogringo
This is the CAT6 cable I purchased that is giving me good results at the 40' length. I haven't strung it in the basement yet so will ask if there is any reason not to use it.

It says
"features 8 solid copper conductors 24 AWG "

That means it will work fine. Cat6 cable work fine it is all about how much more it costs than cat5e. The only thing that works better is how much money it takes out of you wallet. Now in some cases you can get cat6 cable cheaper than similar cat5.
In those cases you might as well save the money since both will perform the same on 1gbit ports.