Size Matters When It Comes To Network Cabling

To the untrained eye, Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6 cables may seem identical. They all look the same on the surface, and each of them will plug into an ethernet port. But for data cabling contractors, the three types of networking cords, in terms of what’s going on beneath their casings, are different. Not vastly different, but they’re unique enough that it’s worth thinking twice about which one to buy, depending on your specific needs.

We covered their general differences in detail recently, but today, let’s take a look at the three most common kinds of cabling from a sizing perspective.

Cabling 101 Crash Course

But before we delve into size:

  • Cat5 – Oldest type of ethernet cable. Also the slowest.
  • Cat5e – An update to the Cat5. It’s a bit faster, with less internal wire interference. All in all they’re a little more reliable.
  • Cat6– You know how when you buy a car you can get the standard edition or the luxury model. Cat6 cables are like the luxury edition Cat5s. Seat warmers not included. Are they necessary? Not necessarily. Are they nice to have anyway? Yes.


The rule of thumb for these cables is, you shouldn’t go over 100 meters (or 330 feet), but depending what they’re being used for, and which ones you’re using, that number will change. If you try to go longer than what’s recommended, you will likely run the risk of signal loss—among other issues.

And, when we’re dealing with signal loss in LAN cables, that phenomenon is called attenuation, which is a common circumstance in physics where a flux running through a medium loses intensity as it progresses. Think about how sunlight hits the ocean’s surface. As you swim deeper, the light will lessen. That’s because of attenuation.

The reason why we have to consider length when we’re establishing a network is because data (the flux) will attenuate as it moves through the cable (the medium). If you wanted to run a Cat5 cable in New Jersey from China, it simply wouldn’t work. It’s not physically possible (but fiber optics is a different story altogether).

But the components within the cables we use can help determine the lengths at which attenuation occurs. For example, sure, the recommendation for all LAN cables is 100 m, but a Cat6 can usually run longer than that (not much, though), whereas a Cat5 should ideally go shorter.

There are also other things to consider, like network timing and load/usage. Those things could factor into performance and play a role in your ideal cable length.

Get in touch with us today and we’ll be glad to cover your Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6 cabling needs. And, with Network Drops by your side, you can rest easy knowing everything will be the right length!