The group of cables surrounding your computer or workstation is most likely composed of category cables, or Cat cables. These cables have various data transmitting capacities, ranging from the minimal traffic to the bandwidth-intensive amount of 100 GbE. Learn to differentiate one from the other so that you can do some minor troubleshooting when you have connection issues.
Identify the Cable
Category 5 cables, nicknamed Cat5, are cable types designed to carry data from one computer center to another. To check what specific type of cable you have in your hands, look at the printed siding, which will indicate the type of category to which your cable is compliant. Category cables have various data transmission limits, starting from 10 MbE (megabit Ethernet) to 1000 GbE (gigabit Ethernet). Category 5 cables deal with the 10 to 1000 MbE range. Cat5 cables are also differentiated by the type of material used to make them, such as the PVC type (emits poisonous smoke while burning) or PLENUM type (more expensive but safer type).
Category 5e for 10 MbE
The Cat5e cables for 10 MbE speed is the entry-level category cable used for data connections that are not that heavy in traffic. For home or small business use, these 10 MbE cables are used to connect one computer to another, or even as replacement for standard telephone wires. This is the most affordable type of Category 5e cable and is best suited for light to medium data traffic use.
Category 5e for 100-1000 MbE
Category 5e cables for speeds of 100 to 1000 MbE are used to connect a computer to a router or to another much larger computer. This type of cable is sometimes called a patch cable and is capable of handling much heavier data traffic than the 10 MbE variety. Cat5e cables also come in LS0H type or the low-smoke, zero-halogen variety is used in public buildings.
Cat5 vs. Cat5e
Category 5 cables are the older versions of the Cat5e. Cat5 cables are only capable of handling up to 100 Mbps data connections, as opposed to the 1000 MbE capacity of Cat5e's. Cat5 cables are up to 100 MHz in operation, while Cat5e can reach up to 350 MHz. Cat6 cables reach the 500 MHz mark quite easily. The materials that make up a Cat5e cable are often times more compliant to safety and fire standards, such as the LS0H type.